Undersea fiber-optic cable link planned for Anahola

A proposed fiber-optic cable landing is being sited just east of Anahola Beach Park, near Kahala Point, with a study going on now to determine if work on the project will have any impacts on traditional cultural practices or resources in the area.

Undersea cables are planned to connect all state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands communities on Kaua’i, O’ahu, Maui, the Big Island, Moloka’i and Lana’i.

The total Kaua’i portion of the project is budgeted for $10 million spread over three years.

Doing the work is Sandwich Isles Communications, Inc. (SIC), a rural telephone company authorized by the state Public Utilities Commission to provide telecommunications services to DHHL Native Hawaiian beneficiaries statewide, including DHHL projects at Anahola and Kekaha on Kaua’i.

Subcontractors to SIC are now burying fiber-optic telecommunications lines along Kuhio Highway from Anahola to Hanama’ulu, with plans to eventually connect the Anahola and Kekaha DHHL communities, said Barbara Tanabe, SIC spokesperson.

SIC has hired between 25 and 30 Kaua’i residents full-time to do construction work associated with the burying of data and voice cables from Anahola to Kekaha.

The company is in the process of acquiring permits for the Hanama’ulu-to-Kekaha phase of the project, which is in the design phase, she said.

Cultural Surveys Hawai’i, Inc., along with engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, Inc., is conducting the cultural impact assessment, part of a larger environmental assessment for the project.

Those who feel there may be some consequences to the landing plan, which includes burying telecommunications lines from the shoreline landing site through the DHHL compound in Anahola to Kuhio Highway, have until Monday, Jan. 13 to make their voices heard.

Those wishing to voice cultural concerns about the Anahola cable-landing proposal may contact Douglas Borthwick or Dave Shideler at the Cultural Surveys Hawai’i office, 1-808-262-9972.

SIC’s mission is to provide modern, next-generation, high-speed broadband telecommunications services to its customers, using technology to minimize disruptions to the environment.

The company was founded in 1995, and has been serving DHHL since 1998. When completed, the SIC network will span 1,500 miles underground and undersea.

As a rural local exchange carrier (RLEC), SIC is eligible under federal laws for universal service fund support to be used to build and operate telecommunications networks to service authorized rural areas, specifically DHHL.

All telephone subscribers pay into the universal service fund as part of their monthly bills.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, which provided a low-interest loan allowing Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative to purchase Kauai Electric, provides similar loans to rural telephone companies to build systems in rural areas, to offset high costs to build such systems to serve only a few customers.

This makes it possible for un-served or under-served rural communities to get telephone service without having to pay huge expenses associated with establishment of such services, Tanabe said.

All of that means DHHL beneficiaries get the new telecommunications system at no cost to DHHL, she added.

Underground cables don’t clutter the landscape with poles, and are designed to survive hurricanes and other severe-weather events better than above-ground systems, Tanabe explained.

Although wireless Internet and telephones are the next wave of telecommunications, Tanabe pointed out that even wireless facilities eventually link up with cable systems.

That means that once the cable system finally links the islands together, the technology won’t be obsolete, she said.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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