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World Bank to fund US$36M fibre connections for Pacific nations

Island nations in the Pacific are set to benefit from US$36 million in funding from the World Bank to improve fibre optic broadband connections. The funding will be provided to Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia, while complementary projects funded by the Australian and New Zealand governments and the Asian Development Bank will also support new capacity to Nauru and outer islands in the group.

The World Bank grants comprise US$20 million for Kiribati and US$16.26 million for FSM to finance the installation of a submarine cable system connecting Tarawa (Kiribati) to Nauru, and Kosrae state (FSM) to Pohnpei state (FSM). The Asian Development Bank is preparing finance to support Nauru’s participation in the cable system.

The projects are part of the Pacific Regional Connectivity Program, which aims to bring more reliable and affordable internet to the majority of countries in the Pacific Islands. Kiribati and Micronesia are two of the world’s most remote island nations, covering six million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean.

In Kiribati, the internet capacity will be sold wholesale on an open access basis to ensure equal access for all fixed and mobile networks operated by local retailers in Tarawa and nearby islands, accounting for more than two-thirds of the country’s population. A complementary project, supported by the World Bank, Australia and New Zealand, will also help deliver mobile broadband services to more distant outer islands.

In the Federated States of Micronesia, both Yap and Chuuk states are already part of the Pacific Regional Connectivity Program through the Palau-FSM connectivity phase. The underwater cable systems for Yap and Chuuk states are set for installation late 2017 and are expected to be ready for service by early 2018.

With the additional funding, all four states in Micronesia will have access to broadband internet. “We have already seen the benefits high-speed, reliable and affordable internet can bring to countries across the Pacific, and we look forward to working with Kiribati and Micronesia to bring faster and cheaper connectivity to the North Pacific,” said World Bank country director for Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands Michel Kerf.

“These connections will play a crucial role in linking families, creating economic and employment opportunities, reducing transaction costs, providing remote education and healthcare, and boosting national and international coordination.”

In addition to laying the fiber optic cable, the grants will fund technical assistance provided to relevant government ministries and help develop the regulatory framework needed to promote competition and reduce costs for consumers.


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