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back to article Tiny Brit island stranded after £10m undersea fibre plea sunk

Days after walking away from the ITU treaty on global communications, which asked nations to connect up their islands, the UK confirmed it will not readily stump up the cash to do just that. The island in question is St Helena, a British territory smack bang in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. Its inhabitants need £10m to …

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Meh

It's probably a business decision, with a population of 4200, paying average broadband prices, it would take 39 years to cover just the installation costs.

Still it is a drop in the Ocean so to speak when you consider how much money is wasted and the amount of expenses our MP's claim.

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FAIL

so only about £2400 per person...

I'd happily pay that now to fibre up my village!

I'd pay double that to get fibre to my door!

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I was coming on to say pretty much the same thing, 10m is a drop in the ocean to our government. And, tbh to get them some decent connectivity I would gladly add an extra quid or so to my tax bill for it.

Perhaps they should start a kickstarter project for it, though I am unsure as to what they can offer for return of the investment. I am sure they could find enough sympathetic people in the world. Maybe even enough that do not want a return but can spare a few quid.

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Unhappy

"Still it is a drop in the Ocean so to speak when you consider how much money is wasted and the amount of expenses our MP's claim."

Or in the twelve billion quid that pea-brain Cameron gives away as "foreign aid" each year.

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You can

That's pretty much what BT will charge to install a leased line.

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Anonymous Coward

@Ledswinger

Dipshit. Food, medicine and shelter for foreigners trumps broadband.

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Re: @Ledswinger

quote: "Dipshit. Food, medicine and shelter for foreigners trumps broadband."

Food, medicine and shelter for foreigners is often also (mis)appropriated by the incumbent dictatorship, by force. It only trumps broadband if you can guarantee it is going to end up with the right people.

I'd also question whether that apparent 20 billion (is it really that much on foreign aid?) would be better spent in the country, in food, medicine and shelter for locals. Or just saved up and used on reducing our national debt, perhaps?

Greedy, yes, but even charities agree you should only give what you can afford to (or at least the ones I contribute to do). I'm not convinced that 20bn a year is affordable for the UK, in the current economic climate...

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Unhappy

Re: @Ledswinger@AC 13:18

You think that the UK spends £12 bn a year on food, medicine and shelter? Are you a cretin?

Over the years UK "aid" money has kept despots in power, paid for useless infrastructure projects, and even been boondoggled as "defence assistance" to buy British made weapons. The tiny fraction that might go on genuine assistance to individuals is a pitiful 8.3% (less anything expropriated locally), and even that includes paying for things in places like Zimbabwe, thus encouraging kelptocrats like Mugabe. So that's 92% spent on other shit, like "budgetary support", money frittered through "multilateral agencies" (ie paying for the IMF to bailout Greece). Some might filter through to NGO's, but I don't see why my government should wish to hand out my money to charities, rather than leaving the decison to me. And there's no compelling evidence that foreign aid begets lasting improvements in anything.

A good example of this is the UK spending around a (combined) billion quid a year on projects in India, for example to improve Indian education. Great - a country that actively competes to export UK jobs is being subsidised by my government. Meanwhile, the Indian government demonstrate that they have rather different priorities - like building aircraft carriers, a nuclear deterrent, and a space programme. Then there's the criminal waste with which the UK government spend the money - such as £500m a year of the budget spent on consultants. Indeed, the fuckwits of government are spending my money on shit like arts projects in Russia, aid to Argentina, and even on aid to relatively wealthy countries like Iceland. Through our contribution to EU aid programmes we fund Turkey to the tune of about £100m a year - despite the fact that it is growing at a singificant rate compared to the recessionary squalor of the southern EU, or even the UK.

So I'm all in favour of NGO's to which people like you and David Cameron can contribute as much as you like. But the UK gets no benefit of any worth from its aid programme, and delivers relatively little for the amount it spends. If Westminster and DFID can't spend the money wisely and effectively then they shouldn't spend it at all.

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Coffee/keyboard

39 Years?

Doesn't stop them from committing to dodgy PFI deals so...

Either give up the territory if you're not prepared to maintain it, or dig into your pockets!

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@Keep Refrigerated

Either give up the territory if you're not prepared to maintain it, or dig into your pockets!

Being able and willing to do some good and helpful things for a population which wants to remain a British Overseas Territory doesn't mean UK mainland and Ulster taxpayers are obliged to do everything for them or tell them to become independent when they don't want to.

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Pint

"...£2400 per person..."

Don't forget to multiply *your* cost by the number of persons in your house.

E.g. you, your wife and your 2.2 kids it quickly becomes £10,080.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...£2400 per person..."

"Don't forget to multiply *your* cost by the number of persons in your house.

E.g. you, your wife and your 2.2 kids it quickly becomes £10,080."

...but when you break down those £10,080 over the cable's minimum lifetime of 20 years you end up with £504 per year for a 4-person household or £ 126 per capita per year. Now just think of how much unlimited Internet access would impact the life of people living on an isolated island in the middle of the South Atlantic, which most inhabitants can't even afford to leave.

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Anonymous Coward

Who says...

... they'd be paying average broadband prices?

They could hoik them in on special introductory offers, then after a few months hike up the prices to outrageous levels. And degrade the service at the same time.

Works in the rest of the UK.

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Ledswinger for Supreme Ruler

You get my vote.

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Re: @Ledswinger

I was quite surprised to learn a couple of years ago that most of the companies that take away computer equipment end up recycling them. The recycling involved stripping the asset labels, replacing the HDD's and whacking in a fresh image, at which point the computers end up in african schools.

The countries receive this "aid", and the company gets paid from the aid budget.

Knowing this, I would be quite interested to know how much "aid" actually is delivered in terms of cash to the end government, and how much is gift vouchers for selected British businesses. I suspect that there is much more of the latter than the former.

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Different option

Can't they use satellite?

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Re: Different option

A different sat to the one they are already using?

Did you read the "10Mb of sat shared between the populaton" part?

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Meh

Could they afford it?

The average wage on St Helens is £400 per week

The average wage on St Helena is wait for it..... £70 per week (figures courtesy of BBC)

How on earth would they be able to afford it without subsidy?

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Anonymous Coward

£10m ???

10 million pounds for a few hundred miles of fibre optic cabling and a splicing job at sea?

where did this figure spring up from? They could kit the place out with a data centre that could

handle a couple of 10Gig lines, provide 100mbit to each home (with public IPv4 address and also IPv6 native) , traffic shape, provide 'local cloud' storage of 1Tb for each inhabitant etc for less than that total.

so..whats the deal here - I dont think the government should be stumping up sums of money to get all the inhabitants online. yes to getting the island hooked up - but then its up to some private enterprise to give the people actual connectivity - you know - like we do on the mainland...20 or so quid a month.

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Re: £10m ???

so..whats the deal here

Government purchasing systems and "preferred suppliers".

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Re: £10m ???

> 10 million pounds for a few hundred miles of fibre optic cabling and a splicing job at sea?

You do realise that armoured undersea fibreoptic cables can cost $50K per km to lay?

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Re: £10m ???

When BT/Colt charge £2k for a simple B-End fibre shift within the same Datacentre, then £10m starts to sound cheap!

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Re: £10m ???

>armoured undersea fibreoptic cables can cost $50K per km to lay?

Perhaps they should be talk to the Department of Transport - the widening of 5km of dual carriageway from 2 to 3 lanes on the existing formation (no new land to be purchased) is currently estimated to be in the range £70m~£110m, so there is probably £10m in the petty cash draw...

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Happy

Ideal tourist destination

They should advertise it as a real get-away-from-it all destination. A 5* hotel with no chance of internet or cellphone connectivity? Sounds like heaven to me.

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Re: Ideal tourist destination

The only requirement would be that you stood in tragic poses with one hand inside your jacket and that you would hatch wild plots for the domination of Europe.

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Re: Ideal tourist destination

Sounds like someone with a Napoleon complex.

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Mushroom

Fancy clarifying what...

"our military aspirations" means?

What "military aspirations" do 'we' have in the Southern Atlantic?

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Re: Fancy clarifying what...

I take it you missed the part of the article where it said the island is en route to the Falklands from Britain?

If you don't get the relevance of that then clearly you are unfamiliar with the UK's international relations both past and present.

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Re: Fancy clarifying what...

I think he read very well that part of the article, sir, it is perhaps you that is missing the point.

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Re: Fancy clarifying what...

Perhaps 'Commercial' aspirations would be closer / in clarification?

Also I think it unfair to suggest that the govt 'aspire' to military action in Southern Atlantic.

HTH.

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Re: Fancy clarifying what...

It's certainly possible that I'm missing the point, so do feel free to please enlighten me?

A government owned and operated air field much nearer to the Falklands than any civilian or military air field we currently have seems like a useful military asset (even more so on account of our current aircraft carrier situation), especially given the current political climate with Argentina over the issue of the Falklands.

You could argue that defense of our citizens isn't really a military "aspiration" since it's what we're supposed to be doing already, but that is an argument of semantics surely?

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Happy

Re: Fancy clarifying what...

You certainly could argue that an Air Field on St H would be useful, but as long as we have a runway on Ascension Island (sea levels would have to rise many metres before that becomes a problem) then St H really doesn't provide any advantage for the journey down to the Falklands.

For the record, been to Ascension twice, amazing place. All of the 'locals' on Ascension are from St H, and all the ones I met were very nice people. Unfortunately I can't afford the whole £10m myself, but if someone starts up a fund then I would certainly donate.

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AGR

An interesting idea...

Would be to see how much of that ring-fenced never-to-be-cut-but-always-increased foreign aid money is going to help non-Brits in developing countries get connected...

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That .sh domain should be good for something

briti.sh?

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Re: That .sh domain should be good for something

Wow, is that an anagram of Rib.Shit

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That .sh domain should be good for something

Men.sh

Would love for her to go and live there.

(And then let's not build the runway either. Oh, and then let's mine the harbour as well)

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Anonymous Coward

article totally misses the point

This article is pretty biased and totally misses the point in any regard.

1. The FCO simply stated that it did not sign the treaty and consequently would not implement resolution PLEN/1 which "invites" all ITU member states to assist landlocked developing countries and small island developing states to gain access to international fibre networks. "Assistance" does not necessarily mean financial support here and even if the treaty was signed this resolution would have been non-binding as it just "invites" ITU member states to assist.

2. Aids to the overseas territories do not fall in the responsibility of the FCO but in the Department for International Development's (DfID) which has since been stating that it will consider funding the cable landing if a full economic assessment indicates sufficient economic and social benefits for the island and costs for the project appear appropriate. This assessment has not been completed yet and so there is not final decision.

3. Recent meetings between the St Helena Government and the cable company indicate that there appears to be a feasible way to fund the cable landing.

So the plea has not sunk at all.

3. Estimated costs amount to $10-15m, not £10m. This figure has been provided directly by one of the competing cable suppliers. Since another supplier, TE Subcom, won the contract costs are likely to be on the lower end of that range now. Also the costs won't need to be fully funded by HMG as the St Helena Government and the island's telecom company will contribute to the costs.

4. While the article focusses on the costs for taxpayers it totally neglects the rationale behind the proposal which in fact is the potential relief the cable could bring to UK taxpayers as it will enable significant socioeconomic development and help render the island self-sufficient. Broadband internet would leverage efforts to establish a tourism sector on the island (something HMG is spending £250m on), diversify the tourism-focussed development plans by enabling an internet-based service sector and it could mitigate many other issues owed to St Helena's remote location. Just think of all the travel costs of sending patients for treatments abroad which can be reduced by telemedicine and how education could be improved by eLearning once students gain unlimited Internet access.

5. The airport's strategic relevance with regards to the Falklands is very limited. With a 1550m runway you can neither operate freighters nor tankers out of St Helena, at least not if they carry any load, and fighters can't make more than 6000km without aerial refueling either. Also the runway cannot be extended as there are steep cliffs at both ends. So there is no relevant military interest behind the airport.

As to some commentators' proposal of a satellite link: There is no coverage of any High Throughput Satellite in the middle of the South Atlantic and capacity on global beams is very expensive. The campaign's website mentions what a 150 MBit/s link through the new o3b satellite constellation would cost: £ 1.4m per year.

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Re: article totally misses the point

Thanks for adding that extra information, it was really useful and I am glad the government is still considering paying for the link.

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Re: article totally misses the point

5. The airport's strategic relevance with regards to the Falklands is very limited.

Also when considering the airport note that as a quid pro quo the Goverment funding for the airport is being done on the basis that when it opens they remove the funding that currently supports the mail ship that with 6 weekly visits is currently the only regular connection between St Helena and the outside world.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: article totally misses the point

The author also misses the point that if there was any possible military significance, then the runway would have been built years ago (think ascension island).

The runway has been on the government to-do list for years and years and years - each spending review it's been pushed off the list by other things, to the point where I reckon ministers finally got embarrassed by the number of times it had been turned down and finally said yes.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: article totally misses the point

"So the plea has not sunk at all."

Thanks for the feedback, it's much appreciated. Regarding the sinking, that's in reference to any hopes that the ITU treaty could have led to the UK government being obliged to provide the link to the undersea stub. And even if the UK signed the treaty it couldn't be forced to fit the cabling anyway.

As for the funding, although the St Helena campaigners say DfID is still assessing the situation, FCO minister Henry Bellingham said in March that: "The provision of telecommunications within the Overseas Territories is an area of devolved responsibility. On St Helena, it is the responsibility of the St Helena Government."

Yes, we pump cash into the island. Exactly who will pick up the tab for the cable is unclear at the moment.

If it helps, I'll add a link to this effect to the article.

C.

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Re: article totally misses the point

Excellent post, thank you for the additional information. I was thinking, with the impending increase in tourism, maybe the government could just guarantee the cost and have the island recoup it via a 'tourist tax'. Hawai'i and South Africa have similar taxes which are put back into local development (at least in theory).

Hotel internet is a money maker, hotel pay between $3 and $15 per room per month (at least these are the prices I have seen from a local cable co for the internet add ons), some hotels include it for free and some (next door) charge $12-$14 a day. There is money there. St Helena is also going to attract a certain demographic, probably not the all you can barf crowd from I beefed her. If the government can just provide a loan and recoup it from tourists then everybody can win, right?

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That's just El Reg in 2013

Don't worry about the focus on UK taxpayers, of late the Reg has become editorially dominated on anti-tax free market tub-thumpers of a Tea Partyish bent. Whether it reflects the site's owners' preferences or just a canny editorial policy to troll for traffic, it's definitely dented a previously strong news operation.

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Re: article totally misses the point

Both Hercules and C17s can operate out of a 1500m runway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: article totally misses the point

Sure they could take off but not with fuel for 6000+ km and especially not with additional cargo to carry all that way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: article totally misses the point

ITU resolutions are non-binding by definition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-binding_resolution#United_Nations) and the wording of PLEN/1 ("...invites member states to assist...") is pretty clear here, too.

Assuming that the resolution could have created an obligation for ITU member states to connect all island states on the planet is not standing to reason IMHO.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: article totally misses the point

"ITU resolutions are non-binding by definition"

Is there now some confusion here over ITU *resolutions* and ITU *regulations* (which were binding) http://www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/default.aspx ?

C.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: article totally misses the point

Obviously yes. Everthing up to and including page 15 of the final acts (http://www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Documents/final-acts-wcit-12.pdf) are regulations while all the following stuff are resolutions including the objective *resolution* PLEN/1 on p 16.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: article totally misses the point

Sure. So we're back to saying the ITU treaty couldn't have helped if it was signed or not.

C.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: article totally misses the point

So the fact that HMG has not signed a treaty that would have been non-binding in any case and which notably does not base a claim for financial aids while the DfID stil considers providing financial support can be summarized by: "Tiny Brit island stranded after £10m undersea fibre plea sunk - Even if UK signed ITU treaty, St Helena wouldn't get the dosh" ?

I really don't want to be pedantic but this is just odd.

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