Home Internet Hawaii Governor, PUC Block ISP Sandwich Isles from Shutting Down

Hawaii Governor, PUC Block ISP Sandwich Isles from Shutting Down

Hawaii Broadband

SIC did not go forward with plans to shut off wireline phone and Internet service at 12:01 a.m. on June 1.

Hawaii Governor, PUC Block ISP Sandwich Isles from Shutting Down
Photo of Hawaii Gov. Josh Green from his office

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2024 – Hawaii’s governor and the state Public Utilities Commission intervened at the last minute Friday to stop a local communications company from cutting off phone and Internet service to about 1,500 Native Hawaiians

Gov. Josh Green (D) issued an Emergency Proclamation and the PUC released a notice of violation that ordered Sandwich Isles Communications to continue providing service to customers without disruption or reduction in quality.

“In line with the Emergency Proclamation issued by Gov. Green, the commission is concerned that [sic] may be engaging in conduct that is detrimental to the public interest,” said Public Utilities Commission Chair Leo Asuncion in a May 31 press release

Asuncion said the PUC stepped in because “Sandwich Isles Communications failed to provide timely notice to the PUC of its intent to abandon or discontinue service, as required by commission rules and regulations.”

SIC founder Al Hee, who is currently an advisor to the company, said the broadband ISP did not go forward with plans to shut off wireline phone and Internet service at 12:01 a.m. on June 1, as the company indicated it would in a May 30 email to customers with the subject line: “Sandwich Isles services to end June 1, 2024.”

“Friday evening … the Hawaii PUC ordered Sandwich Isles not to terminate service today.  We have complied,” Hee said in an email to Broadband Breakfast on Saturday.

Hee urged the Federal Communications Commission and Hawaii regulators to help SIC regain financial strength. In 2020, the FCC fined SIC and Hee $49.6 million for misusing federal Universal Service Fund financial support.

In prior comments, Hee said SIC needed to close because it had been losing money for several years and saw no way of paying back the $150 million balance on a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan.

“Hawaii does not have a state universal service fund.  Nor does the PUC have the ability to raise customer rates to stop Sandwich Isles from losing money.  The solution lies with [Hawaii’s Department of Hawaiian Home Lands] and the FCC, both of which have been notified well in advance about this situation and both of which have remained silent,” Hee said.

DHHL has a contract with SIC requiring the company to provide communications services to Hawaiian homelands. These are areas located throughout the islands that are held in trust for Native Hawaiians by the state of Hawaii.

Since May 24, the DHHL has been issuing advisories encouraging SIC customers about to lose service from SIC to consider signing up for service with Hawaiian Telcom or Charter Communications for a landline Internet connection. For satellite Internet service options, DHHL has been recommending Starlink or Dish.

Diamond Badajos, DHHL’s Information and Community Relations Officer, sent an email to Broadband Breakfast on Saturday saying the situation with SIC is “fluid and evolving,” but “we are not aware of any new outages since SIC issued its threat to disconnect customers.”

 

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