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Internet and going online in
the Cook Islands

Expensive and dodgy

Sea Scooters, Cook Islands

By Richard Moore

There is only one phrase that sums up getting online in the Cook Islands and that is rip-off.

Bandwidth is outrageously expensive and this is due to several major factors.

Firstly there is no submarine cable to the islands, which includes the main one of Rarotonga, so the Net appears via satellite.

So the cost is higher and, in bad weather, the connection can be weak or non-existent.

Secondly there is only one provider of bandwidth and digital coverage and that is a firm called Bluesky. In my view Bluesky absolutely pillages the people and visitors of Rarotonga with not only very expensive data packages, but also ridiculously short use-by times.

And they have a very complicated series of packages that make it almost impossible to work out which deal is going to best suit your needs and offer you the best value for money.

Having studied it for six months I am still bamboozled by it and have decided not to bother straining the grey cells and just fork out $25 for 1.5GB of data over two weeks.

Sometimes Bluesky offers special deals that double that data to 3GB and you can buy it for $20. That is when you buy a few of them as they do not begin the use-by countdown until you activate it.

And there is another point to moan about.

Bluesky prints out little dockets with a username and password so that you can join the cyber world.

But they do so on thermal paper, which doesn't seem to last very long as a legible document in the tropical heat. Also the font they use can make it difficult to work out 1s from ls and os from 0s. The size of the type does nothing to make the job easier for 50+ eyes either.

So we took to writing down the codes immediately upon getting home. This seems to be the locally accepted way of dealing with the problem.

Mobile phone users also have a myriad of packages to chose from and they all seem weighted to making the most money for Bluesky while offering customers not that much.

You can top up your phone at Bluesky stores, or at the Punanga Nui Market on Saturdays in Avarua or buy top ups from authorised shops. You give them your number and say how much you want to put on your account and then a text arrives as confirmation.

Once money is on your phone you get to chose what bundle you want. To do that you dial *888# and then chose from a menu. The bundles are $3 for 24 hours, $5 for three days, $10 for a week, $30 for 10 days and $50 for 14 days.

With that amount you can then buy data packages to surf the web.

However, you cannot activate a data package until your old one ends - which mine tend to do at very inconvenient moments and lead to eating up the account dollars with higher charges.

Bluesky trumpets its great bonus deals with ungodly-hours text blasts but you need to be wary of these as there are so many catches I don't bother with them much any more. Like, for instance, you can't call overseas with the bonus, you can only call and text locally. Once you have run out of credit in your normal balance, however, Bluesky will deign to use up your bonus amount - at a higher rate, of course.

Now while I bitch and moan about Bluesky their highway robbery charges are less than those often produced for you by hotels, motels and resorts.

In my view if you come to Rarotonga on holiday - ditch the phone and the internet and enjoy yourselves in real life, not lose yourself in cyberspace.






Copyright 2011 RICHARD MOORE