A HISTORY OF THE "TELEPHONE COMPANY" IN HAWAII--Part
Prompted by the pending acquisition of Verizon Hawaii by The Carlyle
Group, we started a concise history of telecom in Hawaii last week.
We left off at the beginning of World War I. In 1918, Mutual
absorbed Maui Telephone and began construction of an expanded
central office. The automatic switching equipment installed
could handle 20,000 lines.
The first strike against Mutual was called by the IBEW, beginning on
May 3, 1920. Approximately 75 of Mutual's employees were union
members, including 60 linemen.
During negotiations before the Public Utilities Commission, Mutual
surprised everyone by voluntarily offering a general wage increase
totaling $87,000 a year if the PUC would approve it.
Operators were raised from $62.50 a month to $80.00; switchmen rose
to $8.00 a day, linemen to $5.50 a day.
But Mutual tied the increase by asking the PUC to approve rate
increases to cover 80 percent o the wage boost. The PUC granted an
increase but not the full 80 percent. Mutual, though, raised rate
residence wall phones to $3.75 from $3.50 per month, and business
line to $7.50 from $6.00.
In 1921, Mutual built and deployed its first unattended exchange
Laimi Road (Nuuanu). Serving 200 subscribers, the exchange would
pass calls to and from subscribers in the area and would be a
clearing house (relay station) from the area and the main cables.
By late 1922, 11 percent of the plant--1,200 lines--was serviced by
now three unattended exchanges. These exchanges reduced the number
of lines from the served area from 200 to 43 to central office
Stats released from 1921 reflected the total number of calls
completed was 26 million; phones in use 11,383; wages and salaries
paid $381,374; plant investment rose to $1,965,274.; Taxes paid
In 1923, Mutual, Hawaiian Electric and Honolulu Rapid Transit came
to an agreement to share poles. And Mutual continued to bury its
lines underground. At the end of 1923, 54.3 percent of the lines
were buried for a total of 22,440 miles. The company also had 25
motorized trucks, retiring almost all of its horse-drawn wagons.
In 1926, Kauai Telephone with 626 lines was absorbed by Mutual.
In 1928, a new 1,200-line exchange was installed to cover Punahou,
Manoa, Waikiki and Moiliili Districts.
November 2, 1931 saw the final accomplishment of inter-island
radiotelephone with four channels deployed after 20 years of trying:
Oahu-Hawaii, Oahu-Maui, Oahu-Kauai and Hawaii-Maui. Now each Island
could call the Mainland and vice versa. On the first day of service,
165 paid call were completed earning Mutual $700.00.
On November 20, the first transPacific and transMainland calls were
completed from Honolulu to Washington, D.C. A total of 16 calls were
completed that day earning Mutual $579.
At the end of 1931--after 49 years of service--the number of phones
in service was 24,983.
Next week we cover up to the end of World War II
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Part 1 HERE
Part 2 HERE