Tristan : TELECOMMUNICATIONS EXPERT SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT: INTERNET ACCESS IS TOO EXPENSIVE FOR TRISTAN
Submitted by Tristan Times (Juanita Brock) 11.08.2005 (Article Archived on 13.10.2005)
Silly season hasnít been kind to the people of Tristan da Cunha this year.
Photo (c) J. Brock (SARTMA) - Dr. Chris Doyle Senior Research Fellow Warwick University Business School
TELECOMMUNICATIONS EXPERT SETS THE RECORDSTRAIGHT: INTERNET ACCESS IS TOO EXPENSIVE FOR TRISTAN
By J. Brock (SARTMA Ė TdC)
Dr. Chris Doyle
Silly season hasnít been kind to the people of Tristan da Cunha this year. They have been accused of genetic hanky panky, killing and eating 50,000 Petrels a year, hosting Albatross carnage by monster mice and now, petitioning the Royal Mail for a postcode so they can shop on the Internet. There are a few things that the UK newspapers donít know about Tristan da Cunha and the Internet. And, this is surprising because they check the Tristan Times website quite often.
As the average wage on Tristan da Cunha is £150.00 a month, they cannot afford to make expensive internet connections over Inmarsat. A former Administrator, Brian Baldwin, explained that to get on to the Internet from Tristan, it would cost £50.00 to make the connection and £6.50 per minute to surf. There are one or two Irridium phones on the Island but they are not owned by individuals but one is owned by the Community and the other by the Government. Though costs have been brought down to .30p a minute for e-mail, there is no internet access through the system available to the Community on the Island.
When Telecommunications Consultant, Dr. Chris Doyle (CD) visited Ascension Island last month, I had an opportunity to ask him about getting cheaper phone/FAX, e-mail and Internet access to Tristan da Cunha as well as South Georgia, Island also having problem of expensive communications. Following is a transcript of what he told SARTMA.
CD: There are some places on earth Ė their locations are such that they are not in close proximity to fibre optic cables and they are not in close proximity to the footprints of satellites. As a result, to communicate with those places, whether its in Antarctica, South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha and other places is necessarily very expensive. Frankly there is little we can do other than recognise the fact that it is going to be expensive and for people who live in those locations to accept that it is expensive and itís a way of life.
(SARTMA: What can the people in these remote territories do to achieve the same costs that the rest of us have?)
CD: They should look for the best way possible for their local governments, maybe with external support from agencies that may be minded to underwrite some of the cost for the provision of service. But again, I am talking about a very small population. The governments might think of encouraging bigger governments, who might be pre-disposed Ė generosity, in a sense, of providing some aid to facilitate better communications. There really isnít any other solution Ė there is no obvious technical solution that would dramatically reduce the cost of communications. It could arrive but I am not aware of any such technology at the present time.
(SARTMA: Will technology meet the challenge presented by this communications problem?)
CD: Of course one could put all sorts of fancy equipment on those Islands but the problem will always remain getting the access Ė the gateway Ė to international networks. And, itís that particular aspect which can be remarkably expensive. There are ways to some extent of lowering the cost of getting access to things like the internet so if, for example, 100 people are regularly trying to surf the internet for news and maybe sending e-mails then perhaps some common pages could be downloaded by just one particular machine and then it is replicated and distributed locally to local computers.
(SARTMA: Will this be a way forward for the People on Tristan da Cunha and South Georgia?)
CD: The cost savings that would bring are not particularly significant. The main problem, as I suggested, would be gaining access to international networks. Unless an agency like the United Nations or other such agency would buy one of these more expensive satellite connections, it will otherwise remain very costly.
Tristanians did not beg the Royal Mail to do a better job, either. Last year someone at a shipping office forgot to load the Christmas mail on a fishing ship that was due to depart for Tristan. This time the late arrival of Christmas goods and presents wasnít the Royal Mailís fault.