The U.S. Treasury Department announced Hawaii will receive about $115 million in funding to improve and expand high-speed broadband availability throughout the state as part of the $10-billion Capital Projects Fund going to jurisdictions around the country. The University of Hawaii leads the ʻApakau ka lā (the spreading of the sun’s rays) Initiative that will combine more than $400 million in federal grants and matching funds to ensure the state’s long-term connectivity.
As part of the Treasury Department funding, Hawaii received $5.7 million last year to begin planning. The project aims to increase capacity and reliability of broadband pipelines around the state and to build access in areas where broadband is not currently available. The majority of the Treasury funding will be invested in a new undersea cable system connecting our islands, with about $8 million expected to be spent on improving connectivity and digital literacy at Hawaii Public Housing Authority locations.
“UH has led in bringing broadband connectivity in Hawaii for decades,” said UH President David Lassner, “from bringing the very first internet connections to Hawaii to making Hawaii the first in the nation with fiber optic connectivity to every one of our public schools, public libraries and public higher education sites. We are incredibly proud to now be the only institution of higher education to lead these vital next steps of developing the broadband infrastructure so critical today to work, education, healthcare and economic vitality for our entire state.”
“This project funding will help us reinforce and strengthen Hawaii’s aging broadband pipelines and provide the foundation for future decades that will see increasing demand for internet access,” UH Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Garret Yoshimi said.
“From telehealth to distance learning, remote work, and e-commerce, so many of us are reliant upon high-quality, reliable internet service,” said Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke. “Connectivity is no longer a modern-day convenience but instrumental in our daily lives, and we must secure internet access for all. The U.S. Dept. of Treasury’s release of $115 million to build a new inter-island submarine fiber optic cable system and upgrade connectivity for Hawaii Public Housing Authority properties across the state, coupled with the Legislature’s approval of a $66 million state funding match to draw down additional federal funds, are critical in ensuring our entire state and all residents—regardless of location or income—remain connected to each other and the rest of the world.”
The planned subsea cable system will have landing sites for additional broadband fiber connections on Hawaii Island, Maui, Lānai, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai.
“As the most isolated populated place on the planet, we face unique communications challenges and rely on submarine cables to stay connected,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. “Improving our submarine cable infrastructure to ensure Hawaii remains connected to the world and everyone in the state can get reliable, high-speed internet has been a focus of mine, and this funding will help make that a reality.”
“This investment in Hawaii’s broadband infrastructure will not only future protect our inter-island fiber connectivity, but there is a component of the CPF project that will provide improved internet access into Hawaii’s public housing facilities. Thanks to the federal government, these are very exciting times for digital equity and Hawaii’s digital future,” said State Broadband Coordinator Burt Lum.
Some of the undersea broadband cable around the state is considered older and reaching its designed limits for providing reliable service.
The ʻApakau ka lā initiative is an umbrella name for multiple layers of work being done to strengthen and improve the broadband accessibility around the state. The project oversees the efforts in order to prevent duplication and provide better results with combined funds and effort.
UH, state agencies and private industry partners are working to secure more funding that will be needed to complete the long-term plan for broadband access around Hawaii.