Tonga’s internet could be cut off for weeks after eruption

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 19, 2022
Updated 2022/01/19 at 7:36 PM

The South Pacific nation of Tonga is struggling after a volcano erupts, and that includes challenges to get online. According Reuters and On the edge, the government of Tonga warned Internet access is “down” after damage to the only submarine fiber optic cable that keeps the archipelago online. While the country did not provide an initial estimate, Craige Sloots of Southern Cross Cable Network said Reuters it can take up to two weeks to fix the “everything is going well” cable.

The repair vessel will take up to nine days to travel from Papua New Guinea to Tonga, according to Sloots. The timing for the repair will also depend on security clearance and any remaining activity from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano. The 514-mile cable is protected by a Fiji relay.

Tonga is somewhat prepared for incidents like this. The company entered into a 15-year agreement for satellite internet access with Kacific in 2019 after damage to the submarine cable. Yet, ZDNetName learned a contractual dispute with Kacific prevented this access from being activated. Officials said the country’s two telecommunications companies were “working on satellite options” to restore service, but did not provide timelines.

The outage underscores the vulnerability of Internet access for island nations and other remote communities. While many countries connect to the rest of the world via undersea cabling, these more distant areas often rely on a very limited cable network or expensive satellite service that can deteriorate in bad weather. Until these places have more reliable cables or low-cost satellite data, they cannot rely on the internet for vital services to the extent that other regions can.

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