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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 30, 2007

New undersea cable to Hawaii sought

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Wai'anae Coast Writer


Copies of the project's draft environmental assessment are available for review and public comment through Oct. 23. For a copy:

  • Contact AMEC Earth & Environmental Inc., the project consulting firm, by calling Anna Mallon at 808-545-2462 or e-mailing anna.mallon@amec.com. Comments can be mailed to AMEC at 3375 Koapaka St., Suite F-251, Honolulu, HI 96819.

  • Copies of the draft environmental assessment can also be reviewed at the Wai'anae and Kapolei public libraries.

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    An Australian telecommunications company is asking the state to allow it to install a subsea fiber optic cable that would span 5,080 miles between O'ahu and Sydney.

    The fiber optic cable would connect an existing cable station in Australia and onshore telecommunications infrastructure at Keawa'ula Bay on the Wai'anae Coast.

    If approved, it would be one of about two dozen such underwater cables along the Wai'anae Coast.

    The applicant, Telstra, an Australian integrated telecommunications and media company, says the new cable would provide needed additional capacity and improve international connectivity between the United States and the South Seas continent.

    It would also be beneficial to Hawai'i, according to one local industry insider.

    "This is a project that has tremendous opportunity in providing additional bandwidth connectivity for citizens in Hawai'i as well as in Australia," said Pat Bustamante, president of Pacific LightNet Inc., a Hawai'i-based company offering a range of integrated telecommunication products and services.

    "There are tremendous and growing bandwidth requirements globally."

    Last year at the Pacific Telecommunications Council meeting, held every January in Hawai'i, numerous submarine cable operators and telecommunications companies from around the world discussed the need for new undersea fiber cables, he said.

    According to Bustamante, an earthquake that took out cables serving China and the rest of Asia around Christmas disrupted global service for months. He said such natural disasters adversely affect commerce in a major way, and can even force some companies out of business.

    "This would add additional capacity and diversity," he said. "So in case one cable gets damaged, there's another cable that can pick up the bandwidth."

    Samuel Lemmo, with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Office of Conversation and Coastal Land, which will decide whether to approve the application, said the cable would follow existing paths and rights-of-way.

    It would be laid within an existing easement, Lemmo said, and use a manhole and conduit that already run beneath Farrington Highway.

    "There would no need to dig new trenches," he said.

    Copies of the draft environmental assessment for the project are available for review and public comment through Oct. 23.

    Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.