Feds award $14Mil to ASTCA to expand affordable broadband
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority (ASTCA) has been awarded more than $14 million in US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) funding over the next 10-years for maintaining, improving, and expanding affordable broadband, the FCC announced last week Thursday.
Funding for American Samoa, is part of a $4.9 billion package by the FCC awarded to 39 states and locations on Tribal lands in the US.
FCC said the support is targeted to smaller rural carriers, traditionally known as “rate-of-return” carriers (or telecoms) which agreed this year to accept subsidies based on the FCC’s Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM, which provides predictability, rewards efficiency, and provides more value for each taxpayer dollar.
According to FCC, homes and businesses are located in sparsely populated rural areas where the per-location price of deployment and ongoing costs of providing broadband service are high, requiring support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) to facilitate network improvements and keep rates reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.
IN RETURN FOR THE AWARD MONEY
In return for the support that is being approved, FCC says carriers must maintain, improve, and expand broadband throughout their service areas, including providing service of at least 25 Megabits per second downstream and 3 Mbps upstream to over 363,000 locations, including more than 37,000 locations on Tribal lands.
Additionally, providers will be held accountable through an enforceable schedule for delivering improved and expanded service, with the first interim deployment obligation occurring in 2022.
FCC data released along with a national news release, shows that American Samoa — through ASTCA — will receive more than $14.46 million over the next 10 years to support 4,299 homes/ business.
Responding to Samoa News questions, ASTCA chief executive officer Lewis J. Wolman said ASTCA has received subsidies similar to A-CAM in the past, “so this is just an extension and change to previous USF programs”.
“The new funding is similar to past funding, but approximately 15- 20% higher, which is very welcomed,” Wolman told Samoa News last Friday, adding that local telecom users contribute to the USF just as telecom users in the U.S. do.
Wolman points out that ASTCA is the only American Samoa Internet Service Provider “to offer a service that meets the federal standard of a standard service of 25 Mbps down [load] and 3 Mbps up [load]” — available since August 2018.
“We sell that service for $55 per month, and more than one-third of households in American Samoa now have ASTCA internet service in their homes,” he continued, adding that “ASTCA offers internet service to every village” in American Samoa.
“Our internet service uses the fiber optic cable network known locally as BLAST, and ASTCA utilizes the high speed, high capacity, low latency bandwidth from the Hawaiki subsea cable that connects American Samoa directly to the U.S. west coast,” he explained.
A-CAM/USF funds “allow ASTCA to keep prices for consumers down to an affordable level while continuing to invest in maintenance and improvements to our network.”
In a national news release, FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that approval of the $4.9 billion funds will help close the digital divide and is a win-win for rural Americans and taxpayers.