HILO — Free Wi-Fi is coming to seven Hawaii County parks, thanks to an agreement between Spectrum Oceanic LLC and the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
Under the agreement, the public will have free access to up to one hour per device daily at the Waimea, Pahala and Keaau community centers, the Honokaa and Papaikou gyms, the Pahoa Community Aquatic Center and the Pahoa Neighborhood Facility.
Hawaii Island is the last of the major Hawaiian islands to get the free service at parks, part of the state’s 2016 approval of an application made by Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications Inc. to transfer Spectrum’ s cable television franchise to Charter.
Kauai, Maui, Molokai, and Oahu were granted Wi-Fi hotspots in July, 2018.
The state required the communication company to provide at least 1,000 new public Wi-Fi access points within four years of the close of the transfer transaction. One hundred of them must be deployed in public parks, civic and other community centers and other public open areas and gathering places, according to the contract.
Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter said she’s been lobbying in Washington, D.C., for more Wi-Fi connectivity, especially in underserved areas. She credited the office of Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, for advocating the hotspots as a condition of the Spectrum contract.
“I am glad that this is finally happening,” Poindexter said Wednesday. “Wi-Fi is no longer considered an amenity, but rather a public utility, like running water and electricity. If you don’t believe me, just ask any millennial or the parent of a young child. For our kupuna who frequently rely on our parks and facilities for exercising or social gatherings, they too find it a necessity if they ever need to call for help.”
County parks personnel could not be reached by press time Wednesday to clarify the decision-making process that selected which parks and facilities would receive the hotspots.
But administrators are likely to answer those questions at a meeting next week.
The Hawaii County Council Parks and Recreation Committee is scheduled to consider a license and permission for Spectrum to “attach, install, maintain, operate, upgrade and remove equipment, cables and devices,” as part of Resolution 425, sponsored by Poindexter.
Deputy Corporation Counsel J Yoshimoto, who drafted the contract, said a representative from Spectrum is expected to attend. Yoshimoto said the county reserved the right to restrict hotspot times to when the facility is open.
“I expect the council to have questions,” Yoshimoto said.
The meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the council chambers in Hilo, with videoconferencing available at the West Hawaii Civic Center, the Waimea and Pahoa council offices, the old Kohala courthouse and the Naalehu state office building.
A map showing current and planned free Wi-Fi hotspots under the agreement can be found here: https://bit.ly/37OtjOj