Hawaii receives $5.5 million for broadband expansion planning

Hawaii is receiving $5.5 million in planning grants for broadband expansion, Gov. David Ige announced Wednesday.

The planning grants are federal funds from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Five million dollars of the grant will be used to identify unserved and underserved households, expand the state broadband office, and fund efforts by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to understand barriers to internet access in unserved communities, the governor said.

“I am especially pleased that this funding includes support for broadband access in Native Hawaiian communities through the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands,” Ige said. “In addition, a half million dollars I set aside for digital equity efforts to ensure that Hawaii residents from all backgrounds have the skills needed to succeed in a new digital economy.”

The aforementioned funds for digital skills training programs is meant to help students and adults develop tools they need to “succeed in our technologically connected world,” the governor said.

The $5.5 million announced Wednesday is only the beginning, according to Alan Davidson, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“It’s just a down payment,” Davison said. “It’s a set of planning grants and they are essential if we’re going to get this right. We need to know where the unserved areas are, how we can make connections with them, how we make sure we have the workforce to do it well, how to make sure everyone has the skills they need to be part of these networks. And that is what this $5.5 million dollars is about.”

In total, the Infrastructure Law puts nearly $50 billion toward connecting Americans to “affordable, reliable” high-speed internet service, said Davidson.

The State of Hawaii will spend its initial planning grants to “plan for the deployment and adoption” of high-speed internet throughout the state, with more funding to come later, according to Davidson.

“The internet is now the essential tool, not just for communication, but for access to work, access to economic mobility, access to education, access to healthcare and to justice. But despite this huge growth, there are still thousands of households that we know in Hawaii – millions around the country – that don’t have access or the skills that they need to take advantage of these opportunities. And that is what we are here to fix,” Davidson said.

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