|Niue – A Nation with Free Internet
On the tiny Southwest Pacific island of Niue, located 1,500
miles northeast of New Zealand, visitors are surprised to find a tropical
paradise that offers something unexpected.
But it's not the rugged coral coastline, with its
breathtaking limestone chasms and fascinating coves instead of long white sand
beaches found on other Pacific islands. After flying in on the weekly Air New Zealand service and settling into
their hotel, tourists are often pleasantly surprised to find that this tiny
island nation with 1,400 residents is the only country in the world with free Internet
A self-governing state in free association with New Zealand,
Niue is one of the smallest and most isolated countries in the world. In order to be part of the global
community, the people of Niue are heavily reliant on the Internet.
Fortunately, since 1997, islanders have been able to rely on
the charitable organization known as The IUSN Foundation (IUSN) for the funding
of technical support, education and infrastructure development that has brought
continually-innovative, free, and reliable Internet service to Niue – the
best in the Asia-Pacific Region, in fact.
From Crank Telephones to the
World Wide Web
The Niue Internet system is the
brainchild of The IUSN Foundation's technical manager, Richard St. Clair. When St. Clair first arrived in Niue as
a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in 1994, his home phone number was "two longs and
a short" turn of the crank handle on the side of the telephone.
Once the locals realized he had
computer skills, he was asked to help create a local dial-up bulletin board
network using the Niue Telecom phone lines. Known as the Savage Island Network, this system ran from
1995 to 1997 with up to 30 users, but with no connection to the outside world.
In 1997 the Government of Niue
and local businesses agreed that the island needed to join the so-called "World
Wide Web." But because the government did not have the funds or expertise to do
this, it decided to delegate the task to the private sector.
Fortunately for Niue, an
American technology developer and Internet pioneer named J. William (Bill)
Semich became interested in entering the domain business and saw growth and
marketing potential in the country code domain designation for Niue, .NU. He decided to apply for the domain
operations of .NU and invested in primary sales and marketing operations in
Northern Europe, particularly Sweden, because of the marketing power that .NU
– which translates to "now" in Swedish – held for growth potential.
Because it was a speculative venture that had no certainty of success at its
outset– the Internet was novel but unproven – the Niue government
welcomed Semich's involvement.
Semich formed a nonprofit
corporation, now known as The IUSN Foundation, with St. Clair and local
journalist Stafford Guest. Semich's idea was that the successful marketing of .NU domain names would
generate the funds to develop the necessary infrastructures to bring Internet
service to the government and people of Niue. It would, he hoped, be sufficiently profitable to make Internet
service affordable for all Niueans.
This vision was more than
realized – by June 1999 in collaboration with technical support provider
Internet Niue, access to full Internet services was established, which were
then progressively opened to all permanent Niuean residents and the government
of Niue at no cost (apart from a one-time $25 connection fee). In the years
since, this free Internet service has continued to innovate, resulting in the
present WiFi offering island-wide. Today, Niue is the only country in the world
with a free Internet service as a result of these successful and continued