Hawaii is one of the top ten most visited states in the U.S., but it also holds the dubious honor of being in the bottom ten for Internet speeds. Poor infrastructure has left Hawaii struggling to keep up with the rest of the nation in terms of broadband access, which many believe is having a negative effect on business in the state.

The Sorry State of Broadband
Hawaii ranks 46th in terms of overall Internet speeds in the United States. The state currently has an average speed of about 20Mbps spread across broadband, wired, and fiber optic connections. Broadband connections average 31.2Mbps statewide. Its closest neighbors have access to some of the fastest Internet speeds worldwide. Singapore averages 105 Mbps while Japan reaches speeds of 70 Mbps.

Hawaii was one of only five states to see a decrease in average peak connection speeds in Akamai’s latest “State of the Internet Report.” The peak speed dropped 1.4 percent to 42.7 Mbps for broadband access. While over 42Mbps is fast, not many people in the state actually have access to this type of connection. But the good news is over 97 percent of Hawaiians do have access to at least some type of broadband connection. This makes Hawaii one of the top five in the country in terms of having the most residents with access to a broadband connection.

Why Hawaii Needs Broadband
Hawaii’s economy rested heavily on tourism for decades, with 2014 being a record-breaking year for the industry. However, members of the now-defunct Hawaii Broadband Task Force fear tourism alone won’t be enough to sustain the state in the coming years.

The former task force representatives argue a high-tech environment will encourage entrepreneurs to develop businesses and would cause established businesses to expand. They’ve routinely made comparisons to Silicon Valley as the ideal benchmark for the Hawaii economy.

The problem, the group claims, is that startups and other local businesses aren’t selling products that require high-speed Internet access. Essentially, the primary customers for broadband speeds in Hawaii are residential consumers who enjoy playing video games and streaming TV shows at home, not business professionals.

Hawaii is also in a precarious position due to location. The island state was once a hub for cables strewn across the ocean floor to help connect nations overseas. Due to advances in fiber optic cables and connections, these might no longer be necessary.

Members of the task force argue businesses should start pushing for fiber landing sites in and around Hawaii. They cite South America as evidence that building landing sites for fiber can help boost the economy.

During Google’s expansion plans for their “Google for Communities” project, which aimed to provide 1GB broadband speeds to local communities, Hawaii was passed over due to what some believe are unnecessarily high restrictions on land rights and building poles.

Estimates to boost overall Internet speeds in the state have been placed as high as the hundred millions.

Does Hawaii Need Faster Internet?
Hawaii certainly has no problem attracting tourists, but the Hawaiian Tourism Authority predicts numbers to stall in 2015. Because of this, officials might need to begin looking toward alternatives to the tourism industry to keep the economy going.

With the rest of the world moving toward increasing Internet speeds, the little state nestled in the Pacific Ocean needs to think about how to keep up. Resting entirely on tourism in a world where Americans have wider access to more destinations could prove to be a problem down the road.

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