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Internet access continues to lag behind in Native Hawaiian communities, Sen. Schatz says

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U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz says internet access continues to lag behind in Native communities, especially in remote areas where wireline broadband can be challenging and expensive to install.

Schatz hosted a round table discussion Wednesday on the opportunities and challenges for native communities to use wireless spectrum technology to increase broadband access.

Since 2020, the Federal Communications Commission has granted free spectrum licenses to more than 300 tribal entities in 30 states, including the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

DHHL Deputy Director Tyler Gomes says the agency is working toward buildout, but that additional resources are needed to educate homesteaders on the use and upkeep of this technology.

"At least in our communities, with a 100-year-old program, we have rapidly aging kūpuna, or elders, who don’t know how to work their cell phones or personal computers, let alone install a receiver on their homes to receive wireless broadband," Gomes said. "I think additional resources to provide training and education in these communities to help those who perhaps are not familiar with the equipment not only install but understand operations and maintenance."

According to the FCC, spectrum technology is one of the most cost-effective and adaptable technologies for remote areas and could be a game changer in native communities.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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