09 March 2013

Funding for fibre optic cable link remains in doubt says St Helena Government

St Helenians' desire for faster internet was discussed during last week's meeting of St Helena's legislative council. Negotiations for the eFive submarine fibre optic cable to cross the Atlantic, connecting the continent of Africa to South America are well underway. The question on the progress of St Helena linking with the planned cable was raised by members of the legislative council.

Owen O’Sullivan, Chief Secretary to the St Helena Government gave the reply. “Julian Morris, of Enterprise St Helena met with the CEO of eFive whilst in Cape Town in December last year.” O’Sullivan confirmed that the South Atlantic Express cable (SAex) project is still progressing and eFive have been granted approval in principle by equity investors to fund the main project and pre-cabling is scheduled to commence in January 2014. “However,” he said, “whilst there are huge benefits for St Helena to be connected I am advised that this will cost in the region of £10 million excluding operating costs. In this regard, given the financial restraints which we operate and with many competing demands on our capital budget, we are not in the position at this moment in time to say whether or not St Helena will be connected to the fibre optic cable.” He went on to say eFive are fully aware of St Helena’s interest in the project and discussions are ongoing in the knowledge that funding will have to be secured before any binding agreement is signed in order to ensure that the cable is extended to St Helena.

In November 2012 eFive's CEO Dr. Rosalind Thomas said she expects financial closure for the $280 million project to take place no later than the end of June 2013, though it may happen as early as April 2013. By this time St Helena will need to have secured funds for the proposed spur to the island.

contains text from The Sentinel (issue from 7 March 2013, p.8), ©2013 South Atlantic Media Services, Ltd.

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.