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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Native Hawaiians on Big Island to get cable link

 •  Hawaiiam Home Lands seeks to wire homesteads

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — Armed with a $100 million federal loan guarantee, Sandwich Isles Communications Inc. plans to launch an extensive fiber-optic cable line around the Big Island, serving Hawaiian Home Lands residents.

The network has been in the works since 1995, when the firm was founded under the leadership of retired Navy Adm. Robert Kihune of Hilo and entrepreneur Albert Hee of Honolulu.

The money for the Hawaiian Home Lands project is coming from the federal Rural Utilities Service program, which insures low-interest loans to provide telephone and electric links to rural residents.

Work will begin on the 330-mile-long line in June, said consultant Ron Terry of Geo Metrician.

A key switching station was constructed in Hilo last year to begin the project, which will take until February 2005 to finish.

The entire Big Island, from Niuli'i in North Kohala to South Point in Ka'u, is included in the development, which could allow Native Hawaiians to work at home and commute by computer to the Mainland or Honolulu.

Paula Helfrich, president of the Hawai'i Island Economic Development Board, said her group welcomes the announcement with "great enthusiasm. This is 10 years ahead of everything we have looked at for the last 20. This is the quantum leap.

"It's the future. It's so forward-looking it's astounding."

The lines will be established in trenches mostly 2 to 3 feet deep, with manholes every 2,000 to 3,000 feet. There are no known environmental issues, said Terry.