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Senate bill introduced to establish ASTCA as an ‘authority’ — no longer an ASG agency

ASTCA building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Three senators have sponsored legislation, which creates by law, the “American Samoa Telecommunications Corporation Authority” — still referred to with the acronym “ASTCA” — and “shall in no way [be] considered an agency or semi-autonomous agency” of ASG.

The bill is sponsored by Sens. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga, Fai’ivae Iuli Godinet, and Tuaolo Manaia Fruean.

Introduced yesterday and assigned to the appropriate committee for review, the legislation states that ASTCA is “to regulate all telecommunication services in American Samoa.” It is also given the authority to carry out its own procurement services.

The bill is effective immediately upon passage by the Fono and approval of the governor, according to the legislation, which states that the bill, upon becoming law, supersedes the governor’s executive order, which created ASTCA in 1998 and all its amendments over the years.

The 10-page legislation outlines powers of ASTCA, which may make contracts as authorized in this chapter. However, any contracts ASTCA enters into with the ASG Employees’ Retirement Fund must be brought to the Fono for approval.

The bill specifies the establishment of two ASTCA divisions: Inter-Exchange Carrier (IXC) providing among other things long distance interstate and international services including internet; and Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) which provides, among other things, local telephone service and other regulated telecom service that transmits and/or receives voice, data, and/or video.

The bill says ASTCA may also establish any other department it deems necessary to support its purpose.

According to the proposed law, ASTCA is to be governed by a 7-member board, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Fono for terms of 4 years. “At least one board member” shall be experienced in management of [a] telecom utility; “at least one” member with financial background; “at least one” shall have information technology background; and the 4 others are to be selected on the basis of character, competence, education, and judgement from the private and government sectors.

ASTCA board members — all of whom are to be residents of American Samoa — shall be compensated $6,000 a year and $7,000 a year for the chairman, who shall be selected by the board, along with the vice chair.

The bill spells out the duties and responsibilities of the board, including hiring of the chief executive officer, who reports directly to the board, and also the responsibilities of the CEO, whose salary is to be set by the board.

According to the bill’s preamble, “The future of ASTCA “is beholden to the people of American Samoa with high expectations to unilaterally progress with our counterparts around the world.

“As an authority, ASTCA will be equipped to face these challenges and provide excellent services to the territory without undergoing any undue obstacles.”

The bill states that ASTCA is presently ready to be empowered to carry out its own charter to mutually benefit the community and the government. “It will foster financial stability, promote operational efficiency, and encourage overall growth as one of the most relied upon services in the territory.”

“This transition would be in the best interest of the future of American Samoa.”