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Local attorney files Declaration in case involving the death of a fisherman

Michael Castaneda, deceased captain of a US fishing vessel.
Says claims of Am. Samoa’s telecom services being inadequate “patently false”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Local attorney Barry Rose has described claims by an attorney made in federal court filings that internet in American Samoa is extremely slow and it's not unusual for the entire island to lose access to the internet and even phone service, “patently false”. Rose is a former president and counsel of Bluesky Communications.

The local attorney argued in his Declaration filed at the federal court in Santa Ana, California that telecommunications infrastructure and services in the territory “at this time are abundant, reliable, redundant and favorable compared to the telecommunications and internet services on the U.S. mainland.”

Additionally, the American Samoa Telecommunications Authority “currently offers fiber connectivity to 95% of the homes and businesses in American Samoa.”

Rose’s Declaration was in response to a court filing early this month by William L. Banning, attorney for the plaintiffs in the federal wrongful death lawsuit brought by surviving members of a fisherman who died when he fell overboard — and drowned — a US fishing vessel docked in Pago Pago.

The case has since been dismissed without prejudice at the federal court, while a parallel suit pending before the High Court of American Samoa will proceed. (See Samoa News Jan. 25th edition for details).

Among Banning’s arguments that American Samoa is an inadequate forum to hear the case is that American Samoa is a remote island territory with “limited infrastructure which is often unreliable”. For example, there is limited access to internet, print services, phone and access to technology that would be necessary to adequately prosecute the case during trial.

After Samoa News published a Jan. 10th story on the case including Banning’s telecom claim, a handful of readers — including one from off island — inquired on whether ASG would respond to such “characterization” of local telecom services.

The off-island reader noted that Banning’s claim paints a negative picture for local telecom services to possible off-island investors.

While there has been no official reaction from ASG, Rose filed his Declaration saying that it’s “true”  American Samoa is a remote territory. “However, each and every other statement” made by Banning “is patently false with regards to American Samoa’s telecommunications infrastructure.”

Rose explained that he had served as president of Bluesky and acted as counsel for Bluesky and the government owned ASTCA. During his tenure at Bluesky, he led the launching in 2009 of the American Samoa Hawaii fiber optic cable.

And in July last year, ASTCA launched submarine cable service on the Hawaiki Submarine Cable system, which is the largest and fastest link between Australasia and the US.

Rose argued that “American’s Samoa’s telecommunications infrastructure provides abundant and reliable access to internet, print services, and other technology that would be necessary to adequately prosecute this case at trial.”

“Given the current state of American Samoa’s communications infrastructure, which contains redundant submarine fiber optic cables and satellite back up, it is virtually impossible for American Samoa to lose access to internet and phone service for days at a time,” he said.

Furthermore, the “current speeds of internet in American Samoa is similar to internet speeds available in California.”

Rose’s Declaration was part of a set of documents by Tri Marine Fish Company (TMFC) — one of the defendants in the federal court and high court case. According to TMFC, Banning has an office in the territory and has “marketed his firm’s experience and litigation successes there [American Samoa]”.