The Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF) is a program out of the U.S. Department of Treasury created in 2021 to “fund critical capital projects that enable work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency.” A total of $9.8 billion was allocated to States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico under this program.
Hawai‘i submitted grant and program plans to Treasury in September 2022, and in April 2023, these plans were approved by CPF. Hawai‘i submitted two program plans for a total of $115 million in funding for use towards critical broadband infrastructure for all residents in the State. Both programs will be completed by 2026 and are detailed below.
Hawaii Subsea Middle Mile Program
The Hawaii Subsea Middle Mile Program will fund the construction of a new subsea interisland fiber system. This is the first of two proposed subsea interisland systems and the State’s northern inter-island fiber path system connecting the islands. Work is already underway to design the system, with cable landing sites and a fiber route identified. Once the permitting process is complete, system construction can begin. Permitting and construction will take three-plus years, including constructing “front haul” facilities (i.e., where submarine fiber meets land). The system is expected to be Ready for Service by 2026.
This program will provide long-term resiliency and support continued Internet service to all residents across the state.
Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA) Connections Program
The HPHA Connections Program will invest in upgrading and delivering 100 Mbps symmetrical service to all residents in state-owned public housing and provision Gbps service for available common-use shared rooms (initially in 41 facilities). Residents will have access to reliable, high-speed Internet from the comfort of their residence and in the common rooms on HPHA properties. These common-use spaces, or “community digital hubs,” will closely align with the availability of community digital navigators to be funded by the statewide NTIA BEAD/DE investments. Digital navigators, individuals well versed in teaching others digital skills, will be available to public housing residents to assist in digital literacy skills development and building confidence with independently navigating technology for personal and professional (e.g., education, telehealth, work) use.
Residents will have access to all this at no cost to them, as network upgrades will be coordinated with mass subscription to the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a program from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that provides qualifying low-income households to receive a monthly discount on an Internet subscription with their chosen participating service provider. The HPHA Connections program, combined with subscription to ACP, will allow HPHA residents “free” (i.e., after ACP support) Internet service.
HPHA’s current inventory includes over 5,000 units housing more than 13,000 residents in State-owned public housing.