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New Guam-CNMI telecomm link being developed

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Plans for a new undersea fiber optic cable between Guam and the Northern Marianas are on the fast-track now. Local telecommunications company DOCOMO Pacific says its getting strong signals from CNMI leaders about the need for a backup cable to prevent another communications blackout like the one that crippled the islands in July.

The CNMI's phone and data service were knocked-out when the lone undersea fiber optic cable, owned by incumbent local exchange carrier IT&E, was damaged by a storm, and the company's microwave backup also happened to be down.  Apparently fearing a repeat, both the CNMI House of Representatives and Senate have passed resolutions calling on Governor Eloy Inos' administration to help DOCOMO with its plans for a new cable.

Company president and CEO Jonathan Kriegel said, "They have sought alternative solutions for the people of the CNMI. And so there are three types of permits that one needs for a project of this kind. You need local permits in the CNMI, you need local permits in Guam, and there are federal agency permits. And so having this kind of support  from one of the three key areas as a place to start, its great encouragement for DOCOMO Pacific."

Kriegel says while the damaged cable underscores the need for backup,  DOCOMO also estimates that the IT&E cable only has about five years of operational life left, so a new cable is inevitable. Kriegel says a new cable will also mean better services and prices for customers, telling KUAM News, "So having access to a second cable which provides redundancy for both of the communities, will also then provide more bandwidth, and if there's an increase in bandwidth that should result in lower prices for consumers and for businesses in both markets."

Kriegel says much work still needs to be done, including finding potential partners. But he believes there is enough untapped demand in the CNMI that warrants investing in a new cable. "A project of this size that covers Saipan and Tinian and Rota and also lands on Guam, that's an eight-digit number, by the time it's all said and done. Just how large is hard to say until we actually get final bids," he projected.

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