Two If By Sea…

[This week’s Communications column for the Vanuatu Independent.]

This week, I’m going to channel the spirit Paul Revere and try to determine where the next invasion is coming from.

The invasion, of course, is the Internet, and the question is: Will we use satellite-based services to meet our needs, or an international fibre-optic cable link, or both?

First, I need to make something clear. Last week’s column looked at the fundamental issues behind financing a fibre-optic cable link to the outside world. It appears to have come across as pessimistic to some because it laid out some considerable challenges and risks.

My contention was never that fibre is a bad option. On the contrary. There are risks inherent to all projects on such a scale and I wanted to make them clear. But my point was only that the traditional role of government as underwriter or guarantor of major infrastructure projects is beyond Vanuatu’s capabilities. There’s nothing stopping us from finding other backers, though.

Last week at an ITU-sponsored conference for Pacific ministers, the World Bank presented a report on the feasibility of fibre-optic cable links throughout the region. The picture it paints is of a timely and fundamentally important opportunity for island nations, and for Vanuatu in particular.

Continue reading