What Makes Hawai‘i’s Internet Slow?
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