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Building internet capacity on Kaua‘i

LIHU‘E — Last year, Hawaiian Telcom’s parent company Cincinnati Bell Inc., announced it was being acquired by Australian company Macquarie Infrastructure Partners in a $2.9-billion deal.

Hawaiian Telcom Director of Business Phyllis Freitas spoke at the Lihu‘e Business Association virtual meeting last week, providing an update on activities since then.

“The acquisition will enable us to achieve our goal to deploy more fiber to more areas in Hawai‘i,” said Su Shin, president and general manager of Hawaiian Telcom.

“Macquarie is one of the world’s largest leading alternative-asset managers, and they invest in good companies that are in capital-intensive businesses like ours,” said Shin.

“As part of the Macquarie family, we can accelerate our fiber-expansion plan to bring broadband to more areas faster than we could on our own.”

Ann Nishida Fry, Hawaiian Telcom’s senior manager of corporate communications, said all of its 1,200 employees statewide will continue to work for Hawaiian Telcom.

“Our long-term priority is to help bridge the digital divide here in Hawai‘i by expanding our statewide fiber infrastructure,” Fry said.

“We’ve been working towards this for years by investing millions in fiber infrastructure that enables remote learning, business innovation, telehealth opportunities and much more.

“The acquisition will speed up our ability to achieve this.”

In 2020, Hawaiian Telcom provided nearly 2,400 locations on Kaua‘i with broadband service with speeds up to 940 megabits per second download and 300 Mbps upload, and did the same for more than 10,740 locations statewide.

“Hawaiian Telcom is committed to helping to bridge the digital divide here in Hawai‘i by expanding access to our world-class broadband service,” said Dan Masutomi, director of network planning.

“Over the years, our team has become adept at overcoming the challenges associated with rural broadband deployment, such as clearing heavily-forested areas and traversing mountainous, lava-rock terrain.”

In a recent press release, Hawaiian Telcom said speeds up to 940 Mbps are among the highest in the nation, enabling multiple connected devices to run bandwidth-intense applications like streaming video, security cameras and online gaming simultaneously.

Hawaiian Telcom also offers Hawai‘i’s fastest upload speed: 300 Mbps. Faster upload speeds have become increasingly important as people share more content and information.

According to research group DecisionData, the average download speed in the U.S. was 124 Mbps in 2020, while speedtest.net found that the average upload speed was only 12 Mbps.

Fry said Hawaiian Telcom’s rural broadband deployment is partially supported by the Connect America Fund, Federal Communications Commission program created to accelerate the expansion of access to broadband service in underserved areas.

Over the past five years, Hawaiian Telcom deployed broadband to more than 10,000 homes and businesses in rural areas primarily on the neighbor island.

According to Freitas, Hawaiian Telcom got charted by King Kalakaua back in 1883. It became Mutual Telephone of Hawai‘i.

Back in 1967, the company became GTE, then in 2000 became Verizon, while in 2005 it was the Carlyle Group that owned Hawaiian Telcom.

Then in 2018, Hawaiian Telcom became apart of the Cincinnati Bell family before being acquired by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners in 2020.

“I really am proud to say that I saw it become the telephone company transformed into Hawai‘i’s technology leader,” Freitas said.

“Long gone are the telephone days, because everything is cloud applications and cloud security.

“We’ve moved into data-center-security consulting and strategy.

“We’ve always had long-distance. We’re going to focus a lot about that (internet capacity) for the island of Kaua‘i.”

Freitas said the internet capacity has grown with the fiber infrastructure that has been expanding on Kaua‘i.

Besides expanding broadband fiber to rural areas of Kaua‘i like Koloa and Princeville of last year, Brian Kurlansky, Hawaiian Telcom’s major account executive, said the company also added better broadband services in Koke‘e, Kapa‘a and areas near Lihu‘e Airport for businesses to utilize.

Yet, there are some physical challenges that occur, Kurlansky said about placing new fiber broadband in rural areas.

“We sometimes run into issues,” Kurlansky said.

“We had a spot on the Big Island that has a lot of trees and a lot of ‘ohi‘a trees.

“And that was a case where there was some opposition where some of that needed to be cleared in order to run the fiber. No one wants the fiber in their back yard. It’s got to physically be run somewhere,” he said.

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Stephanie Shinno, education, business and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

2 Comments
  1. kapuna April 3, 2021 8:52 am Reply

    Being elderly I still like my landline because of its clearer, more reliable service on the N. shore. However, it keeps breaking and isn’t repaired for weeks. The company doesn’t answer their phone. Worse they promise to call you back if you leave a message but they never do. My bill has gone from $35 to $65 to $79 over the last several months (I don’t have long distance) and I can’t get an explanation. I can’t get a printed bill or an online bill because of some limitation of their software.

    Do I care about fiber speed given these basic problems?


  2. RGLadder37 April 4, 2021 4:34 pm Reply

    Hawaiian Telcom is pretty good. They are on a electrical telephone line throughout Kauai. There other companies though. Wireless. These companies use a cable to connect to a router or antenna. And they go by high frequency networks for an internet. Larger antennas. We have wireless.


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