Saturday , December 2 2023

Plasterk states that fibre optic cable is worth investment

The Daily Herald writes that the 8.9 million euros (US $12.4 million) that the Dutch government paid to St. Eustatius and Saba to lay the fibre optic sea cable is worth the investment, even though the project exceeded the original budget. Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated this in reply to written questions posed by three Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, Bart de Liefde, Aukje de Vries and André Bosman, all of the governing liberal democratic VVD party. The Members of Parliament (MPs) asked in December last year why the Second Chamber had not been informed that the fibre optic sea cable costs close to 9 million euros, which, according to them, was twice as initially calculated by the Dutch government in 2008. They wanted to know why the Netherlands took on the additional expenses.
Minister Plasterk explained in his reply earlier this week that the final cost of 8.9 million euros was indeed higher than the budgeted cost of 6.4 million euros (US $8.8M). However, there was no question of a doubling of the budget, he added. The Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK made, besides the cost of the actual laying of the cable, funds available to secure the cable, for example, fast repair in the case of cable fractures, and to make the cable operational. Also, a double landing has been constructed on St. Eustatius and Saba to increase the system’s dependability. Furthermore, the cable route has been adapted to minimise the impact on the environment, the necessary adaptations have been made to the local infrastructure to realise the link between the cable and the local operators, and spare parts have been bought. “Without these investments, there would have been a cable which could not or just barely be usable. It would be destruction of capital if the cable could not be used in the future due to damage,” Plasterk stated, who added that the structural management and development expenses of the sea cable would be covered in the exploitation by the Saba Statia Cable System (SSCS) company.
The objective of the sea cable is to provide the islands with a better broadband connection to the Internet, giving a strategic and fundamental impulse to the social and economic development of St. Eustatius and Saba, the minister stated. Residents now have an Internet connection speed of 1Mb, whereas without the sea cable, this was 512Kb. “The islands are somewhat geographically isolated with limited possibilities for residents to share and gather information and knowledge or develop economic [online – Ed.] activities. Further, unlocking can improve the situation,” stated Plasterk, who also noted that St. Eustatius and Saba were located in the hurricane belt, which makes solid telecommunication crucial for assistance in emergency cases.
The cable’s exploitation expenses are financed with the revenues of the cable. A part of the cable system is already operational. Operational expenses and revenues were equal in 2013 at 365,000 euros. SSCS doesn’t have a profit-yielding objective. The further connection of households is a responsibility of the local operators and will not be financed by the Dutch government, Plasterk noted. “However, government is willing to contribute to find solutions for possible obstacles in the [mostly very outdated – Ed.] networks.” The SSCS is currently owned by the Dutch government, but the shares will be transferred to the governments of St. Eustatius and Saba in time. Plasterk emphasised that a “responsible transfer” was of great importance considering the significance of the sea cable for the public entities, the Dutch government and residents. The future shareholders, the island governments, will be “trained and educated in the management and exploitation” of the SSCS. The tempo of the transfer will be determined at a later time when it is clear that the sea cable has stable operations, both in financial and technical sense. The management organisation is currently being formed, in consultation with the island governments and Defence.

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One comment

  1. According to Mr.Plasterk, “Residents now have an Internet connection speed of 1Mb, whereas without the sea cable, this was 512Kb.”

    Where are these ministers getting these kind of information? I hope he is not referring to Saba residents. If you were to ask Saba residents, 60-70% would agree that the installation and activation of this fiber cable has not improved the internet bandwidth at our home in any way at all. Some of us still experience the same slow to moderate internet bandwidth that we had just as before that fiber cable was installed.

    So it is inaccurate to say that the residents now have 1Mb internet throughput.