How Native Hawaiians Took Internet Access Into Their Own Hands (Episode 88)

Date: 26 Dec 2019 | posted in: Building Local Power | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Host Christopher Mitchell interviews Matt Rantanen, Director of Technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association, and Brandon Makaawaawa, Deputy Head of State for Nation of Hawaii while attending the Internet Society’s 3rd Annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit. Christopher, Matt, and Brandon discuss how the digital divide has impacted native Hawaiians and what communities are doing about it. They also discuss:

  • The difficult history of the nation of Hawaii and how it has left indigenous people without sovereign nation status and access to funding.
  • How Brandon’s community built the first community broadband network in Hawaii after large telecom corporations left them without connectivity.
  • The significance of the Indigenous Connectivity Summit and the role of the Internet Society in promoting equitable Internet access.


With the lack of [Internet] provision by the existing incumbents to the Native American communities, it is our duty to provide for ourselves and dictate our future and become self-determined.


Hibba Meraay: Welcome back everyone to another episode of Building Local Power. I’m Hibba Meraay, communications manager at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and our community abroad band director. Chris Mitchell is here to tell you a little bit more about today’s interview. Hey Chris.
Chris Mitchell: Howdy. How are you?
Hibba Meraay: I’m good. How are you doing today?
Chris Mitchell: I think I’m doing really good today cause I’m not actually working today. We’re recording this ahead of time since it’s the day after Christmas and right in the middle of a nice little break that we’re taking. So I hope that people are having a happy holidays and preparing for a wonderful new year and all that sort of stuff. But I’m definitely excited to talk about this wonderful story about Hawaii. I was just going to make a reference to the famous Hawaiian Christmas song, but I think, or this the Christmas song that’s about Hawaii, but I’ll save that.
Hibba Meraay: It would be great if you could actually sing us a little portion of that song.
Chris Mitchell: This would be the episode that if we could have analytics for, nobody would listen past the third minute. If I started to sing, it would just be over. I was actually trying to work this out statistically, I think I am in the less than one percentile of people who can sing.
Hibba Meraay: Oh-no.
Chris Mitchell: I have the worst absolute worst singing, so I won’t do that.
Hibba Meraay: Okay. So maybe we’ll just stick to talking about the interview then.
Chris Mitchell: That’s probably safe.
Hibba Meraay: So you met the folks that you interviewed at the Internet Society’s 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit. Can you tell us what is the Internet Society?
Chris Mitchell: Yes, so this is actually an organization that I didn’t know enough about until recently and they’re in the news a lot for reasons that we’ll talk about. But when the Internet was being commercialized, Vint Cerf and several other people that whose names I should know, but I am not recalling right now, they were wanting to make sure there was an organization that would promote the values of the Internet in many ways and make sure that it lived up to the hope of being, a technology that was used for tech, for communicating, for promoting people’s good values that people would be able to use it and specifically that everyone would be able to use it in a safe manner. So they both promote connectivity and also things like encryption and security practices and keeping people well informed. They’ve been funded by money that every time someone registers a .org name.
Chris Mitchell: So when reregister ILSR, which is the first part of for instance, $1 every year goes to the Internet Society. And that makes up their budget in which that they then use for programs around the world to get people connected and help them to use the Internet in a safe manner.
Hibba Meraay: That’s awesome. So like you all mentioned is actually the Third Indigenous Connectivity’s Summit put on by the Internet Society, and you talk a little bit about what the connectivity summit is and past ones that have been going on. But my question for you is why is it even significant that there is an Indigenous Conductivity Summit?
Chris Mitchell: Well, the North American Internet Society Organization, which is actually run in part one of the people who’s helping out with it now, I forget her exact position, is Katie Watson, Katie Jordan now, who used to be working with us at Next Century Cities, and I’ve tremendous respect for the work that she’s done. But she and Mark Buell and others at the Internet Society, North America, recognize that tribal lands in North America are some of the least connected and on a trajectory that suggests they’re not about to be connected unless they take action. And so they started this event three years ago, I believe. Maybe it was technically two years ago where the first one was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The second one was in the Arctic Circle among the, I believe the community was the Inuvik, but I might’ve mispronounced that a little bit.
Chris Mitchell: And then this third one was in Hawaii split between the Big Island where the conference was and Waimanalo on the Island of Oahu, which is a fairly rural part of Oahu, which is where Honolulu is, not very far away and is quite large. And I want to note that even I had some reservations about going because you take money from people that are making our work possible and I tell them I’m going to Hawaii to work. People have questions.
Chris Mitchell: One of the things that, I mean it’s legitimate, but one of the things I found was that even, this is a problem even in Congress, among committees, the native Hawaiians have really been, I think under invested in and under appreciated because there’s a real lack of groups that will travel out there for events because of that perception that it’s more of a vacation. And so in retrospect, I think it’s important that we do pay attention to these areas and do what we can to help them to develop and just have the rights that they need rather than feeling like it would look bad if we’re doing events that are out there because there’s been a lot of events in which they have trouble getting people to go there.
Hibba Meraay: That’s such an interesting point, but I feel like they’re not mutually exclusive. You could go to Hawaii for work and also enjoy the scenery there. But I want to get back to what you said about rural, because this is a really interesting situation where the community that built their own network that you talked about in the episode is technically not that far away from the main major city. And so it’s not technically classified as a rural in that makes it get left out of the picture for getting rural funding. Basically. I thought that was super interesting because it’s really a blind spot in public policy. Right? And I’m wondering is there any way around this? Or where else is this happening?
Chris Mitchell: Hawaii was formed by volcanoes and so it’s not flat, which, I think of things in terms of Minnesota, which is also not flat technically. We have a lot of nice hills people don’t give us credit for our wonderful hills, but when you do a look at the way the federal government considers rural, there’s a certain distance away from more urban areas. And as the crow flies, parts of Oahu are very close to Honolulu, but topographically they’re quite far away effectively. And so that is not picked up. And I think we see that in other places too. I mean, I think Kentucky may well suffer from this where you have places that are quite close as the crow flies, but it could be quite far in terms of an actual road that will get you there. And so I think this is again, why local self reliance is important and we should have more local decision making because what appears to be rural or urban and DC may not actually be on the ground.
Hibba Meraay: Yeah, I think that’s right. It’s such a cool story of how tribal communities are really saying, okay, we’re not, these definitions aren’t serving us, so we’re going to make better connectivity happen for ourselves. So I think we’ve given a pretty good overview of the conversation. But I do have one last question for you. Chris. Can you let us in on the controversy around ISOC?
Chris Mitchell: Yes, this has been something particularly worrying nonprofit organizations and I think there’s a lot of complications involved that make it so that it’s not clear that one side is right or wrong, but there’s been a number of petitions that listeners may be aware of regarding the management of .org and there’s been some changes in the recent year that removed the price cap, which is to say that the price of renewing the .org domain. So for instance, roughly $15 a year to keep it going, that price could theoretically go up quite a bit. Shortly after that happened, the Internet Society, which manages that decided to sell it to an organization that is private equity. And I think many of us here have a knee jerk reaction against private equity and I think a lot of people legitimately have that same reaction.
Chris Mitchell: But in this case I feel like the Internet Society side of why they’re doing that hasn’t been told and Unit society is an organization that, like I said, the North America chapter, I’m very impressed with what they’re focusing on and I think it’s very important the work that they’re, and as we’ve seen more domain names like .biz and .info, the number registrations we expect in the future will be declining.
Chris Mitchell: And so Internet Society viewed this as an opportunity for them to get out of managing domain names, which they don’t want to do and to have a stable revenue source through this endowment that they’ll get from selling their management of it that would allow them then to be, have a predictable revenue stream in the future for doing these kinds of programs. I think that’s entirely justifiable. I wouldn’t want to peg my financial future on just one source of income. At the same time, I think some people have accused some ISOC chapters of being not as well run or as well focused. And so, there’s all kinds of reasons to be I think to have concerns. But I’ve come down on this in that I think some of the people that are, that are very worried don’t know enough about what Internet Society is doing or why this has made sense even though there’s some issues that should have been more transparent.
Chris Mitchell: And so I don’t want to I don’t want to go any deeper into it, but I wanted to put that out there cause I feel like there hasn’t been a lot of defenses of ISOC or balance. So I’m not telling people that they should support the way this is going or not. But I think it’s important to note that there are some good reasons for Internet Society to not want to be doing domain management and to focus instead on these sorts of programs. And I hope that no matter what happens and how we move forward, that we see the Internet Society able to focus more on these kinds of events and programs to really make a significant difference. I mean, as we’re about to hear, the Internet Society itself, led to the creation of a community wireless network, which is bringing this high quality Internet access to people who would not have had it otherwise. People who did not have a lot of resources who were stuck with these hotspots. And so I have tremendous respect for what Internet Society’s doing in this and I really hope they’re able to continue doing it moving forward.
Hibba Meraay: Those are all great points. I think I’ve heard some murmurings around the controversy just like within the nonprofit community. And so that’s super helpful to know. And like you said, the goal is that they really continue to focus on the programming, right? So that there can be not just three indigenous connectivity summits but like four and five and 10 and more community networks. So yeah, give that episode of listen folks, we hope that you’re enjoying it. Maybe next to your nicely decorated tree with some hot cocoa in hand. That’s what I’ll be doing. So great.
Chris Mitchell: Yes, and maybe join us in Winnipeg next year. That’s where the next one will be for the Indigenous Connectivity Summit in Winnipeg in 2020
Hibba Meraay: Awesome. Now to the interview.
Chris Mitchell: It’s Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and today I’m back with Matt Rantanen and a new guest, Brandon Makaawaawa who’s from Waimanalo. Welcome to the show.
Brandon: Aloha. Thank you man. I mean Chris.
Chris Mitchell: No, that’s fine. That’s totally perfect for the intro. Matt, who are you?
Matt Rantanen: Matt Rantanen, director of technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Association. I’m also partnering in business development for Arcadian Infracom who’s building fiber across the Southwest of the United States through the Navajo nation.
Chris Mitchell: We are here for the Internet Society, and we’re starting on the big Island for two days of background on what all kinds of North American indigenous connectivity, what’s happening there. And that’s sort of a space. And I’m going to give the mic back to Matt in a second to go a little bit deeper. But we’re going to be going over to Waimanalo to actually build a community network. And this is going to be, I mean, we’re not just talking about like how to build it. We’re going to go learn how to build it and literally turn screws and attach wireless devices to things. And you’re going to have connectivity when we’re done and you’re going to be in charge of me and keep going after that. So, Matt, why are we here? What is this Indigenous Connectivity Summit from the Internet Society?
Matt Rantanen: So this is the third annual Indigenous connectivity Summit, and it’s really an opportunity for indigenous folks to get together to support the concepts
Matt Rantanen: -building networks and bringing community networks together to share opportunity, for those who want to build new community networks, those who want to solve problems within their community networks and those who want to understand policy and funding and an opportunity around this space. We feel that, with the lack of provision by the existing incumbents to the Native American communities, it is our duty to provide for ourselves and dictate our future and become self-determined.
Matt Rantanen: So this is the third Indigenous Connectivity Summit. First one was held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and that kicked it off. We had tribes from Canada and the US convene for the very first time and we were able to have conversations and realize the value of this group getting together. It spawned a lot of projects. A lot of networks were being built because of that actual meeting. And I can specifically address three of those projects, having consulted as a free service to our own communities.
Matt Rantanen: The second one was held in Inuvik, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. A very extreme change in temperature, geographic location, and a completely different place. Amazingly enough, the same exact problems, the same exact issues with connectivity and access to communications. And here we are in Hawaii and we see the same thing.
Brandon Makaawaawa: The problem for our community at least is, Hawaii is a pretty small place. We don’t fit the usual description of what rural is because everything’s within less than a hundred miles. We’re less than a hundred miles to the city of Honolulu. We’re less than actually 20 miles. So we’re not really recognized technically as a rural area. So sometimes we get left out of the picture as far as getting rural funds to us to have companies like the one we deal with, which is Hawaii Telcom, to actually come out to us. So they gave us this whole speil of, “It’s not economically feasible.” And so when that happens, our community gets disenfranchised. It gets pushed back and it gets ostracized and it gets suppressed even more. And so we feel that this opportunity now with the Internet Society and them coming out and helping to kind of spearhead this initiative to build our own network so that we, like how Matt said, we can self-determine our future, falls right in line to what we do as the Nation of Hawaii in Waimanalo.
Brandon Makaawaawa: The Nation of Hawaii is our organization that actually governs over our lands where this network will be put up. Now this is the first time that we have actually partnered with the state of Hawaii, with Burt Lum, with the DBED department. Burt Lum is actually the strategy expert on implementing broadband across Hawaii. So he went to one of the Internet Society Indigenous Connectivity Summit’s last year and he got them to say that, “Hey, why don’t you come out to Hawaii next year? Because we have communities out here that actually need the help.” And so when he came back, he tried to look for an indigenous community that could kind of fit the parameters that would be able to run their own network. But Hawaii is a very unique place. Native Hawaiians aren’t federally recognized. And we come from a history of, in 1893 our people, we had a sovereign and independent nation and that nation was overthrown with the help of America and businessmen.
Brandon Makaawaawa: And so for over 125 years, we’ve been stuck kind of in this limbo of not really getting federal funding, not really getting any kind of assistance. We’ve just been kind of stuck out here to kind of figure it out on our own. It wasn’t until 1993 when President Clinton signed the Apology Law that the federal government and the state ever acknowledged the wrongdoings that had happened. And at that time, the leader of the Nation of Hawaii, he organized a bunch of houseless Hawaiians to actually occupy lands that the federal government had just apologized for stealing. And so we actually leveraged that occupation, which was at a beach called Makapu’u into the first ever sovereign Hawaiian land base in existence.
Brandon Makaawaawa: So for the last 25 years, we’ve been in a village called Pu`uhonua O Waimanalo, where we have our own autonomy, where we have our own set of rules. We don’t ask the state of Hawaii what to do. If we need houses, we build them. If we need roads, we build it. And so this is the first time that the state of Hawaii, through somebody like Burt Lum, had the vision to look at us as, “Hey, these guys might have the way for us to bring something like the Indigenous Connectivity Summit here without having to go through the usual red tape that the state has to go through and the federal governments have to go through.”
Brandon Makaawaawa: And we just met everybody in June and this is November and we’re rolling already and it’s happening. And so I think just our involvement alone allowed the state to live up to what Burt wanted to do, which was bring the conference to us. And in turn, we have finally found a mutual goal, which is to build our own community broadband network, because this will be the first ever in the state of Hawaii.
Chris Mitchell: Right? There are no community networks to my knowledge and not to yours either.
Brandon Makaawaawa: None at all.
Chris Mitchell: So that’s a good description of the collective situation. I want to just quickly get a better sense of you personally. For people who aren’t sitting in the room with us, which is everyone on the planet except for us. The two of you, I mean, Matt, you’re like six foot 20, and Brandon and you’re like six foot 30. Did you get into this because, as the tallest person, it would be easier for you to put radios up?
Brandon Makaawaawa: Well, my uncle is not six 30 but he’s pretty intimidating. So if he wants to do something, he tells me to do it, I just do it.
Chris Mitchell: Who’s your uncle?
Brandon Makaawaawa: My uncle is the Head of State of the Nation of Hawaii. His name is Dennis “Bumpy” Kanahele. You guys can Google him. He’s a controversial figure in our Hawaiian community. But he stood for what is right and he being this independence force in Hawaii, he’s always open to the opportunity for us to take advantage of situations such as this. And we felt that it was a no brainer. If we had people like the State of Hawaii, like Burt Lum involved, we had people like Internet Society, which was so gracious in lending their expertise, bringing in other partnerships that actually helped us push through this initiative without us coming out of pocket.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Because of our stance, we’ve been kind of ostracized here and so anytime we want to do something, we got to come out of pocket for everything. And so this is a no brainer for us. If they’re going to provide the service and they want to do it, we know how important the Internet is. Without the Internet, we’d have to rely on regular media and regular media doesn’t really paint us in the best picture. So Internet is very vital to our community and not having that access is a weakness that we see that is now going to be fulfilled with this summit.
Matt Rantanen: I think one of the things that I’ve seen in the last 18 years of working in community wireless and working with 573 federally recognized tribes, and now native Hawaiians, I think that Brandon, to me, you are the champion of this.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Oh, thank you.
Matt Rantanen: Your uncle is obviously the motivator and Uncle Bumpy is wonderful, but you are the one that will probably take lead and manage the determination of the future of this network and how it evolves and work with your people to grow this. And that’s the required element in every situation, in Indian country across the United States, across Canada, and across other continents in the world, is you have to have somebody on the ground that embraces the technology, embraces the concept of the network and what it means to the community, and is the champion of that. And so that’s how I see you. And since you’re bigger than me, yeah, you’re my champion.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Yeah, no, thank you Matt. And we’re growing into this, but we see the potential of how high speed Internet access lifts up communities and it’s all about empowerment today. We can’t be stuck in this victimhood thing where we’re just going to accept whatever is given to us. No, we have to find ways to create independence and to create situations where our people prosper and it’s governed and controlled by our people. And so creating this community network, it just fits. It fits what we do and it fits where we’re going, which is for total independence for our people. To have the best opportunities that everybody else has. And so this is an empowering event.
Chris Mitchell: And so to build on that a little bit you’re not seeing this just as the technology.
Brandon Makaawaawa: No.
Chris Mitchell: It’s not just about having better broadband Internet access in Waimanalo.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Right.
Chris Mitchell: So why is the community ownership important? And you mentioned how it fits into the greater independence struggle, but tell me a little bit more about why that community ownership has been important to you.
Brandon Makaawaawa: I think for us it’s having practical means to create independence. So ownership is a big one. Creating economy is another big one. Creating political action, creating social movements. You need an economy to fund these things. We can’t stand frontline and protests every single development that comes in because we won’t ever survive like that. We need to have a voice. We need to have resources behind us so that when these colonizing or when these multinational corporations want to come in here with their big bucks and their money and their whatever they want to do, they can’t just force their way in here because somebody is going to be in the place and we’ve already taken up that position, and so they’ve got to work with us now.
Brandon Makaawaawa: So that’s why it’s so important for us. Not just with the Internet, but with everything we’re trying to create independently, is that we need to start solving our own solution, stop outsourcing to other companies and corporations because we’re just trading one colonizer for another. And so the more that we eliminate these dependencies on, whether it’s the government that hasn’t treated us right or these multinational corporations that talk a good game, but when they come in, they take over everything and then we’re stuck. This kind of helps.
Matt Rantanen: What we’ve seen along those lines is that tribes are able to be proactive instead of reactive to issues. They can be involved in the issue when it’s just in conversation before it actually becomes a law or becomes written down as a rulemaking. You can be involved in the conversation if you have access to the Internet because you have the current flow of information, you’re not getting secondhand or information delivered to you.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Exactly.
Matt Rantanen: You’re actually part of the information flow.
Chris Mitchell: So let’s talk now about the prep work. So you don’t have very good connectivity now. What have you had to do to prepare for the building of the community network?
Brandon Makaawaawa: We dug our own trenches. Working with Hawaiian Tel, now, in this new capacity where the state is involved, it kind of gave us an opportunity to kind of push Hawaiian Tel closer to working with us. And so in that sense, that was good. But then also when they come onto our land like I was talking about, it’s our land. We govern it, we do the work on it, and so it was only right that we’re the ones that dug our own trenching and laid our own conduits. And so we did that. From the street level up to our building where we will have the main hub. We dug a
Brandon Makaawaawa: -600 foot long trench. Luckily we have good operators in the village, we have good machines, we have good foremans, that they have experience laying all kinds of different plumbing pipeline for our houses, electrical, roadway. So something like this, it might seem amazing to a lot of people, but for us it’s just part of the gig. We’re used to it. We’re used to getting dirty. We’re used to getting down, because that’s the only way things are going to get done. We can’t wait for somebody else to come in and do it for us. And so we’ve dug trenching. With Hawaiian Tel, we pulled the fiber in. We set up hubs to where all the new equipment that’s going to go in to build the mesh net around our village is ready to go. We sunk a telephone pole down at the bottom of the village because we will have two entry points.
Brandon Makaawaawa: And so, yeah, no, we’re game for everything. And a lot of this prep work that we’ve done is just stuff that we’ve done in the past. But now it relates to Internet and broadband access.
Matt Rantanen: And call it trial by fire, but it is a great experience builder. When you’re forced to have to dig your own trench, to lay your own conduit, to have fiber brought in. You are much further along than most community networks before you even have the first connectivity lit. Most people have some sort of delivery of service that they start using before they actually start building infrastructure, really heavy duty infrastructure, and this is great to see you get that experience and now you know what it takes.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Right, mahalo.
Chris Mitchell: So what are we going to be doing the next two days in Waimanalo?
Brandon Makaawaawa: Well we’ll probably be eating some good Hawaiian food.
Chris Mitchell: Some lau lau I hear.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Some lau lau. We’ll probably be checking out the scenery. But we’ll be in there and we’ll be building the network. And we’d like to thank Baicells for bringing in the equipment and helping to donate all of that. And we’re just kind of looking to see and experience finishing this whole thing off. We did the first part. Now we’re bringing in the technical side, we’re bringing in some of the experts from around the world that’ll come in. To me, I just want to see how this takes place, because we have so much experts here. It’s going to be like 150 guys changing one light bulb. And so I want to see how this is organized. Who’s the chief and who’s the Indians and who’s going to make it go?
Brandon Makaawaawa: But that’s part of the excitement. And we kind of spread this story out amongst our network and amongst our community, so everybody’s excited. So we’re expecting a couple hundred people to be there and just kind of watch and learn. And we’re just so excited to get this network going. But hopefully by Friday we’ll be totally lit up. But I think-
Chris Mitchell: That’s the second day.
Brandon Makaawaawa: That’s the second day.
Chris Mitchell: So, the first Day Two.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Right, right, right. So the first day I guess, we’ll be in a training with Baicells in the morning, and then we’ll be kind of watching the experts kind of light up that first line. And then the second day they’ll just kind of shadow us and whatever we learned on the first day we’ll do for the second entry point and we’ll see if we did a good job on that and we’ll try and light it up then.
Chris Mitchell: So what are the connections going to in this initial round of the network.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Okay. The first connection is actually going to our front gate so that we can kind of get around this huge tree that is in the way of getting this connection down to the bottom part of our village.
Chris Mitchell: Sorry, when you say a huge tree-
Brandon Makaawaawa: I’m tall.
Chris Mitchell: -as I said before, you’re already tall. You’re a big guy.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Yeah. I’m talking like 150 foot tall, a hundred feet wide. It’s probably more than a hundred feet wide, 200 foot wide banyan tree. And this equipment doesn’t go through that type of you know.
Chris Mitchell: I don’t think much of anything goes through a banyan tree.
Brandon Makaawaawa: I don’t think so either. And so we had to do two installations. So the first installation is going to go kind of at the bottom of our village near our front gate. And then the second installation is actually going to go to our community hall, which is actually set up on a hill that overlooks all the homes. And so I guess from there we’re going to shoot the mesh network called and connect to all the homes from there. It’s kind of a central hub and a place where everything can kind of originate and be spread out.
Matt Rantanen: Yeah, that’s almost exactly right. And the design of the network is designed because of geography, which is typical to tribal installations. Most tribes are in very geographically diverse areas that have obstacles and you have to get creative to be able to deploy the network to all the people. And you have it right. I mean we’re going to… Spencer Sevilla and Mariel Triggs and myself and a few others are going to do some demonstration of product and probably show how the installation of the of one or two pieces goes, and then we’d love to hand it over and have you do that because experience in hands on is the key. Because then we know that you’ve done it, you’ve experienced the process and there’s success after that because you can rely on yourself and your knowledge of what happened. And if we shadow and just offer suggestion or support, it’s a great way to start this. And hands on is how most tribal people learn. Visual and hands on. We’re all about seeing what happens and how it works.
Chris Mitchell: So let me ask you, and I want to follow up in maybe a year or two to see how accurate this is. How do you think this is going to change things? Like what’s the result going to be of this network?
Brandon Makaawaawa: Well already it’s kind of brought in this new excitement to our village, and we’re so independent and we’re so used to doing things on our own and just scratching and crawling just to get roads in there and just to get houses built, that this’ll kind of just bring us up to modern times because honestly, our network is nonexistent. We have no Internet access in our village right now. So most of our things are run off of cellular data, off of hotspots, which can be really expensive. And that kind of cuts into the things that we could do otherwise. So first off, it’s going to save us a lot of money by doing this. Secondly, it’s going to enhance our reach because we rely a lot on social media. We rely a lot on the Internet for research and development issues and to stay connected with the world because we believe that connectivity is actually the real sovereignty that is emerging around the world.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Because we’re not trapped behind these political barriers, these landlocked barriers. We’re not going to be fighting over land anymore. We feel that with this Internet connection, it’s the beginning of the rise of a digital nation and we want to be the people on the forefront of that. So just this opportunity alone allows us to imagine and to hope and to bring excitement to our village. Because with the Internet, with stuff like blockchain technology, stuff like cryptocurrency, e-commerce, just connecting with these people that have these experiences and expertise in technology and innovation that the state governments and the federal governments are not bringing to us. So now we don’t need them. Now we can go around them, we can go through them, we can go to anywhere around the world and connect with people that want to help. And so it’s a way for us to improve our political, economic and social standards. And just raise the standards of life inside our village and eventually to the rest of the Hawaiian population around the other islands.
Chris Mitchell: Great. Well thank you so much Brandon Makaawaawa from Waimanalo. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Brandon Makaawaawa: Mahalo, Chris. Thank you for having me. And thank you for Matt and thank you to ISOC and everybody that’s here. We really appreciate what’s going on. And this year it’s about us, but when we’re lit up, we’re ready to help everybody else. So it’s about empowering, and it’s about empowering every single community after this. If we can be an example of hope, then let’s be that example. Let’s shine that light.
Chris Mitchell: You know, next year’s scheduled for Winnipeg, I think. I don’t know how often you’ve experienced a winter that far North, but I think we should move it to a little later, maybe January or February in Winnipeg.
Brandon Makaawaawa: You guys are the boss of cold. We’re just following you. So if you lead us into a blizzard, next time you come to Hawaii, we might take you to North Shore during December and teach you how to swim out there.
Stacy Mitchell: Thank you for listening to this episode of Building Local Power. You can find links to what we discussed today by going to our website and clicking on the show page for this episode. That’s And while you’re there, you can sign up for one of our newsletters or click the donate button to support our work. If you like this podcast, please consider rating and reviewing it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. This show is edited by Lisa Gonzalez and produced by Lisa, Hibba Meraay, and Zach Freed. Our theme music is Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL. For the Institute for Local Self Reliance, I’m Stacy Mitchell. We’ll see you again in two weeks for the next episode of Building Local Power.



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Audio Credit: Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL Ft: Fourstones – Scomber (Bonus Track). Copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

Photo Credit: ILSR’s Christopher Mitchell

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