Federal stimulus grants provide world-class connectivity to UH sites, public schools & libraries
HONOLULU – As more than 200 representatives from business, community, labor and government gathered to discuss the importance of higher education to Hawai‘i’s future at the University of Hawai‘i’s Higher Education Summit Friday (Sept 10), U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye announced via video message at the summit that the U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded the University of Hawai‘i System two broadband stimulus grants totaling nearly $36 million that will allow the university to dramatically enhance Hawai‘i’s educational broadband capabilities, modernize and expand the UH distance learning network, and improve the public’s access to broadband throughout the state.
The announcement underscored the summit’s focus for the day on the importance of building partnerships as participants discussed how to maximize the University of Hawai‘i’s strengths to put the power of higher education to work for the entire state of Hawai‘i. Key issues included increasing the state’s educational capital in line with Hawai‘i’s workforce needs and maximizing the state’s potential through research innovation and technology transfer to help fuel new industries in Hawai‘i and diversify the state’s economy.
The “Ke Ala ‘Ike” (pathway to knowledge) project demonstrates the impact of such partnerships. Nearly $34 million in federal funds will enable this collaboration of the University of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Department of Education and Hawai‘i State Public Library System to deploy and enhance direct fiber optic connectivity to all community colleges and their remote distance learning centers, all public schools including public charter schools, and all public libraries on six islands, for a total of 388 participating sites. The project will provide high-speed fiber optic connectivity to some of the most isolated and traditionally underserved communities in the state including Lana‘i, Moloka‘i and Hana, Maui.
Public schools and public libraries will have an initial capability of 1 gigabit per second, and higher education sites will have 10 gigabits per second. UH will also expand and modernize its statewide distance learning network to serve students on all islands with standardized high definition Internet-based videoconferencing. High speed interconnections among the organizations will provide improved infrastructure for collaboration in serving the public. It is believed that Hawai‘i will be the first state in the nation with high-speed fiber to every one of its public schools and public libraries as well as its public colleges and universities.
“UH is honored to lead this truly transformational statewide initiative,” said UH Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer David Lassner. “In addition to the immediate economic stimulus associated with building the network, the provision of world-class connectivity will enable our students, teachers and researchers at all levels to collaboratively engage in modern approaches to education and innovation with colleagues and partners around the state, the nation and the world.”
Through the complementary “Access for All” grant, UH will receive nearly $2 million to provide 693 new broadband-connected computers for public use in 66 locations throughout Hawai‘i. These new capabilities in public libraries and in community college libraries and education centers on six islands will create a statewide safety net for Hawai‘i’s most disadvantaged citizens, providing technology access and training to help them improve their educational, social, personal and economic well-being.
Both grants were competitively awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Agency through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Complete statewide implementation of the projects is expected to take about two years.