Hawaii Tells Sandwich Isles Customers to Find a New ISP Soon

Hawaii Broadband

State of Hawaii wants residents served by ‘troubled’ Sandwich Isles Communications to switch to Charter or Hawaiian Telcom.

Ted Hearn Hawaii Tells Sandwich Isles Customers to Find a New ISP Soon Photo of Hawaii Broadband Coordinator Jaren Tengan

May 27, 2024 – The state of Hawaii is concerned that more than 1,000 residents and businesses located statewide could suddenly lose phone and broadband service from a troubled Internet Service Providers in serious financial difficulty.

Last Friday, Hawaii officials issued a press release advising customers of Sandwich Isles Communications (SIC) to find a new Internet provider soon, recommending either Hawaiian Telcom or Spectrum by Charter Communications.

The state’s Department of Hawaiian Home Lands said “1,500 households and businesses on Hawaiian Home Lands are facing a sudden loss of phone and/or Internet service provided by [SIC].”

DHHL said it issued the advisory because SIC is “facing foreclosure by the federal government due to nonpayment of a major loan.” DHHL said it was “working to ensure minimal disruption to affected beneficiaries.”

On May 17, Hawaii Broadband Coordinator Jaren Tengan in DHHL sent a letter to SIC customers, also called beneficiaries, noting that some of them had already lost service. SIC has a contract with DHHL to provide service to Hawaiian homelands, areas held in trust for Native Hawaiians by the state of Hawaii.

“SIC is a private company with a troubled history,” Tengan said. “SIC is required to provide reliable services and was paid by DHHL to do so.”

DHHL said customers in potential trouble “are located throughout the state and include many households in remote communities.”

DHHL said SIC customers “should contact alternative service providers to determine if service is available at their address.”

In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission fined SIC and owner Albert Hee $49.6 million for making millions of dollars in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund.

In a statement, the FCC said Hee used “his control of Sandwich Isles to tap corporate funds to pay for more than $4 million in personal expenses benefitting himself and his family …” Prior to the FCC’s announcement, Hee in 2016 was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to 46 months in prison.

DHHL has established a webpage to assist SIC customers in their effort to locate a new broadband provider.

A SIC tech support assistant who was answering calls said she was a remote worker in North Carolina and was unaware of the situation on the ground in Hawaii. SIC’s normal customer support lines were closed over the Memorial Day weekend, according to recorded messages.