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Mayor Kenoi briefs FCC chairman Genachowski on the need for broadband access on the Big Island


Mayor Billy Kenoi and other County officials on Monday briefed Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski on geographic, economic and other issues related to extending the reach of broadband access in the County of Hawai‘i.

The briefing for Chairman Genachowski at the county police station at Kealakehe was requested by U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who attended with members of the Senator’s staff. The briefing was followed by a tour of portions of the county in a Hawai‘i Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter. The flight over North and South Kona, Ka‘u, Puna and South Kohala illustrated the issues the County faces as it seeks to facilitate broadband access for larger numbers of rural residents.

“I invited FCC Chair Genachowski to Hawai‘i to both see the great challenges of our non-contiguous state, as well as the exciting opportunities that a robust broadband investment will bring to Hawai‘i,” said U.S. Senator Inouye. “In particular, our trip to the Big Island was intended to share the rural and remote nature and the importance of federal support to ensure that our residents are not left behind as technology continues to explode forward. I have no doubt that Julius left with a new appreciation and a greater understanding.”

Mayor Kenoi outlined the challenges of delivering reliable broadband wireless access in a 4,028-square-mile county characterized by rough terrain and small, rural communities with large distances between them.

“As the recession ends, we know our economy will recover and grow,” Mayor Kenoi said. “The question is how we will grow, and expanding access to broadband is critical for steering our residents into the higher skill, information-based jobs of the future.”

“Our geography dictates that broadband is key to our educational goals on this island,” Mayor Kenoi said. “It is critically important that we have the best possible communications technology for work, education and government services, including public safety.”

County of Hawai‘i Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira, Police Chief Harry S. Kubojiri, Civil Defense Administrator Quince Mento and Department of Data Systems Director Burt Tsuchiya joined in the briefing to offer their departments’ perspectives on use of broadband connections for public safety purposes, and for more convenient delivery of other government services.

Mayor Kenoi and other participants also stressed the critical role broadband access will play in areas such as telemedicine, home-based occupations and education.

“Improved broadband access offers new ways to provide and enhance distance learning opportunities in higher education. We can use broadband to create distance learning centers that will connect our students in rural areas with the training and education they need to succeed,” Mayor Kenoi said.

After the helicopter flight, Chairman Genachowski joined in a broadband roundtable discussion in Waimea facilitated by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement. Senator Inouye and Mayor Kenoi also attended the discussion, which focused on the importance of ensuring that any broadband investment include all native communities — native Americans, Alaska natives and native Hawaiians.

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