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Maui County to Evaluate Broadband Access

Posted February 6, 2015, 09:22 AM HST Updated February 9, 2015, 02:51 PM HST
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Photo by Wendy Osher.

Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Maui Now Staff

The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (OED) has executed a contract with the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i to work on upgrading broadband access for Maui County. A study will be conducted to assess, develop, and recommend a new telecommunications strategy to meet exponentially increasing demands.

“We see broadband access as one of the most critical barriers to diversifying our economy,” said Teena Rasmussen, director of OED. “We are already 2,500 miles from the Mainland US, and now we are isolating ourselves even more by falling behind in the telecommunications arena. We see this study as a first step to creating a comprehensive action plan on how we can solve this.”

Technological advancements have eliminated the need of a transpacific fiber-optic cable from Asia to the US Mainland to provide Hawai‘i with better broadband. Local cable companies in the islands have little incentive to bring a link to Hawai‘i due to the small market size.

Hawai‘i may be at a further disadvantage for Internet connectivity because its undersea telecommunication cables are rapidly deteriorating.

“We must make it attractive for these private telecommunication consortiums to put Maui County in their cable network,” said Mayor Arakawa.

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Pacific Business News recently reported that Wailuku’s broadband speed runs at 17.32 MBPS. In comparison, Hong Kong has the fastest web connection in the world at 106.84 MBPS.

“The holy grail is 1 Gigabit-per-second,” said Rasmussen. “We should strive to bring that to every household in Maui County. Job diversification would flourish, and our sister islands of Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i would have a global advantage unlike any other rural, isolated area. We want to ask the community to think about what they would do with 1 GBPS?”

The study will be conducted by Joel Ogren, formerly of John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, who recently completed a comprehensive study for the State of Hawai‘i DBEDT on potential undersea fiber-optic cable stations to provide broadband in Hawai‘i.

The contract will be completed within four months and a report will be available for public viewing at www.mauicounty.gov/oed.

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