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People are the common denominator of progress. So… no improvement is possible with unimproved people, and advance is certain when people are liberated and educated. It would be wrong to dismiss the importance of roads, railroads, power plants, mills, and the other familiar furniture of economic development… But we are coming to realize… that there is a certain sterility in economic monuments that stand alone in a sea of illiteracy. Conquest of illiteracy comes first.

–John Kenneth Galbraith

Vodafone’s Coverage Map: 

Vodafone Coverage Map
Part I of this post contains a technical discussion of implementing a WI-MAX network to provide communication to rural and outer-island communities.

Enabling Universal Access (Part I) received the most comments and feedback from readers. People understand that present efforts at deregulation offer us the chance to move away from the shackles of years past, as well as an opportunity to chart a brighter course for communications infrastructure in Fiji.

Specific objectives of The Coconut Wireless include raising awareness of the importance of these changes. Additionally, the aim is to:

1) Ensure deregulation means access for those who cannot afford it

2) make sure current efforts do not hoodwink the people of Fiji into something similar to the prior agreement—locking the country into additional years of little progress.

Provisions have been included in the new arrangement that will require current and new operators to fund efforts to provide universal access as well as contribute toward the expansion of Fiji’s communications infrastructure.

From a Fijilive article:

Telecom operators’ licence fee is $1m per annum or 1.5 per cent of gross turnover for the previous financial year. whichever is greater. One per cent is for the licence fee and 0.5 per cent is the USO (universal service obligation) levy.

This is great news for everyone in Fiji. We are one step closer to funding the kind of WI-MAX network discussed in Part I.

With secured funding, ensuring universal access is definitely within reach. Those in decision-making roles must understand the benefits that come from the kind of public-private network discussed.

Providing internet access to schools can help improve education, offering teachers opportunities to pursue cutting-edge curriculum and programs for their students.

Those living in rural and outer-islands will no longer be subjected to the tyranny of distance. Police, fire and other emergency services can also benefit from improved communications facilities.

It is time for ALL of Fiji to be connected to the Global Village. This is a very important step in improving our people.

Readers, if you have access to information on the deregulation effort and know of any section of it that comments on the implementation of WI-MAX networks, your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated here. Specifically, what can you tell us about the existing players (Vodafone, ATH, and Kidanet) stance on the implementation of a WI-MAX network?


Mr. Mahabir Pun is among seven individuals from Asia, who has won this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award (considered as a Nobel Prize in Asia). Mr. Pun has received this award for community leadership and for his innovative application of wireless computer technology (Wi-Fi) and bringing progress to remote mountain areas by connecting his village to the global village.

Please read more information on his projects and citation by Ramon Magsaysay committee for his work in these links.

Ensuring Universal Access

Not much new information is coming out on deregulation plans, this week. It seems to be same old mash and yet again, the media organizations seem ill-prepared to explain these developments to the local population.Using this New York Times article as a basis for discussion (a worthwhile read for everyone, interested) I would like to outline here how deregulating the cell phone network can be used to help build other crucial 21st century communications networks that can ensure universal access for the poor, allow for improved communications for emergency services like Police and Fire, and help schools get connected. The article in discussion outlines how a small town in rural Oregon was able to create a Wi-Max network through a unique public-private partnership. It involved implementing cutting-edge technology backed by the vision of policy makers looking to the future:

This kind of network is the wave of the future, and eastern Oregon shows that it’s technically and financially feasible. New York and other leading cities should be embarrassed that Morrow and Umatilla Counties in eastern Oregon are far ahead of them in providing high-speed Internet coverage to residents, schools and law enforcement officers – even though all of Morrow County doesn’t even have a single traffic light.The big cities should take note, said Kim Puzey, the general manager of the Port of Umatilla on the Columbia River here. “We’d like people to say, ‘If they can do it out in the boondocks with a small population, that model can be applied to highly complex areas,’ ” he said.

Mr. Puzey, who says wireless broadband is central to the port’s operations, argues persuasively that broadband is just the next step in expanding the national infrastructure, comparable to the transcontinental railroad, the national highway system and rural electrification.Indeed, we need to envision broadband Internet access as just another utility, like electricity or water. Often the best way to provide that will be to blanket a region with Wi-Fi coverage to create wireless computer networks, rather than running D.S.L., cable or fiber-optic lines to every home.

This public-private partnership to create the Wi-Max network should be funded by annual contributions from the new cell phone operators and ISPs. Keep in mind that TFL companies generated over $40 million in profit this last business year. Some of this money should be pumped back into the system, in my view, to facilitate the construction of a public-private Wi-Max infrastructure.Those receiving cell phone licenses should have it as a part of their contract to pay into the public-private funding and maintenance of the Wi-Max network.  Internet service providers should also be subjected to the same fee.  

Fiji is a small country and this should be an acceptable price for doing business here.  After all, we have to make sure that everyone understands that this is about taking Fiji into the future.This will allow us to offer a basic service of 1MBpS for free to all residents in range of signal. ISPs would be allowed to sell packages to those interested in faster services for residences and cater to the more complex needs of businesses. What this will end up looking like is  a three-tiered system where anyone with a wireless device can connect to the network at 1MBpS for free, and paying customers can choose from packages starting at 4-5MBpS and business packages can start at 8+MBpS. This concept is most definitely within reach:

But Hermiston is actually a global leader of our Internet future. Today, this chunk of arid farm country appears to be the largest Wi-Fi hot spot in the world, with wireless high-speed Internet access available free for some 600 square miles. Most of that is in eastern Oregon, with some just across the border in southern Washington.

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