By AATAI J. LAUNGI
AUSTRALIA on Tuesday reinforced its commitment to deliver an undersea internet cable for Solomon Islands via the coral seas.
Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Australian Government Penny Williams has been dispatched here this week to relay the message.
“The Australian government is taking steps to ensure the project progresses well according to the plan, timeframe, and most importantly the budget attached to different phases of the project,” Ms Williams told a media briefing in Honiara late yesterday.
“The slow internet in Solomon Islands is time consuming and costing the country millions of dollars,” she added.
“This project is important for Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG) in terms of the economic benefits that will reap through faster and reliable communications on internet.
“Looking at where we are in this 21st century, internet connection is significant to economic growth of the Pacific island countries, thus connecting the undersea cable to Honiara will boost income generating activities and create more jobs for people.”
Australia is funding the project after an initial deal the government struck with Chinese communications giant Huawei was blocked.
Huawei earlier won the contract to build the cable from Sydney to Honiara, but Canberra blocked the arrangement due to security concerns.
Australia fears allowing Huawei, which it viewed as an agent of the Chinese government, will compromise its security.
After the deal fell through, Australia came up with the offer to fund the project.
Ms Williams’ visit this week is to present to the government findings of a scoping study her government commissioned into the undersea cable project.
The Australian government has committed to majority fund the project.
“I am pleased the study has found a number of solutions that would provide Solomon Islands with a high speed internet connection from Australia at a competitive price,” Ms Williams said.
Meanwhile, Head of Undersea Cable Task Force Pablo Kang said the project will cost Solomon Islands government less compared to the Huawei arrangement.
He added the project will ensure the country has ownership of its own internet services instead of relying on satellite connections that is slow and expensive.
Mr Kang also revealed that the cable will run direct from Australian waters into the territories of Solomon Islands, which is not an issue to the sovereignty of other countries.
The project will connect the major islands of the Solomons and PNG with Australia via a 4000-plus kilometer fiber optic cable, replacing each country’s reliance on old, unstable and expensive technologies.