Hawaii pushes for broadband capacity boost to stimulate tech sector growth, innovation

The state of Hawaii has approved $30 million in grants to draw as many as 80,000 high-paying technology sector jobs to the islands over the next 15 years. But the plan could fail without substantial investment in the state's broadband system.

A Government Technology article said that a more robust broadband network will play a role in not only attracting high-tech companies to Hawaii, but also help its electric utilities transition to next-generation technologies including smart grid.

"For Hawaii, slow download speeds (bandwidth deficiency) has been identified as one of the barriers we need to overcome to accelerate the growth of technology and innovation companies. This past legislative session, Gov. Ige signed into law several bills that will provide $30 million for energy and broadband infrastructure and support for technology and manufacturing businesses," said Cindy McMillian, spokesperson for Gov. David Ige's administration, in the article.

Although most of Hawaii's residents are connected to broadband, the average speed is about 20 Mbps, according to Henk Rogers and Gordon Bruce, both technology executives in Hawaii who were both members of the now-defunct Hawaii Broadband Task Force. The state ranked 46th in broadband speeds back in January 2015, a Pacific Business News article said.

Hawaiian Telcom recently upped that average speed, launching the state's first 1 Gbps service on June 8.

Hawaii is a hub for nine submarine cables running between the mainland U.S. and Asia. But those cables have less capacity than more recent cables that have been able to bypass the islands due to improved technologies. While at least one submarine cable will branch to Hawaii -- the SEA-US 100G cable offering up to 20 Tbps of capacity, with Hawaiian Telcom selling capacity on its section -- that connection won't be lit until next year. Meantime, the current cables are deteriorating and could end their useful life by 2018, according to Bruce.

"The governor should be encouraging companies to land cables in Hawaii. We are slowly going to run out of capacity," Bruce said.

Rogers, who is a co-founder of an incubator called Blue Startups, noted that businesses dependent upon high-speed broadband don't choose Hawaii as a destination -- and that none of technology companies participating in Blue Startups are innovating around high-speed broadband based services.

Meantime, the state of Hawaii is in the midst of transforming its antiquated IT structure. The 12-year project will help residents get better access to state services, improve its processes, and better secure the state's data against natural disasters and security threats. Capacity of the state's network is also at issue, with the newly appointed CIO, Todd Nacapuy, blocking access to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu by state employees.

For more:
- see this Government Technology article
- see this Pacific Business News article
- see this Broadband Hawaii report

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