Op-Ed: The "Top 12" Reasons That Palau Needs Faster Internet

Palau is slipping further and further into the technological dark ages while the leaders of this land debate the implementation of a fiber optic cable that would provide it much needed Internet access. Here are my top 12 reasons that Palau needs to implement this as quickly as possible (I was going to make it a “top 10” list but the list keeps growing).
1) Speed: The net is growing. In 2004 the average web page required less than 1mb of data to load. Today the same page with all of the video, ads, cookies and back end is more than 5mb. So even if the speed in Palau is 5 times faster today then in 2004, it still takes longer to load home pages like Facebook, Yahoo, etc. then it did ten years ago.
2) Tourism: In a survey by Luxury Traveler magazine the number one requirement for Palau’s desired “high value” tourist was Internet – even over beaches, activities, etc. These tourists need to keep in touch with their office and holdings and many want to video chat with their families. In addition, many high-value travelers are using the Cloud for files and applications that are not yet available in Palau.
3) Hotels and Tour Operators: Todays travelers want to see availability, book their travel and get a confirmation on the web. This requires integrated reservation systems that cannot work with Palau’s current Internet.
4) Medicine: Lives can be saved and off island referrals can be reduced with wifi remote doctors and medicine. This reason alone — the health of this nation’s citizens — should be enough.
5) Communications: Facebook, iChat, Viber, Skype, etc. and then updating web pages. Palau is unable to communicate with families, friends and customers because of slow Internet. Don’t you want to video chat with your son or daughter in the military abroad or your cousin in Oregon?
6) Computers: Whether you are using Apple or a PC many of the programs today need to be online to operate. There are also updates and remote access that allow users to get help from abroad. Not available in Palau.
7) Commerce: How many times are you not able to get cash from the ATM or use a credit card? What impact does this have on tourist spending more money in Palau? With no access to money the economy suffers.
8) Government: Need to send documents, book travel, use Cloud based operation systems including accounting or integrate Palau’s government operations? Not going to happen without good Internet.
9) Knowledge: Education could benefit greatly from Internet. Remote teachers and lectures, access to the world’s knowledge and just helping to bring our students into the real world.
10) Media: Want to share Palau’s culture and current events? Without fast Internet we cannot stream radio or TV programs, send news stories internationally or develop a film and television production industry.
11) Price: Our neighboring islands can get a 10 MB connection for $39.95. In Palau a 1MB connection cost over $1,000.00. Sure it will take time for the price adjustment to occur but in the long run it will pay off.
12) Entertainment: We all just want to watch YouTube videos, movies and have access to music, games and more. We want to surf the net and have access to the rest of the world.
Now I realize that if you are in public office negatives are not the way to get re-elected so here is that positive spin. If Palau obtains real Internet then:
1) Voters have better access to health care and lives are saved.
2) Voters need fewer off island referrals for medicine.
3) Voters have better education.
4) Voters make more money from high value tourism.
5) Voters witness more efficient government.
6) Voters have better communication with family and friends.
7) Voters have access to global media.
8) Voters get reduced internet prices.
9) Voters can get money from the ATM when they need it.
10) Voters have more to do reducing crime.
11) Voters have better access to NGO’s and funding.
12) Voters get to have fun with the internet.
The citizens of Palau could greatly augment this list but the bottom line is that without being connected to the modern world we cannot participate. Worried about price, well Palau has always had two price points, locals and tourists. High value tourists just want access at any price so let them carry a large part of the burden. Leaders of this nation please help bring Palau into the 21st century and support a fiber optic cable while we have the chance.
Jeff Barabe
Resident, businessman and Internet user.