World Bank Grant Accepted to Develop Telecommunications
The FSM Connectivity Project just achieved a new milestone. In a special on-line session, FSM’s Congress on 21 April 2020, adopted a resolution to approve and accept a US$30.8 million grant from the World Bank to fund the next phase of the ongoing Connectivity Project, Digital FSM. The new grant will be used to construct and install domestic fiber optic cable and wireless networks and related infrastructure to businesses, schools, dispensaries and homes in all four of FSM’s states. This new development will ​strengthen domestic internet and telecommunications connectivity for most of FSM’s people. The project also has a component on e-Government aimed at taking connectivity to the next level for FSM citizens.

The new grant funds the follow-up phase of the FSM Connectivity Project which has already connected Yap and Chuuk to an undersea fiber optic network. Kosrae is scheduled to be connected to the network in early 2022. Pohnpei was connected to a fiber optic network through an earlier FSM Telecommunications initiative. Fiber optic cables provide users with ultra-fast and reliable digital connectivity, benefitting average citizens, health facilities, government services as well as businesses.

Digital connectivity is especially important for people living on outer islands where reliable communications and remote access to essential services provide a critical lifeline. This new Project phase supports the rollout of terrestrial fiber infrastructure on the capital islands, connecting outer islands to basic broadband services, establishing critical foundations for digital government services, and strengthening the legal and regulatory environment for a digital economy to thrive in FSM.

The FSM Cable Company, FSMTCC, will be responsible for the deployment of the new terrestrial fiber infrastructure on the capital islands and the wireless networks on the outer islands. The legal and regulatory framework is the mandate of the TRA, the Telecommunication Regulations Authority. The TRA is also overseeing the introduction of competition in the FSM telecommunications sector.
“I see great advantages for the tourism and transport sector,” stated Honorable Carlson D. Apis, Secretary of TC&I, the Project’s coordinating Department. “But it is clear that all our Micronesian businesses and consumers will greatly benefit from competitively priced, faster and more reliable communications platforms to support e-Government services.”

The new grant will help provide fiber-to-the-home to many houses in the capital islands. Many businesses, government offices, schools, health facilities and others will also benefit from the direct fiber links. Outer islands with populations in excess of 100 people will also benefit from this new grant. Although running fiber optic cable to outer islands is not feasible, they will receive connectivity through VSAT wireless networks, providing people on these islands with faster, more reliable connectivity for internet and mobile phone usage.

One component of the Project includes developing a digital framework to facilitate the national and state Governments’ use of digital technologies, including consultations and developing processes for implementation. This will involve developing a unified national government online portal as well as developing a secure cloud-based network to promote common information systems, standards and applications, including e-mail for government users.

In the short term, better connectivity will benefit the people of FSM through improved access to better information, particularly on issues like impending cyclones or Covid-19. The long-term objectives of this follow-on Project are to expand access to the internet for most of FSM’s people, promote private sector investment in digital services and establish the critical foundations for digital government services and an enhanced digital economy.