Elon Musk asked Tonga to reconnect to the internet

A New Zealand lawmaker has asked SpaceX Chief Elon Musk to help Tonga restore unity after a major volcanic eruption on Saturday tore a single cable connected to the internet.

In a letter posted earlier this week and shared on Twitter on Thursday, Dr. Shane Reti asked Musk about the possibility of using SpaceX’s satellite-based Starlink web service to get the small Pacific country back online now, instead of waiting for a month for the sea repair.

With international friends and relatives hoping for news of the safety of their loved ones, Tonga’s connection to the outside world may not be long enough.

Musk did not respond to a request for comment, which he posted on Monday. “I think Elon Musk can say no and if you do not ask you do not know,” the lawyer said in a statement following the letter.

I think Elon Musk can say no and if you do not ask you do not know. After the Minister told me in a phone call on Monday that the telecommunications cable to Tonga had fallen off I immediately sent a letter to Elon to see if Starlink would be involved in the emergency. pic.twitter.com/Upg9WijWrq

& mdash; Dr. Shane Reti (@DrShaneRetiMP) March 21, 2022

A volcanic eruption occurred over the weekend about 40 km north of the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa, with the effects of a powerful explosion that caused many deaths and injuries from floods and ash. It also separates the only cable that connects the country to the internet.

The sea, which operates 500 miles across the Pacific to Fiji, accelerated to Tonga when it began operations in 2013.

A ship carrying spare parts is preparing to leave Papua New Guinea, but does not expect to reach Tonga until early February, according to New York Times.

The repair is likely to take a few weeks to complete as it involves recovering a damaged USB cable, removing it from the bottom of the boat, and building a replacement part, a project described by the Times as “first.” And any hint of another eruption and repair team will have down the tools and seek refuge.

According to the Times report, damage to the internet cable occurred 23 miles from the capital Tongan, with the intention of being a landslide or a sudden change in the ocean floor.

For the first few days following Saturday’s eruption, all communication lines were down, making it almost impossible for international aid agencies to assess the damage, although in recent days some phone services has worked again.

SpaceX’s Starlink service is already being used in an emergency, providing access to the Internet during and after massive nuclear fires in Washington in September 2020. Infrastructure providing connectivity in the area was destroyed in the fires, causing SpaceX to help Starlink terminal is local so respondents and residents can get online.

SpaceX is usually expand broadband services to customers in more countries, suggesting Tonga’s population of just over 100,000 people could be in a position to get some relief. However, a than supply Starlink satellite dishes can prove problematic.

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