The University of Hawaii System received nearly $36 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce to expand broadband capabilities for Hawaii’s educational system, improving students’ access to educational tools like distance learning.

The public will benefit from improved access to information, networking tools and training.

The upgrades are expected to be completed within two years and include:

  • The Ke Ala Ike (Pathway to Knowledge) project: high-speed fiber optic connectivity to every public school, library and college campus on every one of Hawaii’s islands, totaling 388 physical sites. Schools will have an initial capability of 1 gigabit per second, and higher education sites will have connection speeds of 10 gigabits per second.
  • Access for All: Almost 700 broadband-connected computers for public use throughout Hawaii.

Work to begin installation will begin almost immediately, said David Lassner, Vice President for Information Technology at UH.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye announced the timely grant via a video message Friday morning at Hawaii’s first Higher Education Summit, which was hosted by UH and featured guests such as U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter and University of Michigan President Emeritus James Duderstadt.

The theme of the day was “Mobilizing for Hawaii’s Future.”

Some school and library Internet connections will be 3,000 times faster after the upgrade, Lassner said.

“We expect people to be doing more distance learning at the schools with these capabilities,” he said, adding that the new infrastructure will also improve connectivity for some of the more isolated communities on neighbor islands.

The university worked on its grant proposal for nearly a year before receiving one of the competitive matching grants (Hawaii raised funds to foot 20 percent of the total bill). Its partners included the Hawaii Department of Education, Hawaii State Public Library System and some partners in the private telecommunications industry.

The projects will cost a total of nearly $44 million and take two years to complete. They will mean 500 jobs per year, Lassner said.

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