A fiber optic cable is being pulled across the South Atlantic. As planned, the cable will miss the most isolated island of St Helena. Let's move it, and connect St Helena to the world!

There are over 4,200 people living on one of the most isolated islands in the world, St Helena a British overseas territory in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. St Helena lacks an economy as well as proper internet access and the passage to Cape Town takes five days. If the once-in-a-liftime opportunity was taken to land a planned super-fast transatlantic submarine optic fibre cable called South Atlantic Express (SAEx) at their island they could finally join the information society, which would improve standards of education and healthcare, as well as offering new economic prospects. In order this to happen...

Please support us in bringing broadband internet to St Helena and improve life on this picturesque island. Being separated by a distance of 2,000 km from the next hospital, library and university reliable broadband internet access would mitigate many problems resulting from St Helena's isolation. There is probably no other place in the world that could profit so much from the merits of broadband telecommunications than St Helena.

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St Helena is a small island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, one of the most remote and isolated ones in the world. It is a British overseas territory with a population of 4,200 people, who is dependant on budgetary aids from the United Kingdom (currently more than £11.5 million per year) and from the European Union (currently ~€ 3.1 million per year through the 10th European Development Fund) as the island has a very weak economy.

The average salary amounts to £4,500 per year while food and fuel cost more than in the UK. Due to a lack of economical prospects 20% of the island's population have already emigrated during the last decade.

In order to strengthen the local economy the government intends to establish and promote tourism on the island. A starting point is the ongoing construction of an airport worth £250 million and funded by the UK.

Today St Helena's only link to the outside world is a Royal Mail Ship passing every couple of weeks that travels 5 days to Cape Town, South Africa and supplies all goods for the island's community. The only internet connection of the island isn't fast either: 4,200 people share a satellite link of 20 MBit/s. This compares to an average bandwidth of 12.7 MBit/s of a single UK home. But internet access is not only very slow but also very expensive. An average St Helenian worker needs to spend one third of his salary (£ 108) for a so-called "broadband" plan with a modest data allowance of 5.5 gigabytes and a puny bandwidth of 1 MBit/s (which often won't be reached and which notably does not fall under the definition of "broadband"). On top of that the satellite link is unreliable due to frequent sun outages and solar storms which are likely to occur even more frequently due to the expected increase of solar flares. Also with local and international telephone calls costing £0.10 and £1.00 per minute, respectively, telephone service is prohbitively expensive and, like internet access, unreliable.

As a consequence the people of St Helena are virtually excluded from any benefits associated with today's information society. Being separated by a distance of 2,000 km from the next larger hospital, library and university reliable broadband internet access would obviously be revolutonary. There is probably no other place in the world that could profit so much from the merits of broadband telecommunications than St Helena.
Also the goals of St Helena's development plan of attracting "higher spending visitors" by "delivering island-wide world-class services and experiences" are unachievable with today's inadequate telecommunication infrastructure.

During 2013 one of the world's fastest submarine optic fibre cables called South Atlantic Express (SAEx) will be laid from South Africa to Brazil providing 12.8 TBit/s of total bandwidth. Since this cable is very likely the only one to closely pass St Helena for the next decade, the SAEx is a unique opportunity to end St Helena's isolation from the internet. Landing this cable at St Helena could close the digital divide, significantly improve quality of living on the island by providing better education by the means of e-learning, better healthcare by telemedicine and stimulate economic growth by establishing an internet-based service sector (especially in the offshoring sector) and by supporting tourism based on reliable telecom infrastructure. It could reduce St Helena's dependence on grants from the UK and the EU and eventually even render St Helenea self-sustaining.

Routing the South Atlantic Express cable via St Helena would increase cable length by less than 100km but would involve costs in the mid single-digit million range of British pounds. These costs have to be considered against an estimated lifetime of the cable of at least 20 years and the enormous social and economical benefits over this period.

Now that our first goal has been achieved after eFive Telecoms signalled readiness to land the cable at St Helena, our aim is to obtain funding to connect St Helena and bring affordable internet access to the people. Never has a major submarine communications cable been landed in order to connect such a tiny community before. Given St Helena's small population of 4,200 and the government's limited budget funding the cable's landing is impossible without financial backing from the UK.

We call upon Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the European Union to support St Helena in making the South Atlantic Express cable land and bring affordable broadband internet access to the people which would provide countless social and economic benefits as well as diversify St Helena's current tourism-focused development plan.

Please help the people of St Helena to join the information society!

Click here to learn how you can support us!

 

 
High-speed broadband would be huge for education. Not only could we make better use of online materials, but with affordable broadband teachers could develop their practice from home.
I'm an IT engineer and I would love to return to my island to start an IT business, but because of the slow, expensive and unreliable internet connection this is simply impossible.
I had to leave St Helena to study. Being 5000 miles away from my family and friends is hard. Not being able to skype with them due to the slow and expensive internet on St Helena is even harder.
Socioeconomic status is now heavily reliant on broadband penetration. With the ever-growing importance of the internet, St Helena with its limited access is in danger of being left behind.