HONOLULU (AP) – Hawaii leaders want to create a new state agency to oversee Internet providers and encourage them to speed up their connections.

Gov. Linda Lingle and legislators introduced bills Wednesday that would establish a Hawaii Communications Commission to regulate all Internet service providers, including phone and cable.

The plan doesn't go much further than that in outlining how Internet companies will be pushed to offer high-speed service, known as broadband. And it doesn't propose any extra state funding for the project because it will be paid for by existing fees.

"Although we know that broadband is an essential component, essential communications infrastructure, we don't know what it is, and we're still trying to define it," said David Lassner, chairman of the Hawaii Broadband Task Force.

The new communications commission would be a first step toward bringing truly fast Internet speeds to Hawaii, Lassner said.

Although current speeds are fast enough for residential users, a quicker Internet is needed for businesses, classrooms and hospitals that use video conferencing and large data transfers, officials said.

"Maybe if there's more competition, we'll find out consumers want other things, as well, if there are more things available," Lingle said. "We have to make these kinds of changes."

Hawaii and the rest of the United States have fallen behind countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore, which offer much faster Internet services.

The measure's goals are to eventually increase Internet penetration, make it available to low-income groups, increase sharing of broadband infrastructure and streamline permitting processes.

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