The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) announced the award of a grant to Tuvalu Telecom Corporation (TTC) for a feasibility study to support the development of the Central Pacific Cable, a 15,900-kilometer subsea cable between Guam and American Samoa that will provide new or expanded connectivity to up to 12 Pacific Island countries.

According to USTDA, increasing access to secure, high-speed connectivity in the Pacific Islands is a priority for USTDA, the U.S. government, and our Pacific Island partners. The Central Pacific Cable project will provide critical internet capacity to create economic opportunities and improve lives. This grant is just one example of USTDA’s commitment to promoting resilient, quality digital infrastructure in the region using U.S.-based solutions.

Undersea cables play a critical role in the global internet infrastructure. This makes them a key area of competition between the U.S. and China. The new project underlines the growing strategic importance of undersea cables and the Pacific region. By supporting this project, the U.S. is seeking to enhance its influence in this vital area. The new cable project is part of a broader strategy of the United States to counter China’s influence in the region.

U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Fiji, Kiribati, Tonga, Nauru and Tuvalu, Marie Damour, said: "The United States, alongside our Quad allies, supports the building of trusted, high-quality subsea cables that transform digital access in the Pacific Islands. This grant is a demonstration of the U.S. government’s commitment to forming partnerships and expanding critical infrastructure in this important sector.”  

USTDA’s study advances the goals of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII),  the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership, and the Pacific Islands Infrastructure Initiative.

The Central Pacific Cable would be the first subsea cable connection to Tuvalu, a tiny nation of about 11,000 people, which currently relies on satellite connectivity. 

USTDA’s study will create a high-level design for the Central Pacific Cable and assess its technical and commercial feasibility for TTC.

TTC has selected Florida-based APTelecom LLC to conduct the feasibility study.

A White House fact sheet released on Monday (September 25th) after a meeting between Pacific Island leaders and President Joe Biden in Washington confirmed the U.S. Trade and Development Agency would fund a $3 million feasibility study for the Central Pacific Cable. 

Further funding for the Central Pacific Cable project would most likely come from multilateral donors such as the World Bank and aid agencies in the United States, Australia, New Zealand. Australia and the US together intend to invest US$65 million (approximately A$100 million), the bulk of the total (US$50 million) coming from Australia.