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As the pending Carlyle purchase of Verizon Hawai'i draws closer, we continue with our multi-part history of telecommunications in Hawai'i. Last week we left off on the threshold of Hawai'i Statehood.

In August, 1959, Statehood became reality after decades of attempts. At Hawaiian Telephone--the new name for Mutual Telephone--growth was spurred by the Territory's new status.

By the end of 1960, Hawaiian Telephone had 200,000 lines installed.  These customers now had dial service assistance and toll-free dialing on all islands was operational. This feat made the Island of Hawaii the single largest toll-free calling area in the United States.

On May 23, 1960, the Big Isle was hit by tsunami causing one of six island phones to be destroyed or out of service. Inbound calls to the Big Island increased by 180 percent as friends and family tried to reach residents.

In 1961 Hawaiian Telephone was named by the FCC as one of the telecos to the a satellite development committee.

Also in 1961, the company gave communications support to Project Mercury, NASA's first manned space flight program. The support continued through the Gemini and Apollo programs.

In 1963, the British Commonwealth completed an undersea cable from Canada to New Zealand and Australia via Hawai'i.

In 1964, the first undersea cable between Hawai'i and Japan was laid, by way of Midway, Wake and Guam. At the same time, a second cable between Hawai'i and the U.S. Mainland was installed with Japan's KDD and AT&T and RCA as partners.

Within two years, the focus was in the sky, not under the ocean with completion of the Comsat's first earth station at Paumalu on the O'ahu's north shore. This coincided with the deployment of the first Lani Bird satellite.

The first direct benefit to Hawai'i's residents was the first live television broadcast from the Mainland--the Nov. 19, 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State football game.

Also, the late sixties saw the construction of the company's new 17-story "tower" on Bishop Street.

On May 17, 1967, Hawaiian Telephone ceased to be a local Hawai'i company when it was purchased by General Telephone & Telegraph [GTE].
The company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of GET and the name was changed to GTE Hawaiian Telephone.

By the end o 1967, Touch-Tone dialing was introduced and the company had 350,000 phones in service.

In 1970, the company its largest--1,700 line--PABX in the Ala Moana Hotel. It also installed the highest phones in the state at the observatories on Mauna Kea and Haleakala.

Back in 1966, the company began converting all phone numers to seven digits in anticipation of direct distance dialing. 1970 was the first year that any phone in the state could be reached directly from outside. In 1971, O'ahu customer could direct dial out of state, and by 1973, all customers statewide had two-way direct dial.

Also in 1971, the company took over operation of military phones on O'ahu and in 1972 it installed its first two electronic central offices on the Big Island.

In 1973 the company had 500,000 phone lines installed.

The company's third strike lasted from May 7 to June 13, 1974.

1974 saw the inaugural at Moanalua Shopping Center and Ward Warehouse. By 1983, there were 14 Phone Marts in operation on all islands.

In 1976, the GTE/AT&T domestic satellite system deployed and cut live TV transmission costs to the Islands.

In 1977, fiber optic was introduced with the installation of one of the world's first communications systems using fiber at Camp Smith on O'ahu. By 1979, fiber was in service betwen the Alakea and Kalihi central offices. The nation's first "long wavelength" optical fiber system was in service on a 22-mile route between Honolulu and Wahiawa. By 1983, there were 560 miles of fiber optic cable in service in Hawai'i.

By 1978, the company had 96 central offices statewide.

In 1981, GTE/Hawaiian Tele acquired the Micronesian Telecommunications Corp, with headquarters in Saipan in the Northern Marianas. The system served the islands of Saipan, Tianan and Roto just north of Guam.

As the company's 100th year began in 1983, a significant change took place on Jan 1st: the FCC ruled there would be no more regulation of terminal equipment and that the company would compete on the open market for that business. Also, long distance competition was starting to grow, reducing the company's income flow.

The company finally realized that nothing would continue to be forever, especially in telecommunications.

Next installment will cover 1983 through 2004.


Marty Plotnick

Copyright 2004 Creative Resources, Inc. All Rights Reserved Copyright not asserted for materials from third party publications.
Part 1 HERE
Part 2 HERE

Part 3 HERE

Part 4 HERE

Part 5 HERE





Copyright [2004] [Creative Resources, Inc.]