Broadband telecommunication customers on Hawaiian Home Lands will soon have more options under the lifting of a former exclusivity clause that allowed only one provider to issue telecommunication products. Recent Federal law, coupled with expanded service options, will now allow service users on the homelands to obtain telecommunications services from a provider of their choice.
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) began notifying its lessees, tenants, and permittees of the change through a letter signed by Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair William J. Ailā, Jr. issued this week. Current SIC customers may choose to continue their current service or select services from other providers, including Hawaiian Telcom, Spectrum, or other carriers who can provide broadband telecommunications services.
For many years, Sandwich Isle Communications, Inc. (SIC) was the exclusive provider of broadband telecommunications services under DHHL License No. 372 (License 372) which was issued to SIC’s parent company, Waimana Enterprises, Inc. on May 9, 1995. On June 30, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Memorandum Opinion and Order determining that all exclusivity claims arising from License 372 are preempted by Federal law and are therefore unenforceable. Subsequently, on August 31, 2021, Hawaiian Telcom (HT) completed the purchase of inter-island submarine and middle-mile terrestrial fiber infrastructure assets from the bankruptcy estate of the Paniolo Cable Company, a firm previously within the Waimana Enterprises, Inc family of companies.
HT’s purchase of the bankrupt Paniolo Cable Company assets did not include any previously negotiated commercial agreements with SIC. Use of the inter-island submarine and middle-mile system by SIC to provide broadband telecommunications services to Hawaiian Home Lands will end on March 31, 2022, unless a new agreement can be reached.
The FCC’s 2017 Order, combined with HT’s purchase of telecommunications assets on DHHL lands, means that DHHL lessees, tenants, and permittees now have more options for broadband telecommunications services. In addition, a new conduit use agreement between SIC and Charter Communications, which does business as Spectrum in Hawaiʻi, will also open additional services.
DHHL will receive at least $90 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to provide high-speed internet access to the Native Hawaiian community. In 2021, the Department received the last of five neighbor islands licenses from the FCC to access the 2.5 GHz band spectrum for the development of wireless broadband networks. Details on the Department’s expansion plan for broadband services are anticipated for late 2022.
For more information, visit dhhl.hawaii.gov/asset-management.