AKAKU CEO CRITIQUES BROADBAND INITIATIVE

February 2, 2009, 1:31 PM HST · Updated February 2, 1:38 PM
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(By Wendy OSHER © 2009)

The President of AKAKU: Maui Community Television is calling on lawmakers to ensure access for local communities under the Governor’s recently announced Broadband Initiative. Under the Governor’s plan, a Communications Commission would be formed to boost Hawaii’s broadband usage, prices, accessibility and speed-which is currently ranked at 42 out of the 50 states. AKAKU CEO Jay April said that while he applauds the vision of the plan, he called it lacking in methodology. April said he wants the non-profit sector included in the decision making process. He also said the same paradigm that currently exists with public access channels, needs to apply to community broadband access as well. April’s complete statement is included below:

Statement from AKAKU: Maui Community Television

CEO/ President Jay April Responds to Gov. Linda Lingle’s Broadband Plan

On January 28, 2009, Governor Linda Lingle unveiled her Broadband Communications plan, to create a Hawaii Communications Commission. According to an official press release from the Governor’s office, the Commission would “champion the State’s efforts to lead the nation in broadband speeds, prices, accessibility, and usage.” Jay April, President & CEO of Akaku: Maui Community Television applauds Gov. Lingle for her vision, but urges Hawaii decision makers to ensure access for all local communities, and see that all Hawaii’s residents benefit from improved broadband infrastructure. April’s full statement follows:

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“The Governor and the Hawaii State Legislature are to be congratulated for taking a bold step into the Broadband future by announcing plans to modernize the telephone, cable and internet regulatory framework in Hawaii. Acting swiftly upon the recommendation of a Broadband Task Force, there are bills before the House (HB 984/HB 492) and one before the Senate (SB 1680) that will combine the duties of the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Cable Division (CATV) under the expert authority of a Hawaii Communications Commissioner.

“The United States has slipped in world rankings to the 25th position in internet broadband speed, lagging far behind leaders like Japan and Korea. Hawaii now ranks a dismal 42 out of 50 states in internet access speed. Proposed legislation calls for an appointment of a communications czar to bootstrap an ambitious effort to equal the broadband speeds of the top three nations in the world by 2012.

“At first glance, this plan can do wonders for Hawaii business, and leapfrog Hawaii into the forefront of the digital age, but it can only succeed if the fullest range of local community communications needs are met for all of Hawaii?s residents at reasonable cost.

“What is lacking from this initiative at this early stage of development is a methodology to engage full participation from the public, especially from the neighbor islands. What this means is Hawaii?s community media organizations and the non-profit sector need to be included in the decision making process. My concern is that in the legislature?s zeal to catch the broadband infrastructure wave, the public interest will be left behind.

“Missing from the early drafts of the broadband bills are the issues of community broadband media access and broadband regulatory fees being assessed in exchange for the use of public rights of way-a fundamental tenet of U.S. Communications Law. Indeed, this is the reason why we have public access channels on cable today.

These local, non-commercial, non-corporate communications systems exist because the government intervened in the marketplace to charge “rent” to monopoly cable companies for the use of community airwaves and our public property.

“With increased concentration of ownership and corporate control over virtually all media, the same paradigm needs to apply to community broadband access as well, if we are to have any electronic democracy left.

“Provided that neighbor island community media and public interest media are included in the equation, Hawaii?s broadband initiative can go a long way toward bringing all Hawaii residents into a digitally inclusive future.

“It is up to all of us to demand the access we deserve.”

Jay April, Chief Executive Officer/ President

AKAKU: Maui Community Television

(Photo Courtesy: AKAKU)

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