Middle Mile

1. Inter-Island Submarine Cable Ring

The state of Hawai‘i currently has three operational inter-island fiber systems, all of which are halfway through or at the end of their intended service lifetime. This puts the state in an immediate need of a new inter-island fiber system with capacity to sustain the state for transformational decades to come with sustainability, smart design, and general broadband access for all. At the forefront again is reliable, robust, and future-proof broadband infrastructure. 

Together with the inter-island fiber buildout, a robust and future-proof trans-Pacific fiber route and the addition of new, carrier-neutral cable landing station (CLS) sites across the islands must be secured to lay the groundwork for the inter-island build. As of May 2022, the University of Hawai‘i has awarded a contract to Ocean Networks Inc. to survey at least twelve (12) potential CLS locations across the islands, and complete a desktop design study for the inter-island submarine fiber cable route(s), with an anticipated completion date of September 2022. This is the first step towards both securing a new inter-island and trans-Pacific fiber route offering diversity and design resilience from today’s existing routes and CLSs. Because the costs of procuring equipment (e.g. cable laying ship) and labor for laying down new inter-island fiber is considerably high, it is most cost effective to deploy trans-Pacific and inter-island fiber within the same timeframe while equipment and labor are actively present.  

Proposed Funding Source(s): Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund 

2. Terrestrial Middle Mile Buildouts

The state of Hawai‘i currently has eighteen privately owned and or operated cable landing stations across Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i, and Big Island. Currently, no cable landing station is fully carrier-neutral, limiting the appeal of landing new trans-Pacific submarine fiber systems to the islands and effectively limiting competition. While the Hawaiki CLS at Kapolei is mostly carrier-neutral in ownership and operation, the lack of additional seaward bores and limited terrestrial backhaul facilities make its carrier-neutral status mostly symbolic. In introducing carrier-neutral CLS infrastructure to Hawai‘i, the state is able to foster competition, promote and attain a future-proof broadband infrastructure landscape. To accomplish this, the state of Hawai‘i must identify cable landing sites across all islands that offer diversity and functionality to the current broadband landscape by means of accessibility in the sea-ward approach as well as terrestrial backhaul. Roughly twelve sites have been broadly identified to include in the engineering study, the first step in this process for site identification, procurement, and eventual construction. This includes potential Hawaiian Home Lands locations, which would benefit in building up interconnectivity for their services. 

Several new CLS sites are intended to be designed in preparation for the proposed new inter-island fiber build and ahead of planned trans-Pacific routes with potential to land in Hawai‘i. The State will also consider expanding existing CLSes, including those with wet segments nearing their end-of-life, plus, the Hawaiki Kapolei CLS (as noted above), beach manholes at HECO Kahe, and Kaka’ako Look Lab / JABSOM, pending results of the engineering study, cost estimates, and viability of existing sites for future use. 

Proposed Funding Source(s): Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, Middle Mile Competitive Grant

3. Transpacific Fiber

Since 2018, the State of Hawai‘i has been bypassed by all new trans-Pacific fiber systems, five in total. While today’s fiber capacity is sufficient to support Hawaii’s need for broadband over the next decade, the increase in demand for broadband and the approaching end of service dates for the two older trans-Pacific fiber systems (Japan-US, SCCN) factor heavily into the necessity of future-proofing Hawai‘i’s connectivity to the global landscape. 

Total projected costs are expected to fall between $300 million and $500 million, not including the interisland fiber component, which in itself is estimated to cost well in excess of $100 million on its own. A better scope of cost projections is expected once the state of Hawai‘i expresses its commitment to the respective proposed fiber systems. Like the interisland component, the trans-Pacific fiber route is also set to be influenced by the outcomes of the CLS site survey and desktop design undertaken by Ocean Networks. 

Proposed Funding Source(s): TBD, private funding

4. Rural and Community Buildouts (cross-listed under AEL, LM)

The University of Hawai‘i has pledged its support to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) in aiding the development of project plans to ensure that funds allocated to the Department are used to properly enhance the needed new middle- and last-mile connectivity and digital literacy efforts for Native Hawaiian residents. DHHL currently has $90 million allocated to them for the purpose of deploying broadband and funding telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion projects. In addition, DHHL may submit a Letter of Intent to NTIA to participate in the Digital Equity Act Program and a separate application for the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, which will collectively provide additional funding to the broadband space. 

With this funding, we expect that Hawaiian Home Lands will benefit from inter-location connectivity, interconnection with middle-mile and carrier networks, independent community buildouts funded by last mile-focused grant funding, and potentially fund community “service providers” who want to “own-and-operate” networks on Hawaiian Home Lands. 

Potential Funding Source(s): Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program; Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund; Digital Equity Act Programs; BEAD

Last updated: June 20, 2022