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Hawaiki cable now live, promising faster, more reliable internet service

countdown clockASTCA employees dancingU.S. Army personnell attending the event

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With solid promise of “much faster internet connectivity” from now on, the American Samoa spur connecting to the Hawaiki submarine fiber optic cable went live yesterday, during the official launching ceremony where Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga dismissed one critic, who claimed that it was a “lousy decision” for the governor and the Retirement Fund to get involved in this project, which cost more than $20 million.

During his special remarks at the ceremony, held at the American Samoa Community College Multi-Purpose Center, the governor said, “We have to remember, those who brought up this idea,” which in 2013 was the previous American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority board chaired by local attorney Roy J.D. Hall Jr., who was in the audience.

Lolo thanked Hall and the previous board that “entertained this idea” of Hawaiki cable “and now it has become a reality” in building a new infrastructure to support the local economy.

The governor recalled for the audience that American Samoa’s economy, for so many years, has been supported by “two simple pillars — the canneries - half of that is still being maintained today — and the government — both the local and federal levels.

With the launching of Hawaiki, Lolo said, “We have created a new pillar that we hope will take our economy to the next step and into the next level.”

The governor then acknowledged the critics, who are still around. “I know there are critics,” he said, adding that, “in fact” he has a letter from one of them, “telling me that ‘this is a lousy decision that you and the [Retirement Fund] board made to get involved in Hawaiki and it will cost our people [an] arm and the leg’.”

“Life is all about taking risks and taking challenges that make a difference in life,” said Lolo, who appeared to direct the statement to the critics. He then congratulated the previous board and “all those who helped make today a reality.”

The ASG Employees Retirement Fund loaned money to ASTCA for the Hawaiki project, and Lolo thanked the Retirement Board of Trustees and mentioned by name the chairman, Va’anatiu Iafeta and vice chair, Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean.

“I know it’s been up and down decisions made by the board, to invest in this project. I think it’s very progressive thinking,” he said and told the board, “Your commitment and your support for this project made it a reality today. I take my hat off to all of you... for helping support this project, [which] we are now celebrating its success.”

The next round of thanks went to the current ASTCA board, which is chaired by Sen. Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet, who wasn’t able to make his connecting flights to return home in time for the ceremony.

According to the governor, there is no question that ASTCA is currently facing many challenges, but the board was selected to find solutions. “It’s your job and my job to find solutions to make sure we overcome all these challenges,” Lolo told the current ASTCA board.

He also thanked the Fono and its leaders for their continued support, noting — again — that there are critics, but some are selected by God to make these types of hard decisions.

“We were selected by God to make changes for the betterment of the lives of our people,” he said adding that the entire territory will benefit “if we all work together.”

He also expressed sincere appreciation to the community for their patience while the government worked towards completing this project, which he says wasn’t an easy task.

The governor’s final thanks went to Hawaiki chief executive officer, Remi Galasso, who was on island during the cable landing in April this year, but wasn’t able to make it back, for the official launching.

Lolo thanked Galasso for the CEO’s commitment to American Samoa on this project. “I know it’s hard, it’s tough and we have a lot of work to do, in order to fully satisfy the requirements that we are given to fulfill,” he said but didn’t elaborate further on the requirements.

However, he said that in time “we hope to fulfill our commitment and our obligation to our people.”

[front row l-r] Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Samoan Affairs Secretary Mauga T. Asuega, along with other VIPs and guests yesterday during the official launching ceremony of the Hawaiki cable system at the ASCC Multi-Purpose Building auditorium. The cable system was turned on, or officially commissioned, before 10:30a.m. yesterday morning. [photo: FS]

The $300 million Hawaiki cable system, which is owned and developed by New Zealand-based Hawaiki Submarine Cable LP, issued an international news release yesterday (Friday in New Zealand) announcing the commencement of commercial operations of the cable system linking Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific and the United States.

“Our connection to the Hawaiki cable has profound social and economic implications. It is a game changer for the digital landscape in American Samoa,” Lolo is quoted in the release.

He pointed to the development of e-health and e-learning opportunities, including now having “the required capacity to deliver true broadband access to all members of our community.”

He revealed that, “We are already receiving and reviewing proposals from companies locally and from off-island for the establishment of business activities dependent on reliable, affordable, and high-speed internet connectivity. We are also in a perfect position to propose state-of-the-art connectivity, including a direct link to the US West coast, to our neighboring countries throughout the Pacific Islands region.”

At the launching ceremony, yesterday, ASTCA acting CEO, Falaovaoto Sualevai said Hawaiki cable system has four landing points — Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, and Hawai’i to the mainland.

American Samoa is the “first user of the Hawaiki system to go live,” she said to applause from the audience. She explained the cable system comes at a cost of $29 million to American Samoa and this includes the branching unit — cable pulled between the branching unit and Tafuna and all of the equipment at the landing station.

Additionally, Hawaiki cable allows ASTCA to expand its capacity from 50 gigabytes to 200 gigabytes. “The most significant improvement you’ll see is the internet speed for ASTCA customers. Slow internet will be a thing of the past,” she said to more applause from the audience, which included House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale, Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, several cabinet members and other VIPs and guests.

ASTCA vice chair, Taiulagi Asuega spoke for the board, saying that the launching is a “milestone” for American Samoa and Hawaiki will set the foundation for the future of American Samoa.

Following the speeches came the official countdown to activating the cable system to go live — which occurred before 10:30a.m. yesterday. To showcase the fast internet speed, ASTCA conducted a live video teleconference call demonstration, connecting multiple individuals off island into the screen on stage at ASCC.

Those connected for the demonstration, included Samoans speaking live from California, North Carolina, Hawaii, Las Vegas and also from Manu’a. Gingerlei Porter hosted the call from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. 

(Samoa News will report next week on the rest of Mrs. Asuega’s speech and the ASTCA acting CEO’s special presentation at the launching.)