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Hawaiian Telcom expanding broadband in rural areas

Nov 28

Written by: Tuesday, November 28, 2017 7:50:41 PM 

Hawaiian Telcom expanding broadband in rural areas

Recognizing the importance of broadband, in 2011 the Federal Communications Commission reformed its Universal Service Fund, which partially subsidized telephone service to rural America. The FCC created the Connect America Fund (CAF), which helps to accelerate the expansion of high-speed internet service to unserved and underserved rural areas nationwide.

Aligned with our commitment to Hawaii, Hawaiian Telcom received CAF support and combined it with our own investment to expand broadband in rural areas defined by the FCC as CAF-eligible. More than 70 percent of CAF-eligible areas in our state are on the Big Island.

Accepting CAF support is much more than simply accepting federal funds. There are stringent CAF guidelines and a timeline we must adhere to. In addition to defining CAF-eligible areas, the FCC allocates a specific amount per address to enable internet service. This amount is based on a national average and does not account for the higher costs we face in Hawaii. To ensure service providers that accept CAF support meet their requirements, the FCC performs audits and requires regular reports that take time and dedicated resources to produce. However, anything worthwhile takes work, and we’re proud to put in the effort to bring high-speed internet to our neighbors in rural areas.

In 2015, with CAF Phase I support and our own investment, Hawaiian Telcom deployed high-speed internet service to 1,800 locations on Hawaii island within Ainaloa, Fern Acres, Fern Forest, Glenwood, Hawaiian Acres, Milolii, Ocean View Estates and Orchidland Estates.

Since 2016, using a combination of CAF Phase II support and our own investment, Hawaiian Telcom launched broadband service to more than 2,265 locations in the Hawaii island communities of Ainaloa, Big Island Country Club, Eden Roc, Honomu, Kaiwiki, Kalapana, Kalopa Mauka, Kapoho, Kurtistown, Leilani Estates, Nanawale, Ninole, Ouli, Paauilo Mauka and Waikii Ranch, as well as in Huelo on Maui. By the end of 2017, Hawaiian Telcom will deploy broadband to more than 4,400 locations. When CAF Phase II concludes in 2020, approximately 13,000 rural locations will be served.

In my Sept. 5 Tech View column, I wrote about the many benefits of fiber-based services. For these reasons and because bandwidth needs to continue to increase exponentially every year, Hawaiian Telcom deployed fiber where it was most efficient to do so. Fiber enables speeds of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), the fastest in Hawaii and 100 times higher than the minimum federal requirement of 10 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. Since deploying broadband in rural areas has its own set of infrastructure and terrain challenges, internet service may not be available to all locations within an area. With any new deployment, Hawaiian Telcom aims to serve as many communities as possible.

Another interesting challenge is many locations in rural Hawaii do not receive mail from the U.S. Postal Service and have no local address, making it harder to reach out to residents once service is available. However, when a few residents learn they can order Hawaiian Telcom High-Speed Internet, the local “coconut wireless” takes over and is quite effective in spreading the word.

All of us at Hawaiian Telcom are proud to expand broadband service in Hawaii. We believe our fiber network is critical to Hawaii’s future and are committed to continuing our goal to expand it so more local residents can experience the benefits of broadband.

Jason Thune is director of network development at Hawaiian Telcom. Reach him at Jason.thune@hawaiiantel.com.

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