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LG Sylvia Luke is tasked with troubleshooting Hawaiʻi's internet expansion

sylvia luke inaugural speech.jpg
Office of Gov. Josh Green
FILE - Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke speaks at her inauguration ceremony at the Blaisdell Arena on Dec. 5, 2022.

Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke is the designated troubleshooter to make sure the state doesn't bungle the opportunity to connect our islands online.

Luke said she is working with departments across the state government to maximize the flow of federal money into Hawaiʻi’s broadband access. Millions of dollars are waiting to be tapped to boost the information highway.

"Some of it has matching funds. Some of it, we have to put a plan together and if the plan is good enough, then the federal government will give us the funding," she said.

She said, as an example, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands could have received $90 million for broadband expansion, but because of the submitted plan, the federal government only provided $17 million.

"That gives us kind of a wake-up call to say, when we are dealing with broadband funding, we have to take everything seriously. And we have to make sure that we have to justify what we're doing, why we're doing it and how we're going to spend the money," Luke said. "Every step makes a huge difference in future funding."

She agreed that there will be logistical challenges, but the pandemic has shown that having internet access is essential.

Luke said it’s crucial to make sure broadband reaches every part of the state, especially rural areas.

“It wasn't just about remote learning, it wasn’t about remote working. But now, you know — if you want to look at health care access — it touches so many things. Because Hawaiʻi is out here in the Pacific, we have to make sure that we’re connected to the world. And if we lose that connectivity, then we don’t give the same types of opportunities and challenges for our working folks and our younger generations," she told The Conversation.

Luke said various state departments will have to work together to coordinate federal funding strategies so that the approach is not siloed into different parts of the government.


The Conversation talked to the lieutenant governor about the push for preschool education and broadband — the two initiatives she is spearheading. Listen back to The Conversation's interview with Department of Transportation Director Ed Sniffen about how it's looking to work with the many other agencies that have broadband funds to spend.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Jan. 26, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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