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New Zealand’s submarine cable debate

How does New Zealand get another submarine cable project off the ground in the wake of Pacific Fibre’s failure to raise funds?

Ryan Ashton  posed the question at a technology industry networking event last night. Ashton wants to trigger a debate and people at the event joined in.

At least one had worked for Pacific Fibre.

Crowd-funding a submarine cable?

Ashton’s idea for a new cable amounts to crowd-funding. He says the three or four hundred million dollars required could be spread over, say, a million New Zealanders.

The same logic could be used to argue for government funding.

An informal after work event held in a bar isn’t always the best place for this discussion, yet this is a necessary debate.

There are many issues to consider.

Is Southern Cross Cable enough?

First we have to decide if an alternative to the existing Southern Cross Cable Network is necessary. And if it is, does that imply there’s something broken that government can fix by regulation or means other than building a fresh cable?

Southern Cross will need replacing at some point and we don’t want to leave it to the last-minute. On the other hand, money is tight, perhaps it could be better spent elsewhere now and the problem revisited later.

Security is an issue. Southern Cross is a loop with two lines in and out of the country, that’s better than a single point of failure. A new cable will make us more secure. What would be the optimum number of cables for a country with a population of less than five million?

Does a new cable need to stretch right across the Pacific when a simple drop across the Tasman could offer a quicker and cheaper alternative?

Is this something best left to market forces or is there a case for government involvement. How do we square China’s enthusiasm to take part when the US and Australian governments are hostile towards firms like Huawei?