The state of Hawaii has a looming issue that no one wants to talk about.

Two out of three main submarine fiber-optic cables that link neighbor islands to Oahu are reaching the end of their lives.

Hawaiian Telcom owns one of these cables, and partly owns the other with Level 3 Communications.

The life expectancy of the fiber-optic cables connecting the islands is about 25 years.

Flickr: Roshan Nikam

Hawaiian Telcom’s submarine fiber-optic cable, Hawaii Inter-Island Cable System, became operational in 1994.

The other jointly owned fiber-optic cable, Hawaii Island Fiber Network, was put into service in 1997.

Paniolo Cable Company owns the third submarine fiber-optic cable, which is solely leased to Sandwich Isles Communications. The latter was operational starting in 2009.

The life expectancy of these submarine fiber-optic cables is roughly 25 years. This means Hawaii Inter-Island Cable’s end of life is in 2019 and Hawaii Island Fiber Network will be in 2022.

The age of these cables will likely mean more outages in the future, and a limited ability to increase the amount of bandwidth available between Oahu and the neighbor islands.

A “see no evil, hear no evil” attitude will likely have costly repercussions for the state of Hawaii’s ability to compete on world stage in the future.

For example, these cables utilize dense wave division multiplexing, which restricts the amount of additional available bandwidth compared to modern submarine cables.

Hawaiian Telcom had to create custom-engineered lasers to increase the amount of bandwidth between Oahu and Kauai at great expense.

I’ve tried to talk to the Hawaii PUC and Hawaiian Telcom about my concerns.

Hawaiian Telcom told me they couldn’t comment because they’re a publicly traded company.

As far as the Hawaiian PUC, I was told they do not have regulatory authority over these submarine fiber-optic cables.

In short, it seems everyone wants to pass the buck and not deal with this issue.

This “see no evil, hear no evil” attitude will likely have costly repercussions for the state of Hawaii’s ability to compete on world stage in the future.

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