We all know Internet access in Hawaii can really test your patience. I have a cable modem from Oceanic Time Warner and DSL from Hawaiian Telcom. Both are in two different locations and are at the basic service level. Over the years Oceanic has increased their service offering. I now get about 16M down and 1.2M up. My Hawaiian Telcom DSL has pretty much stayed the same at 1M down an 1M up. I can barely stream any video on my DSL without stalls for buffering. There was an effort initiated by DCCA a few years back to map your broadband access by running speed tests and reporting the results. This effort seemed to have had marginal impact as a data gathering tool for assessing broadband infrastructure. DCCA is now launching another project to measure your broadband speeds but in a more automated fashion. Volunteers are being recruited to install a "whitebox" onto their network to measure broadband speeds when the network is idle. If you are interested in being part of this project you can sign up for the program here. Much of Hawaii's broadband agenda originates from the Broadband Assistance Advisory Council. Their last meeting of 2014 was on Nov 12, 2014. You can find the agenda here. With all the attention on broadband being one of the key enablers for a thriving tech industry, this is the group to watch. Attend their meetings, they are open to the public, and you be the judge whether they are meeting the goals set in the Hawaii Broadband Strategic Plan.
On the campus of the University of Hawaii this week, Governor Abercrombie announced a broadband initiative to provide statewide access to affordable 1Gb Internet access by 2018. The initiative is said to be key in building a vibrant and sustainable economy and workforce in Hawaii. Already underway and spearheaded by the University of Hawaii is the implementation of a gigabit network to connect educational institutions like all the public schools, public libraries and every public university and college campus in the State -- fueled by funding from ARRA monies. This new Hawaii Broadband Initiative addresses high speed Internet access for the residential and commercial market and seeks to align the regulatory framework to expedite the permitting process and to encourage public and private investment and partnership to achieve what the Governor called "transformative infrastructure." The broadband initiative is being led by the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and is supported by the state's Chief Information Officer and the University of Hawaii. At the tip of the spear for this initiative, the Governor has positioned Keali'i Lopez of the DCCA and Richard Lim of DBEDT. Lopez has tapped Everett Kaneshige to work specifically on this initiative. Everett Kaneshige, Deputy Director of DCCA, said that they are forming a group within DCCA to look at the regulatory environment for broadband infrastructure and come up with ways to streamline the process. The group is funded by a grant from the Federal Gov't. and covers 2 years of operation. Kaneshige also said, "It's not about building all new infrastructure. We are looking at ways we can work with the telephone company and the cable company to leverage their existing cabling and encourage where appropriate the upgrade to high speed fiber." The situation in DBEDT is problematic. The department does not have funding to add any additional headcount and current personnel already have their plates full according to Richard Lim, Director of DBEDT. His plan is to use Yuka Nagashima in HTDC to lead the charge and develop the public/private partnerships and investments that will bring this initiative to reality. We will monitor developments and report on the progress of meeting this goal of affordable, 1Gb access speed to the Internet by 2018.
Ke Ala `Ike - Pathway to Knowledge was a vision born out of the mid-90s from a project called the Hawaii Education and Research Consortium (HENC).This consortium then help to form the Hawaii Research and Education Network (HREN) with National Science Foundation funding. It has always been the vision of people like David Lassner to provide the best connectivity to the public educational entities in the State of Hawaii. And like any infrastructure project it takes time for all the resources, like funding to properly line up. Last September another major milestone was achieved when the University of Hawaii was awarded several grants totaling $34M to build out broadband infrastructure in the state of Hawai through the NTIA and ARRA funding sources. On our show last week Cliff Miyake, General Manager at TW Telecom announced that their company won the contract to install two 10 G circuits for Internet access. The central component of this project is the acquisition of a pair of 10 Gigabit per second optical network circuits on the new Asia America Gateway (AAG) cable connecting Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. At the Hawaii end, these circuits will be connected from the AAG cable landing site on Oahu near Kahe Point to the Hawaii Research and Education Network. From the mainland landing site at Morro Bay, California, the AAG circuits will be connected to the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California's (CENIC's) Pacific Wave facility in Los Angeles and to Pacific NorthWest GigaPOP's (PNWGP's) Pacific Wave facility in Seattle. Both the Seattle and Los Angeles locations are peering points for major U.S. and international research and education networks. These circuits will provide Hawaii's educational institutions with 20Gbps of connectivity between the HREN, major U.S. research and education networks, such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail, and international networks in countries around the Pacific Rim. What I find especially interesting is that this funding finally enables the University of Hawaii the ability to build their own fiber optic network. There was a time when broadband circuits were the sole domain of the major telecom providers like, Verizon and Hawaiian Telcom. That obviously is no longer the case. You now have the competitive local exchange carriers like TW Telecom and Wavecomm Solutions and companies that build their own private networks like Hawaiian Electric. Although consumer Internet access rates will remain status quo in the near term, I can soon see Lassner saying he has achieve parity with Internet access speeds equal to or better than those in South Korea. It's an achievement well deserved and a long time in the making.
Oceanic Time Warner Cable and Sony Electronics held a joint press conference showcasing consumer 3D television viewing. If you have digital cable and select channel 1217 you can watch highlights from the Masters Gold Tournament in 3D beginning today through April 30, 2010. You will also need a 3D television. Oceanic plans to roll out out more 3D programming over the summer. In addition, Sony will roll out their 3D Bravia LCD TV in the summer. In the meantime, Sony is outfitting hospitality suites in Augusta, GA with the monitor and holding "private screens" across the country. While at the press conference Nate Smith, President of Oceanic Time Warner Cable, talked about supporting 3D with the existing network and implied delivering 3D is an additional demand on the cable network. I pulled Met Lebar, Transmission Systems Director on the side and asked him if Oceanic will have to build out the infrastructure to support 3D. He said not at all. The 3D signal requires about 15Mb of bandwidth which is what is delivered over their current digital service. I am curious how many televisions this service can support in one household. I suspect it is only a couple since delivering 3D on one tv and HD on another will require more than 15Mb. Met also mentioned that this service was available 10 years ago but at that time the major television manufacturers were not building 3D monitors. The ones that did were ahead of their time and have since gone out of business. An element that has not changed from the 3D experience is the requirement to wear 3D glasses. Sony requires these Active Shutter Glasses that run on batteries and communicates with the 3D LCD monitor. The active shutter switches very rapidly depending on the content being viewed. The glasses are heavy and costs around $133. Karl Okemura, Sr. Vice President at Sony Hawaii, said two glasses will be provided with the purchase of a 3D Bravia LCD but did not say how much the monitor would cost. Gizmodo puts this price around $3900. Just like the first generation HD televisions, these 3D monitors are expensive but will likely go down in price as more units are sold.
When we first reported on the State's Task Force on Reinventing Government, I was a little skeptical as to what would become of it. Do these things end up on someone's shelf collecting dust or are they the impetus for action? One of the reports findings was the recognized need for a Chief Information Officer for the State system. The following section is directly from the report: Information Technology Recommendations (1) Establish a new senior position reporting to the Comptroller to be the State's Chief Information Officer. Currently, the head of the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) serves as both the Comptroller and Chief Information Officer (CIO). The Task Force recommends that the two roles be separated into two job positions. The new CIO position should be budgeted at market compensation. The CIO's responsibilities would include:
- (a) Supervision of the Information and Communications Services Division (ICSD).
- (b) Developing and implementing a three-year statewide Strategic Information Technology Plan (SITP) that would include the consolidation into ICSD of all hardware, operating software, related positions, and budgets for all IT and communications within the Executive Branch of state government and provide service level agreements (SLAs) to those departments.
- (c) Reporting, at least annually, to the Legislature on the SITP's progress, and submission of a consolidated IT capital budget for the Executive Branch, as well as a report on the performance under all SLAs.
- (d) Formulating a charter and chairing a monthly governance committee, to include all state senior IT CIOs (including Department of Education, University of Hawaii, the Judiciary, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and state hospitals), and providing the Legislature with an annual executive summary of projected and achieved budgetary savings, operational synergies, customer service enhancements, state productivity gains, and security improvements generated from the joint collaboration. This governance committee would also be responsible for the development of an annual master state IT budget and vision, as well as standards for IT job classifications; staff training, development, and certification; career path and staff retention goals; customer service and productivity targets; SLA performance targets; customer service survey results; and data management warehousing and disaster recovery planning.
There are a lot of interesting tech bills to follow during this 2010 legislative session. For example, HB2698: Creates the Hawaii Broadband Commission; or SB2548: Establishes within the Office of the governor a chief information officer and information technology steering committee; or the complete listing of Tech Caucus bills; or you can keep an eye out for SB2405, which proposes to tax online purchases through a national streamlined sales and use tax agreement. With all this activity it is easy to overlook SB2314 a rather simple bill that proposes to allow the video recording of Board Meetings. As the bill states: The purpose of this Act is to clarify that audio and video recordings are permitted at public board meetings. One of the board meetings I used to follow was the Hawaii Broadband Task Force within which I had no problem webcasting. I have heard though in other board meetings, video recordings were not allowed as the current 35 year old Sunshine Law statutes are vague on the allowance of video recording. Therefore, in the interest of good governance and transparency it makes sense to make it clear that video recording of board meetings are permissible. The problem is there is a deadline coming up and this bill hasn't been scheduled to be heard. There is a simple solution to this. All it takes is an email to Judiciary and Government Operations Committee chair Sen. Brian Taniguchi. His email is email@example.com. Just send him an email which simply asks him to schedule SB2314 for a hearing. I just sent mine off.
Clear (formerly Clearwire) is actively rolling out their WiMax service and I was lucky to get my hands on a demo unit to test. Installation is a no-brainer. One thing I was told was to download the driver from the Clear.com website. Of course this assumes you have a pre-existing Internet connection. I had to do this because the thumb drive that comes with the unit had an old version of the driver. Once downloaded, I disconnect from my Internet connection, plug in my Clear modem and launch the Clear Connection Manager. The connection manager finds the modem and connects. It's that simple. So the first thing I do is run a speed test. This TWTelecom site provides servers in Honolulu and Los Angeles. As you can see the download speeds from LA are quite impressive. I also tried the Honolulu server and surprisingly had a slower download speed of about 6.4Mbps. Both uploads were similar. I'll leave it running to see how it fairs. One complaint, the drivers for the WiMax modem supports Mac OSX 10.5 and 10.6. I have a laptop running OSX 10.49 (Tiger, PowerPC). So I am out of luck for my PowerBook (albeit old). Drivers are also available for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.
David Lassner presented the results of the Broadband Taskforce findings in this month's Hawaii Science and Technology Council (HSTC) meeting. The taskforce was put together by the Legislature in 2007 to provide a recommendation on what should be done to develop broadband access in Hawaii. In 2008 the taskforce completed their final report and submitted it to the Legislature. Even the Governor got behind a broadband initiative. During the 2009 session SB895 was introduced to establish the Communications Commission which ultimately did not pass. here. The primary take away is the if Hawaii is to stay competitive with the world, focus needs to be placed on having a Statewide focus on establishing a broadband strategy and focusing on it. Like the transportation system, broadband is essential infrastructure that cuts across all sectors of the economy. The stark realization is that Hawaii is almost dead last in all the broadband surveys conducted by various organizations assessing nationwide performance. We obviously have our work cut out for us. [podcast]http://www.roughtake.com/bc_podcasts/Broadband_in_Hawaii.mp3[/podcast]
This past week Clearwire held a WiMax launch event at the Plaza Club to announce their plans to rollout their broadband wireless service. This service has been highly anticipated every since Clearwire acquired the 2.5GHz frequency license on Oahu and Maui and formed a highly publicized merger with Sprint in 2008. Clearwire's pre-WiMax offering carved out a small percentage of the broadband market place because of its relatively slow download and upload speeds and clunky wireless modem. Clearwire did offer a pre-WiMax PC card but the pricing seem high compared to cable modem and DSL options. All of this will soon be a thing of the past as the true WiMax offering becomes available. Based on the speed tests that Clearwire was demonstrating, the modem was getting 5M down/2.7M up on a residential service and 10M down/3.1M up on a business class service. Granted these speeds are based on an uncongested network but I am hopeful that once the service becomes available commercially, we will see multi-meg download speeds and at least a 1Meg upload capability. The WiMax modems were also a nice, compact form factor, just a little bigger than a USB thumb drive. The real question is what will the pricing be for this WiMax service. You are not going to see any official pricing from Clearwire until the service is commercially available in Nov 2009 but I did hear price points like $30/month for the basic offering and up to $70/month for the 10M business class service. If Clearwire (or their soon to be new name Clear) can meet the basic DSL speeds of 3M down/1M up at the or better it, the $30 price point might be something to consider. Especially if you are getting true mobility with it. In the Bay Area a lot is being invested in this new 4G service. WiMax will get at least a couple of years head start on AT&T and Verizon's LTE 4G service. Clearwire along with Sprint has some major investors looking to advance this standard. Google, Intel, Time Warner, Comcast and Cisco are all investors. Clearwire has set up an innovation network in the Bay Area covering a 20 square mile area right in Silicon Valley to encourage broadband wireless application development. Interestingly Google's partnership is behind a content play called Clear365. Obviously they see a lot of content getting created as a result of this mobile broadband network. Personally I wish there was an Innovation Network here between Bishop St. and UH Manoa. Now wouldn't that be interesting.
We recently had Larry Reifurth on Bytemarks Cafe and the topic of Hawaii's Communications Commission came up. I had been following the Broadband Task Force and was quite interested in the introduction of HB1077 into this Legislative session. Seeing Larry triggered the question, "What happen to HB1077?" I thought all the stars were aligned to create the Commission under the DCCA that combine the oversight of cable and telecom services into one. This would have brought a focus to Hawaii's broadband services and to coordinate efforts to best use the Federal infrastructure stimulus dollars. So now with the legislative session done, I must bemoan the death of HB1077. Based on the status of the bill, it seemed to be deferred. To when, I do not know. Larry mentioned that there were never any conferees assigned to the committee so the bill never got heard. Others say that legislators during this session had other things to consider (which I don't deny) and that the bill did not have the priority needed to get the attention. Maybe it will surface in next year's session. Hopefully next session, we won't be short sighted and look to the long term need. I suppose we will just have to wait and see.