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The St Helena report and the gap in media

Who wants to go to an island where iPhones don’t work?

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St Helena’s dismal internet connection will deter people from travelling to the island when its airport is built, according to a telecoms blogger in Germany.

Martin Sauter, “a thought leader” in the industry, is aghast that St Helena’s 4,000 residents have to share a broadband connection that has less than half the bandwidth of his own connection at home.

He lends his voice to a campaign to route a new undersea high-speed cable via St Helena.

‘The British government wants to build an airport on St. Helena to stimulate tourism,’ notes Sauter. ‘But really, who wants to go there when Internet connectivity is limited at best and your iPhone can’t communicate with the rest of the world? Ten years ago, this might still have worked. Today only those suffering from communication overload might consider it. I doubt one can fill planes that way.’

Saint blogger Johnny Clingham has also joined the criticism of St Helena’s internet connectivity. ‘The internet is overpriced and so slow it can barely send an email on a daily basis,’ he says.

‘Most users on St Helena… are aware that it could cost them a month’s wages if they used more that their capped limit.’

The internet connection is via an ageing satellite, and frequently drops out because of ‘sun outages’ that are advertised in the island newspapers.

The Connect St Helena campaign now reports (20 January) that the chief executive of the South African company laying the cable is willing to consider routing it via the island. However, there would be a cost of several million pounds.

The campaigners say that’s a small fraction of what the UK government is spending on the new airport.

But as Martin Sauter points out, ‘in the 21st century, connectivity to the rest of the world is not just planes and ships.’

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