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The internet blackout in Tonga is “emotionally distressing” for local people, a Kaniva Tonga correspondent has reported.

The loss of internet, which was caused when the undersea cable was cut, has affected everyone in the kingdom.

Most people found their restricted access to Facebook due to the outage disheartening as they struggled to keep in touch with their family overseas.

He said Facebook was the easiest and cheapest way for people to make contact with their family overseas.

Most schools started this week and many parents relied on their relatives overseas for the school fees and materials.

Lines of people queuing at Western Union, one of Tonga’s largest person-to-person money transfer services, following the backout, had been described as pitiful – ‘faka’ofa.’

There were complaints on social media by Tongan business owners who were overseas after the optic fibre was cut on Sunday, January 20, because they could no longer monitor their businesses from overseas.

The loss of the undersea cable link to Fiji, and the cable to the country’s outer islands, is now in its eighth day.

The repair ship Reliance is expected to arrive at the site shortly to begin repairs.

The impact of the outage on the government had been minimal, a government spokesperson said.

Free wi-fi ended

Meanwhile, a free w-ifi service which had been provided by Tonga Communications Corporation (TCC) to the public on Monday is no longer available.

TCC had charged each member of the public using its service TP$2 an hour on Tuesday. The cost went up to TP$3 on Wednesday, our correspondent said.

Only 15 customers were able to use the wi-fi at the same time at  the TCC offices due to the restriction of the capacity of the satellite internet currently being used.

TCC had been contacted for comment.

Our correspondent said when the wi-fi was active through the satellite operator, Ezinet, hundreds of people queued at TCC, vying for a chance to use the internet.

“Most of them wanted to make contact with their families overseas,” he said.

Ezinet links to Kacific Satellite, a satellite operator developing a high-speed broadband internet service for the South East Asian region with a special focus on the Pacific

Digitel Tonga

Digicel Tonga, one of only Tonga’s two internet and mobile phones providers, and TCC’s rival, said the company continued to face data connectivity issues because of the cut in the submarine cable.

Digicel Tonga has established 3G data connectivity nationwide that allows its customers to use the basic data services.

“All our customers can make international and local calls as well as send text messages both locally and internationally,” Digicel said.

“However, using data services will only allow you to use basic services such as browsing to stay connected with family and friends.”

Digicel Tonga was reducing its out of bundle charge from $0.25 to $0.05.

It is understood Digicel only provided wi-fi for its customers and not for the public.

The main points

  • The internet blackout in Tonga is “emotionally distressing” for local people, a Kaniva Tonga correspondent has reported.
  • The loss of internet, which was caused when the undersea cable was cut, has affected everyone in the kingdom.
  • Most people found their restricted access to Facebook due to the outage disheartening as they struggled to keep in touch with their family overseas.

For more information

Undersea line has been cut, but could be repaired within two weeks says Tonga Cable

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