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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hawaii tops for growth in Internet speed

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i led the nation in terms of boosting its average Internet connection speeds in 2009, according to a new report.

The average speed still isn't blazingly fast, but it did jump by one-third over the year before, with the average connection coming in at 4.7 megabits per second, the report said.

That increase was the highest among 29 states that had quicker connections in the fourth quarter.

The report by Akamai Technologies Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., company highlights Web users' increasing appetite for faster speeds as they use the Internet to view video clips and movies, download music and access other information.

Akamai, which supplies software to make websites run faster, found the average speed across the U.S. was 3.8 megabits per second.

There may be a number of reasons for the higher speeds compared with a year earlier, including many people leaving slower dial-up connections for broadband service.

Hawaiian Telcom said it now has 96,000 broadband customers.

"Most of our dial-up customers have moved on," said Shannon Maafala, director of consumer product management. "I think Internet users now are more savvy about managing their speed experience."

Hawaiian Telcom's basic residential DSL offering has download speeds of up to 3 megabits per second, though it also has faster connections, including an 11 megabit per second service for $50 a month.

Maafala said the company is also working on faster products, but she declined to give details on when the products will be available.

Oceanic Time Warner, the state's largest Internet service provider, said there could be a number of reasons behind the higher connection speeds that Akamai reported.

"We're delighted with the good news, of course," Oceanic spokesman Alan Pollock said.

Chris Pagay, Oceanic manager of customer service, said in the past year its Road Runner service expanded its Power Burst feature that momentarily boosts speeds for people if there is unused bandwidth available.

It also may be that more people are leaving DSL for cable, he said. Oceanic's basic offering of 5 megabits per second downloads for $45 a month has been growing.

During the past year, Oceanic increased its Internet subscriber base to 255,000 from 220,000.

More speed is on the way from Oceanic, which this year plans to roll out a service having a top connection speed of up to 20 megabits per second. In 2012, it is planning an upgrade to DOCSIS 3.0 technology that allows downloads of up to 100 or more megabits per second.

Meanwhile, the state and counties are still waiting to hear what will happen with a unified application put into Google Inc. for one of the locations where the Internet giant will put in networks capable of transmitting data at 1 gigabit, or 1,000 megabits, per second.

Gov. Linda Lingle also has pushed for faster Internet service here as part of her efforts to promote innovation and make the state a national leader in broadband speeds and accessibility.

The Akamai report found that Hawai'i led the nation in terms of broadband adoption, with usage increasing by 2.6 percent. It was only one of four states where usage rose.

On the other end of the spectrum, Nevada's broadband use declined by 8.7 percent.

Akamai noted that the U.S. as a whole remains far behind many other countries in terms of connection speeds. It placed 22nd in this aspect. South Korea was first with an average speed of 11.7 megabits per second.