What Makes Hawai‘i’s In­ter­net Slow?

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - Paige Takeya

Ishould have known that in­ter­net speed was too big a topic to cover in a sin­gle week.

Shannon Sandry, direc­tor of con­sumer prod­uct man­age­ment at Hawai­ian Tel­com, told me that her­self: “There’s so many vari­ables when you talk about the in­ter­net and con­nec­tiv­ity.”

I barely scraped the sur­face last week, and leave it to Mid­Week reader Richard Gam­berg to call me out.

Gam­berg claims your in­ter­net speed has noth­ing to do with what you’ve pur­chased from providers like Hawai­ian Tel­com or Spec­trum.

“You are deal­ing with at least two lim­it­ing fac­tors,” he says, “phys­i­cal dis­tance/speed of light, and con­ges­tion.”

Gam­berg rightly points out that Hawai‘i’s po­ten­tial in­ter­net speed is ul­ti­mately hin­dered by our state’s in­con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion smack in the mid­dle of an ocean.

Any data t hat flies our way has to cross thou­sands of miles of ca­ble and bounce through servers on the Main­land and other coun­tries be­fore it ar­rives.

This nat­u­rally slows ev­ery­thing down — and it doesn’t help that our par­tic­u­lar tran­spa­cific ca­bles (which carry the data) are old and near­ing the end of their life­spans.

That’s also where con­ges­tion comes in.

I’m sure you’ve no­ticed your in­ter­net tends to run slower in the evenings than it does at 2 a.m. This is be­cause more peo­ple are draw­ing re­sources si­mul­ta­ne­ously, which cre­ates bot­tle­neck. ( Fa­mously, t he state was plagued with nigh-uni­ver­sal in­ter­net slow­down dur­ing the Ed­die last year, when just about ev­ery­one was try­ing to livestream it at once.)

And, as I said last week, your Wi-Fi set­tings also have a huge im­pact on the speed of your in­ter­net (that topic is wor­thy of its own col­umn).

What does it all mean? Should you just give up and get a min­i­mal plan?

Gam­berg would say yes re­quires only 5 mbps of band­width, so buy­ing 300 mbps seems to him like overkill when you’ll rarely touch its full po­ten­tial (a fair point).

But there’s more to the story, and it’s part of the con­tent that didn’t make the cut in last week’s ar­ti­cle.

First, Hawai‘ i re­cently did get a huge up­grade to its phys­i­cal in­ter­net in­fra­struc­ture. A tran­spa­cific ca­ble stretch­ing from South­east Asia to Cal­i­for­nia — and pass­ing through Hawai‘i — It can hit speeds of 20 tbps (that’s some­thing like 20 mil­lion mbps). Hawai­ian Tel­com paid $25 mil­lion to be­come one of the part­ners in the con­sor­tium to get it in­stalled.

“We know the de­mand for in­ter­net speed is just go­ing - nen­tially,” Sandry says. “We wanted to be proac­tive about it to en­sure we had enough ca­pac­ity for the fu­ture.”

The other thing Hawai­ian Tel­com does to help pre­vent slow­down, Sandry says, is that it sub­scribes to a lo­cally hosted in­ter­net caching ser­vice that eval­u­ates what sites con­sumers fre­quently visit, and stores the data lo­cally to im­prove load times.

“We try to look at the apps and ser­vices that are the most highly con­sumed in Hawai‘i, and when we iden­tify those, we want to make sure that cus­tomers us­ing those ser­vices have a lo­cal caching - ence on­line is much quicker be­cause of our dis­tance,” she

Ah, the things we do for a faster con­nec­tion! I hope that my over­all mes­sage re­mains clear: There’s a lot more that goes into de­ter­min­ing the right in­ter­net for you than a num­ber.

A map of the new tran­spa­cific ca­ble that will boost Hawai‘i’s in­ter­net speed

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