All public schools, libraries and community colleges will get faster broadband Internet — in some cases, as much as 3,000 times faster — as part of a two-year, $47 million project aimed at improving educational opportunities , beefing up distance learning capabilities and bolstering the state’s reputation as a hub for technology.
The bulk of the funding for the work — $36 million — comes from two federal grants announced yesterday at the University of Hawaii’s Higher Education Summit in Waikiki.
The grants will go to the University of Hawaii, which spent about a year applying for the competitive federal stimulus dollars and drafting an implementation plan.
As part of the project, which will also get state and private funding, UH will oversee installation of fiber-optic cable to 388 sites statewide — including sites on Molokai and Lanai for the first time.
» $47 million project will install and enhance fiber-optic connectivity at all public schools, libraries and community colleges
» Work will speed up Internet for some remote areas by as much as 3,000 times
» Fiber-optic cable will be brought to 388 sites statewide, including sites on Molokai and Lanai for the first time
» Project will take two years and create 500 jobs
Source: University of Hawaii
The money will also go to purchasing 693 new computers at 66 locations on six islands.
Additionally, officials anticipate the project will create about 500 jobs.
"This is a perfect example of what we mean about the important relationship that the University of Hawaii has to the educational success of the state," UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said at the summit.
She added that the project will go far in "advancing us as a hub for IT" (information technology) in the Asia-Pacific region.
The upgrades will give all Hawaii public schools and libraries an initial Internet capability of 1 gigabit of data per second. Higher education sites will have Internet access capability of 10 gigabits per second.
In some cases, that will mean Internet speeds will be thousands of times faster, especially in remote areas.
"It’s pretty much the difference between a text message and full-motion video," said David Lassner, UH vice president for information technology and chief information officer.
Lassner added that although the project is aimed at beefing up Internet access in public places, it will also mean faster Internet for thousands of home users.
The announcement of the $36 million in federal funding kicked off the summit at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where more than 200 educators, lawmakers and business leaders gathered to discuss the future of higher education in the islands.
Key among their concerns is increasing the number of Hawaii high school students who go to college — and the number of students who leave a UH campus with a higher degree.
U.S. Undersecretary for Education Martha Kanter delivered the summit’s keynote address, applauding attendees for their efforts in improving higher education and urging them to do more to prepare students for the 21st-century work force.
She said UH’s efforts were in line with the Obama administration’s goal of again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.
"Students are living in a global economy," she said. "It’s not enough to educate students … for a job today."
After the summit yesterday, Greenwood said the gathering was a "new wind" and a "critical convergence" that will improve collaboration — and increase the opportunities for partnerships — between educators and business leaders at a time when the university is grappling with difficult budget decisions.
"Now we have the tools to work with the business community and to work with aspiring students to have a different kind of future — as we sometimes say, a preferred future," Greenwood said.