Hawaii’s fastest internet connection

A little competition can be a good thing for Hawaii’s internet users. It’s only fitting that Hawaii’s largest phone company and Hawaii’s largest cable television operator provider compete to provide better service.

Service? That might be a sore spot for many of their respective customers. Local phone company Hawaiian Telcom has suffered through a couple of years of troublesome customer service issues. Fortunately, they’re not the only phone company in town. There are choices.

The cable television folks at Oceanic, somehow connected to the megalithic Time-Warner media company, is pretty much the only entertainment show in town, so we have to take what they give us.

When it comes to telephone service, they compete against each other, with the nod for dependability going to Hawaiian Telcom.

What about local internet service? Both Oceanic and Hawaiian Telcom claim the fastest service. Oceanic says their cable-based Road Runner service is the fastest internet service in Hawaii. Meanwhile, the local phone company touts their network as Hawaii’s fastest.

They both can’t be right, can they?

They’re not, and they are, all because it depends. What do you mean by fastest? By using a broad definition, loosely defined, and more loosely applied, both claim the speed title.

In general, dollar for dollar, there isn’t much difference between Road Runner and Hawaiian Telcom’s DSL service. For both, if you pay less, the speed is less. When you pay more the speed goes up.

Hawaiian Telcom’s 3 meg service (measured as a maximum download speed of 3 megabits per second) is only $19.99, which compares favorably to Oceanic’s Road Runner 1.5 which is half the speed but half again as much money, at $29.95.

For cheap and slow, it’s advantage Hawaiian Telcom.

In the middle, Road Runner’s basic plan is$44.95 for up to 5 megs, while Hawaiian Telcom gives up to 7 megs for only $39.99. Advantage, to the phone company.

For screaming fast internet service, Hawaiian Telcom’s 11 meg service is only $49.99, while Road Runner’s 8 meg service is $54.90, and the ultra fast 15 meg service is a whopping $69.90 per month.

Clearly, the average value comes from Hawaiian Telcom’s DSL service vs. Oceanic’s Road Runner connection. But there’s more than meets the eye to the comparable prices and so-called speed ratings.

Generally speaking, and unless you’re downloading huge files each day, there is little practical difference between 3 meg service and 7 meg service. Email, web page browsing all looks and feels pretty much the same, whether the connection is from Hawaiian Telcom or Oceanic. There’s also little difference at the high end, from 11 megs to 15 megs because few servers elsewhere on the internet can send you files that fast anyway. Call it overkill.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but take it from someone who has used both Road Runner and Hawaiian Telcom’s DSL services, the dependability prize goes to the phone company. Invariably, my Road Runner connection would disappear two or three times a week, or slow down to a horribly ugly snail’s pace for an hour or so in the early evening.

I’ve used DSL for about eight years and can count the number of times the service has been down on one hand. Oceanic managed to match that level of service finger for finger but did so each month. The dependability advantage goes easily to Hawaiian Telcom’s DSL internet service.

Guess what? DSL still works when the power goes out, which seems to be more frequent in the past couple of years. I added a three hour battery power supply to my home network which kept it running for three hours when the power went out during the earthquake a few years ago. Of course, power was out for 15 hours, but still… When the power goes out, so does cable television, the cable company’s digital phone service, and the Road Runner internet connection.

Who would have thought that the Beep Beep slogan of the Road Runner’s perfectly unblemished record would ever be toppled by a lowly, local phone company’s internet connection?


  1. says

    The condo I’m renting has high-speed Internet. But I’ve learned from past experiences that “high-speed” means different things to different companies! I’m praying that mine is half decent!!


  2. johnny kim says

    You are absolutely positively correct. There is not much difference in ‘speed’ between RR and DSL, but there is a big difference in reliability and dependability. DSL rocks, RR sucks. It is as simple as that.

    I have had the same problems with RR at night. It seemed like that is when everyone started using RR to download files. I switched to DSL and don’t have that problem.

  3. LMaui says

    I have Earthlink Cable and my speeds never drop under 4000 with little lag. I have had Earthlink Cable or RR for 5 or 6 years and have had only 2 outages not counting the earthquake outage. I pay only $41.95 per month.

    Oceanic handles both RR and Earthlink Cable.

    I have never had speed drops like I hear from some people. I do live in a new subdivision outside Wailuku, maybe I am lucky but wanted to add my support for cable.

    I also have helped a lot of people that have Hawaii Telcom and have trouble with their service, both email problems, bandwidth problems and just plain screwups.

    I guess there are good and bad stories about each service and in the end when they are working as advertised there is little difference.

  4. says

    I totally concur with the above post by Zach074. I too have measured Oceanic’s Roadrunner speeds and what they mean is that you pay royally for what you don’t get. Their so-called “high-speed” internet resembles an average range between 230 kbs to 1000 Kbs, with surges that rarely if ever go above 2000 kbs, far short of the promised 3 Mbs.

    So, while RR speed fluctuates, I have never, never in the 10 years I’ve had Roadrunner (has it been 10 years already?) seen any of the advertised speeds. There are plenty of websites that allow one to measure one’s broadband speeds and I have consulted them all. As of today I have an alternative in the form of Clearwire WIMAX and this is how it compares using different speed tests:
    RR download 473 kbs, upload 233 ks VS Clear download 1588 kbs, upload 340 kbs (via speedtest.net);
    RR download 509 kbs, upload 62 kbs VS Clear download 1938 kbs, upload 237 kbs;
    RR download 2139 kbs, upload 225 kbs VS Clear download 3256 kbs, upload 387 kbs;
    RR download 993.7 kbs VS Clear download 1800 kbs

    Yesterday and today I did several tests of RR before I went out and got Clearwire with the following motivating results:
    RR download 234 kbs, upload 24 kbs
    RR download 690 kbs, upload 15 kbs
    RR download 570 kbs, upload 70 kbs
    RR download 720 kbs, upload 20 kbs
    RR download 990 kbs, upload 60 kbs

    I also purchased the Clearwire WIMAX USB wireless modem for my laptop to free myself from hotspots for $20 more per month, with the following results:
    1812 kbs/221 kbs
    1547 kbs/189 kbs
    4710 kbs/200 kbs
    1660 kbs/110 kbs

    It is fair to mention that even Clearwire’s speeds in Hawaii appear to lag compared to mainland speeds, according to the averages posted along the speed tests, but even then Oceanic/Warner Roadrunner looks far worse.
    It’s also interesting to note that one test, from Intel, showed RR’s speed between DSL and Cable, while Clearwire sat between T1 and T3, a dramatic difference. So, in conclusion, for an extra $20/mo I more than doubled my internet speed and gained a USB laptop modem with very similar speeds. Most importantly, Roadrunner’s robbery has come to an end.

  5. k4ylr says

    The only downside to Hawaii TelCom’s service is that you need to have an already established land line to get their 11Mbps speeds. If, like me, you move into a brand new house which does not have an established phone line, you have to jump through a series of hoops to even work your way up to their internet-only service.

    While RR offers an advertised 5Mbit line. My speed tests return a down speed of double if not triple (on occasion) their advertised speed.

    I was intrigued by Hawaiian Tel’s 11mbit offer but the near-month waiting period of prorated bills, lesser service and payment for a phone line far outweighed the 2 week wait I had for TWC Oceanic.

    So in the end pick and chose since the non power user will not notice a marked difference between the 2 (unless you live at the end if the string for the DSL :[)

    PS: I’m in East, BI

  6. Bill says

    Not sure what k4ylr is saying about jumping through hoops, just got Hawaii TelCom’s basic internet service for $29.99/mo, no need to get a phone line. We went to their office to pick up the modem (which is FREE!), they would have shipped it but we wanted it right away. It was a self-install kit, it was easy my wife did it.

    Wow it works way better than RoadRunner so far…no more of the annoying downtime everyone else is talking about. RR was a nightmare, virtually unusable all evening from 6-9 when I am home.

  7. Kanekahuna says

    I have used RR for a few years now and have only had a handful of issues. I do use haw tel at work and the speed is terrible. It takes forever to even download a 2mb email file. Also here on Kauai there is no service center for anyone to go to, if you call them it is always an hour and a half wait or longer with a service call always being a week or two away if you are lucky. I am an IT professional and always recommend rr and have had many people switch to rr and they love it. I will admit I hate the way rr shapes traffic on large files but they make up for it with prompt customer service and they have a local office to go to.