12 Sep 2008
A submarine fibre-optic cable project planned by the South Pacific Information Network (SPIN) has been criticised by the Cook Islands for a lack of clarity and unrealistic financial costs. According to Pacific Magazine, the French consortium-led SPIN cable system would run eastbound from New Caledonia to French Polynesia via Wallis and Futuna and would link to Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Niue and Cook Islands. A second cable would run northwest from New Caledonia, linking Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, and connecting to the existing Port Moresby-Cairns cable. The system would also link to the planned Noumea-Sydney and Tahiti-Hawaii cables. Chief of Staff in the Office of the Cook Islands Prime Minister, Mac Moorea, is overseeing the consortium contract, and is quoted as saying that whilst the SPIN concept is good, the proposed financial obligations are far too high, and the technical aspects of the plan are not defined clearly enough. According to the report, if the Cook Islands signed up to SPIN it would be liable to pay USD37.5 million in total costs; building a landing station is costed at USD3 million, whilst an annual fee is set at USD1.5 million. The SPIN project is being promoted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) under the umbrella of its Pacific Rural Interconnectivity System (RICS) that aims to provide internet access to remote communities in the Pacific region. However, so far only the island of Niue has signed up to SPIN, and has defaulted on its first instalment of USD1.5 million, whilst Samoa has indicated that it will join another undersea cable system, American Samoa-Hawaii (ASH). Papa New Guinea pulled out of SPIN and is building its own cable to Australia, whilst Tahiti is currently deploying a cable from Papeete to Honolulu.