Educational Telecommunications in Hawaii

HENC-An Educational Networking Focus

The Hawaii Educational Networking Consortium (HENC), a joint project of the University of Hawaii, Department of Education and the East-West Center, was formed to develop and promote the use of telecommunications technology in education and research in the State. For more on HENC see the founders Memorandum of Understanding. HENC's networking goal is to fully interconnect Hawaii's education and research communities to provide complete access to educational services (e.g. distance education), interpersonal communication services, and libraries and information resources located anywhere in the State or elsewhere on public networks.

Hawaii's Unique Environment

According to census data the Hawaiian islands face large issues relating to the geographic dispersion of its population. Some 80% of the state's million-plus population lives on the island of Oahu, while the island of Lanai has under 3,000 residents. Providing equal access to educational opportunities throughout the State is obviously a tremendous challenge--but not one that is being taken lightly. Hawaii is largely unique in that both K-12 and higher public education are administered on a statewide basis. There is a single Department of Education (DOE) providing K-12 instruction throughout the state, and a single University of Hawaii (UH) system with 10 campuses and 5 education centers comprising all of higher public education in the State.

Other HENC Roles

The consortium also considers public policy issues relevant to educational telecommunications and related matters. HENC represents the interests of the Hawaii education and research community in national and international networking forums and actively works to enhance the international role of Hawaii through educational telecommunications outreach into the Pacific Basin. An excellent source of information on education in the Pacific is the Pacific Regional Education Laboratory PREL a non-profit organization funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education.

Hawaii's Network Resources Available to Education

To better understand the direction of the State and the goals of the consortium we must first examine some of the assets that currently exist, as well as a few of the resources currently under development.


The State of Hawaii developed the HAwaii Wide Area Integrated Information Access Network (HAWAIIAN) as part of its Strategic Program Initiative for Telecommunications and Computers. HAWAIIAN consists of an inter-island digital microwave communications backbone and an emerging intra-island synchronous optical network (SONET) system. SONET carries voice, data, and T1-speed digital videoconferencing services over these transport mechanisms. It is accessible via toll-free modem calls on each island. HAWAIIAN is managed by the State's Information and Communication Services Division (ICSD) and capacity on the network is made available to governmental agencies including the University of Hawaii and Department of Education.


The Hawaii Interactive Television System (HITS) provides interisland video services for the University of Hawaii, Department of Education, state agencies, and others. Point-to-point analog microwave carries four full-motion video signals from Oahu to other islands, with local ITFS distribution to University campuses, some schools and hospitals. There is one return full-motion video from three of the neighbor islands (Kauai, Maui, Hawaii) back to Oahu. This one channel is currently split allowing for two return video channels. Five University campuses on four islands are directly connected through HITS for two-way video programming. In addition, HITS is interconnected with the State's other video networks and is therefore accessible from additional campuses and government facilities. The University of Hawaii and the Department of Education cooperatively plan the program schedule for HITS. In January of 1995 the management of this statewide resource became the responsibility of the Distance Education and Instructional Technologies (DLIT) department of the Office of Information Technology at the University of Hawaii. This transfer was conceived to improve operating efficiencies and facilitate further system development and modernization.

Cable Television

Due to its mountainous terrain, Hawaii is the most heavily cabled CATV jurisdiction in America. Service is provided by a handful of companies on six islands. The largest of these is Oceanic Cablevision, a Time Warner subsidiary, which serves most of Oahu (where three-fourths of the State's population resides). On Oahu Oceanic provides a network that connects schools via Ethernet over a hybrid fiber-coaxial cable system in a metropolitan network (Ethernet-over-CATV over CATV). The remaining cable companies on all the islands are required to comply with the State mandates for institutional networking similar to the system currently being developed on Oahu by Oceanic Cablevision.

Institutional Networks (I-Net)

Cable TV is franchised on every island by the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). As part of the franchise agreements, all cable companies are required to assist the State with construction of an infrastructure development known as the Institutional Networks (I-Net). I-Net includes synchronous fiber optical connections (SONET) between State buildings (schools, government, the judiciary, UH campuses) over which video and data are transmitted. The system includes capacity on the coaxial cable networks for Ethernet-over-CATV.

PEG Channels

Private nonprofit corporations are established in each programming area (typically an island) to support public, educational, and government (PEG) access programming under the terms of the State's cable television refranchising agreements. All cable companies can receive HITS, which is used as a transport mechanism for statewide cable programming. On Oahu, there are now five PEG channels, including two solely dedicated to education. University campuses on all islands and other sites connected through the Institutional Networks can originate live programming.

Hawaii FYI

Hawai'i FYI under the guidance of the Information and Communication Services Division (ICSD) of the State's Department of Budget and Finance provides an electronic services gateway for text-based government information. Hawaii FYI allows users with a personal computer or at an ASCII terminal (which can be found in all public schools and State libraries) to access a host of news and public information related to State, city and county government activities.

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