A critical part of re-programming our economy is the creation of a healthy statewide broadband network. During the pandemic, the importance of broadband to everything that we do was made all too real. All of us dramatically increased online activities, such as online learning, telework, telehealth, and workforce training. I have directed Ed Sniffen, DOT deputy director of highways, to accelerate his pilot project to connect rural communities to broadband service.
He will be leveraging federal funds with state and private sector resources. The project will focus on Puna, Ka‘u, Hana, Nānākuli, Wai‘anae, Waimānalo, Kalihi and Kapa‘a. I am also directing my cabinet to implement projects to connect rural and underserved communities to similar projects. Clearly, the pandemic has highlighted the digital inequity in Hawaiʻi. We need to make sure that a student in Nānākuli can access an online lesson plan as easily as a student in Kāhala—and that, in a digital Hawaiʻi, everyone’s connected. Likewise, with an FCC grant, we will support a telehealth initiative to connect low-income patients with high medical risks to healthcare providers. DHHL will receive at least $30 million in federal funds to benefit Native Hawaiians. The pandemic has made it painfully clear that life in the future will be ALL about being connected.