Molokai slow internet causing problems for education, work

HONOLULU (AP) — Slow internet service has become an increasing problem for Molokai residents on Hawaiian Home Lands properties.



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Service provided by a single telecom provider has caused difficulties for residents working at home or families engaged in distance learning, Hawaii Public Radio reported Monday.

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Sandwich Isles Communication secured an exclusive license with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in 1995 to bring telecom services to rural homestead communities. In return, other companies must use and pay for the Sandwich Isles infrastructure to reach customers.

Sandwich Isles founder Al Hee was convicted of federal tax fraud, served nearly four years in prison and faces nearly $50 million in fines for defrauding the U.S. government. The company was stripped of $257 million in assets.

Democratic state Rep. Lynn DeCoite, who represents Molokai, said she has received numerous complaints from homesteaders.

“Anger, frustration. You can’t even get through to a live body to talk about what the situation is, or negotiations of how they can have their bills paid, or you can transfer over to another carrier,” DeCoite said.

Hawaiian homesteader Kui Adolpho said her only option for service in Hoolehua is Sandwich Isles, but frozen screens and constant buffering are a daily ordeal for her three children taking elementary school classes at home.

Adolpho also works from home, adding to the strain on limited bandwidth.

She began an online petition to raise awareness about the problems, noting that some homesteaders have to pay for internet hot spots to obtain adequate service.

“I expected lags and, you know, the occasional interruptions. But it got to the point where my children couldn’t even get instruction at all,” Adolpho said.

Sandwich Isles said it is aware of the problems with internet speed and plans to upgrade its infrastructure.

The company also said it is in negotiations to provide internet service in Hoolehua through Spectrum, which is owned by Charter Communications Inc.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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