A cable under the Tasman is worth two on the drawing board

It took the dastardly Telecom New Zealand to come up with a realistic plan working with Vodafone NZ and Telstra to finally deliver on this long awaited cable project.

There's no satisfying some people.

For years, the commentariat has bleated about the need for an extra cable linking New Zealand to Australia and the United States. Project after project has been mooted.

We have seen the $400 million Pacific Fibre project come to nothing.

We have also seen plans and suggestions from the likes of Huawei and the publicity-seeking Kim Dotcom .

The New Zealand government has also been pressurised to come on board as an investment partner for Pacific Fibre, adding to the $1.5 billion it is spending on faster broadband.

But as I said, it has all come to nothing.

Some of New Zealand's finest minds and vocal mouths have campaigned on the subject for years.

But despite their studies, despite their efforts, they could not get the business case to stack up.

Or at least not enough for the likes of the tech multi-millionaires Rod Drury, Sam Morgan, etc, to put their money where their mouths are . The Kiwi government did offer support as a cornerstone customer.

It took the dastardly Telecom New Zealand to come up with a realistic plan, along with Vodafone and Telstra, to finally deliver on this long awaited cable project.

True, at US$60 million and only spanning the Tasman, the new cable is only a modest affair compared with the other schemes that would have extended to the United States.

It also seems that the big boys are creating a little monopoly for themselves, especially as Telecom itself also owns a sizeable chunk of the existing Southern Cross Cable. The Green Party, among others, seem notably concerned.

But if Telecom is to put its own money where its mouth is, why shouldn't it cream off a decent return for itself and its investing partners? They are, after all, taking the risk that others are not.

Telecom, Telstra, and Vodafone should be commended for finally coming up with a plan to reduce or remove any bottlenecks that may arise from New Zealand's growing use of data.

If there is a case for a US link, then surely demand for this extra cable between our two countries will point the way.

If Telecom abuses its monopoly position too much, then any "excess" profits should attract others to come on board with an extra cable.

Alternatively, an increasingly interventionist government, which is playing closer attention to trans-Tasman issues like roaming, will also ensure Telecom plays a fairly straight bat.

Those who moan about an over-powerful Telecom, those who wanted their own schemes, they have had their chance and they have blown it. They lost and have failed, and now it is up to our respective incumbent domestic giants (Telecom and Telstra), plus a global mobile telco (Vodafone), to succeed where so many have failed before.

To paraphrase an old saying, "a cable under the Tasman is worth two on the drawing board".

We should be pleased with, and grateful for what we get.


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