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$17M to expand high-speed internet access to Native Hawaiian communities

The internet has become a ubiquitous feature for anyone who needs information or wants to find a job or needs to access educational tools… the list can go on for pages. However, internet access, particularly high-speed internet, is not available for everyone, leading to a disparity in access to information on things necessary to be a part of today’s digital world.

Sen. Brian Schatz announced today, Dec. 19, that $17,284,762 has been released to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to invest in expanding high-speed internet access for Native Hawaiian communities in Hawai’i.

“This funding will increase broadband internet access in Native Hawaiian communities across the state, helping families and small businesses get the high-speed internet they need and supporting the expansion of important services, including telehealth and remote learning,” said Sen. Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke is a strong supporter of this initiative which is part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program being rolled out nationwide for indigenous communities.

“Our Native Hawaiian community continues to be impacted by gaps in meaningful access to the internet, as highlighted in many areas of our state during the pandemic. This grant will go a long way in helping to provide and improve broadband accessibility throughout our communities,” said Lt. Gov. Luke. 

Department of Hawaiian Homelands Commission Chair William J. Ailā, Jr. released a statement in support of the grant program that will ensure local Native Hawaiians can gain access to a digital system that dictates how modern business, commerce, education and even healthcare are conducted.

“During the pandemic, we all learned how critical access to high-speed internet is to our daily lives. These grant funds will provide the opportunity for broadband use and adoption activities to alleviate many connectivity issues highlighted throughout our communities during that time,” said Ailā.

The monies allocated from this grant will provide new broadband equipment and software. It will give new computers and personal devises that will increase the ability of Native Hawaiians to access remote learning, telehealth and digital inclusion programs. The funds also cover payment for staff to ensure the implementation of the program succeeds.

“The allocation of this funding comes from the championed efforts of many, but I would like to express direct gratitude to Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson and Division Chief Adam Geisler for their efforts. I would also be amiss to not acknowledge and thank Sen. Brian Schatz for his consistent and continued advocacy and inclusion of Native Hawaiians in these programs,” added Ailā.

The funding also provides support for a DHHL survey of Native Hawaiian households that will collect information on developing a statewide collective broadband strategy.

“I appreciate the trust that the Federal government has in DHHL to effectively utilize these funds. The Department staff looks forward to bringing fiber to the Trust Lands and ensuring that beneficiaries have the access and devices they need to move forward in the 21st century,” concluded Ailā.