Christmas Island’s Internet Connectivity Crisis

Christmas Island’s Internet Connectivity Crisis

It seems many of the residents of Christmas Island have lost access to the internet after a local ISP shut down services; reportedly forced out of the market by the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Broadband on Christmas Island Image: Public Domain

Christmas Island is an Australian territory 380 kilometres south of Java and 2,650 kilometres north-west of Perth. It’s home to around 2,000 people and to a national park that covers most of the 135 square-kilometre island.

Christmas Island Internet Administration (CiiA) was up until recently the only show in town when it came to Internet Service Providers; providing fixed wireless and 4G services – then the NBN began rolling out.

The ISP reportedly shut off internet connectivity to around 1,000 residents and small businesses at the start of the month. The non-profit states the situation has been forced as it couldn’t compete with what it called a “heavily subsidised”  NBN, which is still some way off being fully rolled out on Christmas Island.

It says it is $750,000 in the red after building Christmas Island’s network. Effectively, the company is insolvent – and trading while insolvent is illegal in Australia; hence the shutdown.

“CiiA has not crashed and burned, we are just exiting the Christmas Island market before we do”.

It had suggested if NBN Co. was interested in making sure the estimated 1,000 customers continued to have a service while the NBN rollout continued, it could acquire its network for the $750,000 – but it appears that offer has not been taken up.

Prior to shutting down services, CiiA had filed a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in a bid to halt the NBN rollout; but the bid was unsuccessful. The complaint alleged misuse of market power and predatory pricing.

The CiiA was also critical of the cost of the Christmas Island rollout to Australian taxpayers and the broadband technology chosen.

“The NBN decision to use Sky Muster as opposed to fixed wireless with low latency back haul clearly indicates they are not short of funds, just a little common sense.”

A copy of the complaint to the ACCC can be viewed here (PDF).

On February 25, CiiA said it had “decided to let NBN declare victory over common sense, sound network design and the public purse.”

More on the situation can be read here and additional statements from CiiA can be viewed here.

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