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1/29/2009
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Hawaii Pushes To Improve Broadband Technology

The state has an ambitious goal of dragging Hawaii out of the country's cellar -- it was recently ranked 49th in broadband speeds among the country's 50 states.

President Obama's home state of Hawaii is taking to heart the president's campaign to bring high-speed broadband to underserved areas. The state's government leaders are pushing to bring ultra-high-speed broadband to Hawaii and this week proposed to establish a commission to make it happen.

Led by Gov. Linda Lingle and Larry Reifurth, director of Hawaii's Commerce & Consumer Affairs Department, the proposal has an ambitious goal of dragging Hawaii out of the country's cellar -- it was recently ranked 49th in broadband speeds among the country's 50 states.

As set out this week in proposed legislation before Hawaii's Senate and House, the plan calls for the establishment of a Hawaiian Communications Commission that would be a combination regulatory agency and consumer-industry advocate. The plan would be to create broadband access at speeds comparable to Japan's and Korea's blistering speeds. Japanese broadband users can get speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, while Hawaiian users are lucky if they can get 10 Mbps from their broadband access.

Under the plan for the commission, cable regulation would move quickly under the umbrella of the commission while other telecommunications entities would be addressed later. Hawaii's main telecom company, the Hawaiian Telecom Communications, is in bankruptcy. Verizon Communications spun off the Hawaiian operation to the Carlyle Group, an investment firm.

According to media reports, Henk Rogers, CEO of Hawaii's Blue Planet Software has promoted the idea of matching broadband speeds offered in Japan and Korea as an enticement to companies interested in setting up operations in Hawaii.

High-speed broadband for Hawaii's rural and lower-income areas would fit neatly into Obama's campaign to bring the technology to those types of areas. Hawaiian government officials have briefed U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye on their proposal, which calls for some federal funding. Obama grew up in Hawaii before becoming a senator in Illinois.

While Hawaii is in the unenviable position of having some of the nation's slowest broadband capacity, the University of Hawaii once was a world-beating networking pioneer. Its Aloha Net, initially deployed in 1970, is regarded as one of the important stepping-stones that led to the Internet. No longer in use, Aloha Net lives on as a core part of Ethernet technology.

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