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Report says ASTCA is operating in the red

American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority’s chief executive officer, Lewis Wolman with ASPA acting executive director, Wallon Young
Nonetheless, increments have been provided for more than half the workforce

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa TeleCommunications Authority (ASTCA) “finances continue to operate in the red” while increments were provided to more than half of ASTCA’s workforce following a company-wide review.

This is according to ASTCA’s fiscal year 2019 second quarter performance report — covering the period of Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, 2019 — submitted to the Governor, with copies to the Fono. The report was presented by ASTCA’s chief executive officer, Lewis Wolman, who took over the leadership post last December.


The report, which would be Wolman’s first one since taking over as ASTCA’s head- outlined accomplishments by the semi-autonomous agency in the 2nd quarter.

“ASTCA began a company-wide review of salaries and provided increments to more than half of the workforce during the quarter,” said the report. “In addition, many employees were reclassified and received pay raises that reflected the greater skill and responsibility of their positions.”

The report also notes that a new director of sales was hired during the quarter, following public advertisement and ASTCA has “restructured” its sales, marketing and customer service.

A new customer service manager was also hired as a result of a lateral promotion and, according to the report, customer service has the objective of offering five-star excellent service,

(Samoa News notes that there remain a lot of complaints from ASTCA customers about the agency’s customer service.)

The marketing manager was freed to focus more on marketing, thanks to the two aforementioned personnel moves.

According to the report, the new LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile network’s launch and that of the IPTV has been pushed back until the third and fourth quarters of FY 2019. “The LTE project is key to ASTCA’s future fortunes,” the report says, but didn’t elaborate further.

During a cabinet meeting in August 2018, then ASTCA acting CEO Falaovaoto Sualevai told cabinet members that the LTE network would allow the use of SIM cards on ASTCA cell phones, and faster internet speed on mobile data.

During a cabinet meeting in May this year, Wolman said ASTCA will be part of the nationwide first responders’ network, when its new LTE mobile network is launched. (The first responders network was established by federal law, for a unified communication for first responders throughout the US and its territories in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.)

For the IPTV, Wolman said this service “is up and running a little bit on a trial basis” and it’s currently available in majority of the homes in Manu’a. “Most people in Manu’a have ASTCA TV (or IPTV) and it will be coming to the rest of you later this year,” he told cabinet members.

Wolman however, is yet to provide a full response to Samoa News questions sent to him after the cabinet meeting about the IPTV — or ASTCA TV.


“Since ASTCA has not yet fully monetized its investment in new capabilities with new revenues streams, ASTCA continues to operate in the red,” according to the report’s summary of program impediments.

The report explains that the lack of funds affects ASTCA in “several negative ways”, including:

•     bad relations with vendors who remain unpaid and impatient;

•     lack of working capital for normal operations;

•     difficulty in preparing new products for launch;

•     everyday squeeze across the board; and

•     daily distractions for senior management.


During the 2nd quarter, ASTCA revenues totaled $8.06 million while total expenditures were $7.59 million. The biggest expense of $3.42 million went to equipment — under capital expenditures — while the balance was for operations.

“In a normal year, there would be a relatively even distribution of expenses and revenues throughout the year, but 2019 will not be a normal year, as we anticipate an increase in both costs and revenues” in the third and fourth quarters “due to the launch of new activities,” the report says, noting that in FY 2019, the Fono approved $20.4 million for ASTCA’s budget.

The report notes that the agency’s head count on Mar. 30, 2019 was at 175 employees, and about 160 of them are career service, while the rest are contract workers. The head count was basically unchanged from the previous quarter.

During the 1st and 2nd quarters, just over $1.08 million went to personnel costs, according to summary data in the report, which shows that 194 positions were approved by the Fono in the FY 2019 budget for ASTCA.

ASTCA says it intends to increase the head count above the present level in the months ahead as it readies for increased activity associated with the launch of new initiatives in the market place.

The report didn’t give specific examples of “new initiatives” to be launched, but does note that Bluesky provides similar services — internet and cell phone services — as ASTCA.

“In many regards, ASTCA operates as a market-driven telecom company,” the report says.

ASTCA, a semi-autonomous ASG agency, is governed by a board of directors.