Marshall Islands' 10-day internet blackout extended

Hilda Heine Image copyright DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption President Hilda Heine - seen here in September - says the 97% drop in bandwidth has left people with internet withdrawal symptoms

A 10-day internet blackout in the Marshall Islands has been extended with no firm end date because engineers are having trouble repairing an undersea fibre optic cable, it's reported.

All phone and internet communications have relied on satellites since the work started at the end of December, leaving the Pacific state's residents with only 3% of its usual bandwidth. General access to websites has been blocked - including social media - so that the little remaining capacity can be used for emails and on a rotating basis by some businesses and government, Radio Australia's Pacific Beat reports.

The work had been due to finish on 8 January, but National Telecommunications Authority head Tommy Kijiner Jr says it's not been a straightforward job. "I've been told that locating the repair site is like finding a pin head in a three-mile stretch of cable," he says.

President Hilda Heine mentioned the problem in parliament during her state of the nation address, noting that people were suffering from internet withdrawal symptoms, the radio reports.

Since the cable connecting the Marshall Islands to Guam was installed in 2009, islanders have become accustomed to fast connection speeds. But Mr Kijiner says people are showing patience with the current limitations. "When we tell them that you'll have to reschedule your transaction while we do this one, most people have been really cooperative," he explains.

A similar problem hit the Northern Mariana Islands in 2015 when the only communications cable snapped, leaving people with no phone, internet or banking services.

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