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Governor sets policy: Fed funded programs must use ASTCA

[SN file photo]
Gov. Lolo cites danger of cyber attack by “hostile gov’ts” using foreign owned cable systems

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has set a new government policy where federally funded programs are to utilize American Samoa Tele Communications Authority (ASTCA) for internet and other required communication services.

The new policy is outlined in the governor’s Apr. 24 letter, titled ‘Communication Security’, sent to all chief executive officers and directors of ASG authorities, departments and offices.

According to Lolo, the United States and its territories are “extremely vulnerable” to cyber attacks, thus the security of information exchanged among the “instrumentalities of the federal and territorial governments have been and are continually being compromised by hostile governments” using foreign owned cable systems.

“We have been watching the Russian meddling with the US election saga unfolding. We are witnessing the rapid propagation of Chinese influence in the Pacific fueled by commitment of huge financial aid,” Lolo pointed out in his letter. “American Samoa is alone in the South Pacific surrounded by independent micro-states starving for funds to advance the social and economic agendas.”

According to the governor, the American Samoa Hawai’i Cable (ASH) — “is deemed the most secure cable system that is currently serving our needs and ASTCA is a government owned facility, which guarantees the security of informational exchange” with federal government agencies.

Lolo said his letter “articulates [a] newly established policy requiring all federally funded programs to utilize the ASTCA communication network for all of your internet and other communication requirements.”

“It is expected that by May 1, 2018 all of your telecommunication conversions will have been completed,” Lolo wrote to the heads of ASG entities with the letter cc’d to US Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs, Douglas Domenech.

Lolo’s letter comes three days after the American Samoa branching unit of the Hawaiki undersea fiber optic cable landed at Fogagogo. The local branching unit is owned by ASTCA and Hawaiki cable is expected to be in service either by late June or early July this year, after 45-days of testing.

Samoa News notes that ASH Cable, which was launched in 2009, is 33% owned by ASG, with the majority owned by Florida based eLandia International. ASH Cable is operated by the Bluesky Pacific Group, which includes Bluesky Communications in American Samoa.

In the local market, Bluesky competes with ASTCA for internet and cellular phone services.

Samoa notes that last August, the governor issued a memo directing that all purchases by ASG entities regarding telecommunication needs should only be with ASTCA not its “competitor” — which was not identified by name in the memo.

The governor’s directive was outlined in an Aug. 15 memo, titled “Support of Government Owned Assets” to all chief executive officers and directors of ASG authorities, departments and offices. (See Samoa News Aug. 21, 2017 edition for details.)

Meanwhile, the US Federal Communications Commission is yet to issue a decision on “applications filed for the transfer of control” of AST Telecom LLC dba Bluesky, ASH-Cable, and Samoa American Samoa Cable LLC, from Spain-based Amper S.A. to Fiji-based Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Limited (ATH). The FCC has requested a declaratory rule on foreign ownership, according to FCC online public records.

(Amper S.A. is the parent company of Elandia International.)

In February this year, ATH informed the FCC that it has formed a wholly owned U.S.- incorporated holding company that will purchase the entire issued and outstanding member interests of AST Telecom.

The company’s name is Amalgamated Bluesky Telecom Holdings Incorporated, and is organized under the laws of the state of Delaware. Its address is Level 2, Harbour Front Building, Rodwell Rd., G.P.O. Box 11643, Suva, Fiji Islands.