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.
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]
Governor Linda Lingle at the joint press conference with the Broadband Task Force announced the formation of the Hawaii Communications Commission. Moving through the House is HB1077: Establishes the Hawaii Communications Commission (HCC) in the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). Transfers functions relating to telecommunications from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to the HCC. Also transfers functions relating to cable services from DCCA to HCC. The companion bill in the Senate is SB895. A third piece of legislation is HB984: Implements key recommendations of the Hawaii broadband task force by establishing the Hawaii communications commissioner (HCC) in the department of commerce and consumer affairs (DCCA). Transfers functions relating to telecommunications from the public utilities commission to the HCC and functions relating to cable services from DCCA to the HCC. Establishes a work group to develop procedures to streamline state and county broadband regulation, franchising, and permitting and report to the legislature. It will be interesting to see these bills move through this legislature. It seems timely and appropriate to establish this commission especially in light of the Federal Broadband Data Improvement Act signed into law by President Bush.