New fiber optic cables promise to bring better, cheaper internet access to West Africa

Last summer, the lone undersea cable linking West Africa to the rest of the world was damaged, forcing Nigeria to fall back on slower and expensive satellite connections, and knocking several other countries completely offline until the cable was repaired. While that has been a relatively common occurrence to date, the chances of it happening again in the future are now considerably less likely. That's because a second undersea cable project was just completed this summer, which is the first of two more cables planned, and just the beginning of a new round of investment in the region that the U.N.'s International Telecommunications Union says will vastly increase the bandwidth available by mid-2012. As the AP reports, that additional investment in the region promises to not only increase reliability, but significantly reduce the cost of internet access as well, which currently costs nearly 500 times as much as it does in the U.S. on a wholesale level. Exactly how much cheaper it'll get remains to be seen, however, and there's also still the issue of expanding internet access further inland, where infrastructure remains spread thin and in the hands of only a few companies that tightly control access.