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A HISTORY OF THE "TELEPHONE COMPANY" IN HAWAII--Part SEVEN

[NOTE: Last week we said this would be the last installment. Forget that. This series will continue for a few more weeks. Enjoy.]

The Carlyle offer to buy Verizon Hawaii is pending and we continue the series on the history of the telephone company is Hawaii This installment begins with the end of the company's first century and beginning of it second in 1983. This benchmark was also the start of an upheaval in the telecommunications industry unprecedented in the entire history since Watson answered Bell's hail.

This new era exploded the sedentary legacy phone company attitudes nationwide with a whole new vocabulary of technology and business concepts.

Some of these were "unbundled", "modem" "fiber optic", "satellite", "digital", "data packets", "cellular phone", "fax", etc. None of these were instant to 1982-83, but had their origins going back to the 1920's. The Bell "public monopoly" kept many of these innovations from reaching the public.

Two seminal lawsuits, the "Hush-a-Phone" case filed in 1948 and the "Carterphone" case filed in 1958, which were fought in the courts for decades, finally were resolved to the public's benefit. As these changes were implemented on the Mainland, Hawaiian Tel was slow to move off its legacy.

The beginning of the largest egg laid by Hawaiian Tel was in 1983 when it began installing the infamous GTD-5 switches. The PUC was asked to grant the expenditure of $61.7 million for these switches. The issue went public because the seller was Automatic Electric whose parent was GTE, the same as Hawaiian Tel. Why not go out for competitive bidding was the question? The answer was GTE Service Corp. performed a competitive analysis and concluded the AE GTD-5s best suited Hawaiian Tele's needs and that price was not the only consideration. The PUC, by the way, rejected the application to raise phone rates to cover the cost.

Jumping ahead to 1988, those switches consistently failed and knocked service out on a regular basis. We'll detail those failures at the chronological point.

The next foray into increasing revenue was the company's filing to adopt "Usage Sensitive Service" (or measured unit charging). This was to reset the charges to by-the-minute in addition to monthly service charges. This was rejected by the PUC in May 1985 and again in 1988.

1983 saw the explosion of third party long-distance companies taking chunks of it business. In the first year, five percent of Hawaii-Mainland calls were made through the third parties. (In December 1982, these companies completed 180,000 calls to the
Mainland.)

The irony was GTE Corp (parent) bought Southern Pacific Communications' Sprint for $750 million in June 1983.

Also in 1983, Hawaiian Tel surrendered to the Hush-a-Phone case and unbundled the phone instruments from the basic charge. You could now buy and plug in your own instruments to the network. If you still wanted a Hawaiian Tel phone, you paid a monthly rental charge.

In 1985, the independent payphone movement began, and Hawaiian Tel once again fought the movement, but eventually won the first round in Sept 1987 with the PUC.

In April 1986, the company installed 26 credit card phones at Honolulu International Airport.

The conversion to digital switching was half completed in August 1986 with completion scheduled for 1992. This would cover all of the 79 switching centers at a cost of $220 million.

Also, the company opened a Manila sales office for sales and service in 1986

On Jan 1st, 1987, the company implemented the deregulation of interior wiring; it now belonged to the customer and if something went wrong, you had to pay the company to come out and fix it.

Ever possessive about its monopolistic "rights", Hawaiian Tele protested when Bank of Hawaii agreed with Hawaiian Electric to run a fiber optic cable between the Bishop St. headquarters and the Nuuanu St. data center in May 1987.

In Oct 1987, the company partnered with the Hawaii High Tech Development Corp (HTDC) to open a small business incubator in half of the then vacant 7,000 sq ft of space at it Kaimuki switching center. Eventually, this facility was named "KAITEC".

On Dec 28, 1987, the first of "no dial tone days" occurred when 40,000 subscribers lost service in the downtown and Manoa districts twice in one day. Blame was placed on those GTD-5 switches that came from the GTE parent.

On Jan 14, 1988, the switch went down again, silencing 40,000 phones.

On Jan 26, 1988, the GTD-5 was referred to as and "Edsel" of a switch.

On Mar 14, 1988, GTD-5 syndrome struck Waikiki and put 16,500 lines out of service for ten hours.

On Apr 29, 1988, 1,120 phones went out in Downtown as the company was switching over from a GTD-5 to a new DMS-100 digital switch.

On May 31, GTE admitted at a PUC hearing that the switches were "below par" based on a standard of no more than one hour of downtime in 20 years.

Yet, he admitted, the Hawaiian Tel switches malfunctioned 136 hours from 1984 through 1987.

On June 6, 1988, 30,000 lines went silent.

On the same day, a GET executive refused to reveal data on the GTD-5 switch because he didn't want the information open to "misinterpretation".

On June 9, 1988, Waikiki went dial-less as 16,277 lines went down.

On June 20, 1988, for the second time that week, Kailua's 15,000 subscribers had no dial tone.

On June 30, the PUC ordered Hawaiian Tel to get competitive bids on its switches.

The denial period ended on June 20, 1988, when GTE announced it was selling 50 percent of switch subsidiary to AT&T in a joint venture to
last15 years when AT&T would own 100 percent. The JV said it would develop switches with ISDN capability.

During 1988 the company started new ventures such as an auto maintenance service for non-company fleet operators, systems integration and services for computer users and cellular phone services.

In April, 1988, Hawaiian Tel said it expected approval or its Hawaii-Japan video conferencing service.

In May 1988, the company began cracking down on subscribers using modems but weren't paying business rates.

Next week we'll begin with 1989.

Shaloha,

Marty Plotnick
martycri@lava.net




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

Part 6 HERE

 




 

 

 

Copyright [2004] [Creative Resources, Inc.]