Thursday, December 22, 2011

High Speed Internet Agonies: Hawaiian Tel, Roadrunner, Clearwire?

Updated as of 2/15/15 (scroll to the bottom).

High speed, low speed or no speed. Haiku has been agonizingly slow internet wise the last couple of days for those of us who have a Hawaiian Tel DSL account. Although even Roadrunner has its outages now and then.

First, we thought the wifi router was dying... We tested the computer by plugging it directly into the DSL box, and the internet was superfast. Ah, so it was the router.   A frantic call to my favorite computer tech, Trip Hill to ask if he had an extra router. No such luck. I picked Trip's brains on what kind of router to buy. Meanwhile the connection trickled to nothing... and we watched the little starburst icon on the monitor spin around as if trying to load something that wasn't there.

Photo credit: Archtypographie as posted in Flickr.
With some additional text by me. 

So is it the router or is it something else? "Trip, could the modem itself be dying?" Yes, was his grim answer, even the modem can die after a few years, and so can routers. The connection was alternately super fast, then super slow, changing every few minutes. We plugged the wireless router back in, and it was fine off and on for a while. So maybe it's the DSL box.  The first day, we called Hawaiian Tel and the operator knew nothing, but the wait time was one hour. We decided to go to bed, and then called Hawaiian Tel the next day. Again, a wait time of an hour. That was Tuesday morning. 

Hawaiian Tel finally called back and they admitted that one of their units in Haiku was malfunctioning, causing extremely erratic internet speeds and access. They didn't know when it would be fixed. A friend from work called later that afternoon and said she saw three Hawaiian Tel repair trucks on her way to Ulumalu Road, after passing Kauhikoa. 

Still no internet that night (Tuesday) and the next morning was still erratic. We escaped the rain yesterday and went to sunny, glorious Kihei to wring out our water logged bodies and dry out. Yes, there are darn good reasons to live in Kihei, which is why so many condos and hotels are there.  Hawaiian Tel did call us back on the way to Kihei and said there was a broken unit in Haiku and it affected all of Haiku.  The tech said it was the "D-slam" that was broken, whatever that was. There was no timeline on when it would be fixed. 

Finally, the internet is back up, after at least two full days. So, it wasn't the router, and it was Hawaiian Tel.

Trip shared some basic advice:

  • If you need faster internet service, then go with Roadrunner (Oceanic Cable). But keep in mind it does have outages. Before the major Hawaiian Tel outage a week ago, Trip would have said that Hawaiian Tel is the more reliable service, albeit not as fast. But it's functional for most people. 
  • If you need less expensive internet service, then go with Hawaiian Tel, which has been acting up this month.
  • If you need internet all the time, and cannot tolerate any disruption in service, get an account with both companies. If Roadrunner goes down, Hawaiian Tel is your back up. 
  • Also, there are devices called mifis which are mobile hot spot devices. They work too but are not ideal, even if they're supposed to be 4G. 
By the way, Oceanic Cable is notoriously slow about repair jobs on this island, maybe because they don't have enough technicians. It's not uncommon to hear complaints of people waiting for two weeks to get internet installed here, or to get it fixed after a problem.

Oh, what about Clearwire?
Well, I didn't even ask Trip about Clearwire, but a friend has it and she admits it can get really slow too - especially when everyone is on netflix or hulu at the same time.

Update 3/27/13: January of this year was another terrible month for internet, and there was erratic service throughout Maui and the rest of the state, due to issues with Oceanic Cable. If it's not one company, it's another. Even major hotels have slow internet from time to time. Some people even resort to mifis when the regular service goes out. 

Also is there 4G service on Maui? Ha!  Supposedly there is, but in reality, there isn't. Who knows? It may happen this year. 

Update 1/7/15: Many visitors in Kihei, the beautiful sunny south side of Maui, have been complaining about grindingly slow and erratic internet since December. What's going on? Apparently, Oceanic Cable, one of the two major high speed internet providers, does not have enough infrastructure to support the extensive internet use during high season. High season is the peak tourist season, when most visitors come to Maui.

Update 2/15/15: Even the University of Hawaii now thinks that Maui has ridiculously slow internet speeds. Maui County is now doing a study on Maui's crappy internet


  1. Really nice one on speed of the internet and the mechanism of connecting internet how it work fast.Thanks for the article.

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  2. Aloha Micah, I hope it's gotten better, but I haven't noticed an improvement w/ HawaiianTel. My internet is still erratic. Just came back from a trip to the mainland and I was amazed at how fast the internet was in different places in CA. Uploading the same size of videos, would take 8 hours here vs. 1 hour there. HawaiianTel told me that you can change the "channel" of your router to something on the far end of the scale like 1 or 6, as opposed to the default that it starts with. I don't remember exactly how to do it, but the tech people can walk through it. The idea is that if you change the channel to something that not everyone else is using, that you'll get faster service. Maybe it makes a little bit of difference. Also, when it's windy, we have a theory that the telephone lines move more, which also affects speed.


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