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July 4th fireworks at Ala Moana Beach Park

The bulk of content for this site was created while I was living on the island of O’ahu. Independence Day in the US is celebrated on July 4th weekend, my favorite time of year in Hawai’i as it brings together the possibilities of two things I love dearly: camping and fireworks. The July 4th fireworks on O’ahu has to be one of the most beautiful in the world. So, I’m coming back to contributing to this site after some time away, by taking a look at broadband issues affecting Hawai’i. On a personal note, it has been a very challenging period, marked by a more-than-ordinary amount of reflection on where I’ve been and where I’m headed. But, where ever my thoughts roam, this labor of love remains as important as ever in helping organize my thoughts and ideas. The next few weeks should see some interesting developments about how this site will continue to function as a catalyst for change in the Pacific Islands.

While Hawai’i enjoys infrastructure that other Pacific Islands can only dream of, it’s still plagued by the same challenges affecting all small-island nations, mainly how to get broadband to dispersed rural populations living on a number of islands. A solution may be close at hand. From TMC, we learn of Hawai’i’s need for a satellite-based broadband service and how provider LightSquared will invest $14 billion to launch wireless broadband infrastructure by 2015:

LightSquared has developed the first, wholesale-only nationwide integrated 4G-LTE wireless broadband and satellite network that will offer consumers the speed, value and reliability of universal broadband connectivity. This virtually guarantees absolute coverage in unserved and underserved areas as well as redundancy for emergency use in the event of natural disasters.

Hawaii is one of the early states where LightSquared intends to roll out service.

Another feature that Hawai’i shares in common with Pacific islands is the existence of monopolies in the provision of telcom services. Oceanic Time Warner controls more than 94% of the cable TV market on Oahu. That’s about to change as embattled incumbent fixed-line operator Hawaiian Telecom is set to launch TV service utilizing its high-speed fiber-to-the-node infrastructure.

An analyst predicts they could capture as much as 20 percent to 30 percent of the Oahu market over time:

“The minute they start marketing and selling the service, they’ll be able to get 10 percent of the market right away,” Vitanza said. “In almost every case there is a certain percentage of consumers that are fed up with the incumbent.”

Having an option is good news for TV viewers on Oahu. For Hawaiian Telecom, the gradual roll-out of this new service provides a desperately needed path to profitability.

There are lessons here for all incumbent carriers and I hope Rohan Mail at Telecom Fiji  takes notice. 

High prices for hardware remain a significant barrier to the widespread usage of Internet in Fiji. The Consumer Council reports that despite the removal of fiscal duties from USB wireless modems, there has been no downward movement in pricing of these devices.

 

Source: Consumer Council of Fiji

 

These devices are also sold on pre-pay and post-pay terms. Depending on the selected option, consumers can also pay a deposit and the first month of service in advance.

These high up-front costs will keep this technology out of the hands of many in Fiji and is again indicative of our telecoms valuing short-term profit-taking over long-term development of the market.

From Antigua, an example of a telcom leading an initiative to increase Internet usage amongst students. Digicel, in partnership with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, announced details of a new initiative which will deliver broadband internet service for free to communities and schools across the twin-island nation.

A Blueprint for the “Technology for Communication, Education and Empowerment” initiative which will provide free broadband connectivity via WiFi access to 3,000 homes and 5,000 secondary school children is provided:

... to provide community computer access centres in 12 secondary schools, which will include the physical infrastructure as well as the furniture and air-conditioning.  Each of these community access centres will accommodate at least 20 students.

Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications, Science and Technology Dr Edmond Mansoor said that, “in building a truly Intelligent Nation, the Government is working towards ensuring that every home and every office is equipped with a personal computer and high-speed Internet.”

In our part of the world, such initiatives will play a crucial role in exposing the large segments of the community to using broadband Internet. Such an initiative is invited and welcomed here in the Pacific. We hope to see Digicel embark on such an initiative in the near future.

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