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Hawaiian Telcom reticent on TV plans

The company will not say when and where on Oahu it will provide service

By Alan Yonan Jr.

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:26 p.m. HST, Aug 05, 2011


Hawaiian Telcom executives demonstrated the company's new cable television service Thursday but remained mum on when and where it will be available on Oahu, saying they didn't want to tip their hand to the competition.

Materials distributed by the company at a news conference included a channel lineup and a "quick start" guide for using some of the system's remote control and other features. Officials said pricing information initially would be made available only to consumers who present Hawaiian Telcom with a bill from Oceanic Time Warner Cable or one of the satellite TV providers.

"For competitive reasons we are very limited in what we are able to share in terms of locations and a schedule," said Lester Chu, Hawaiian Telcom's executive director for business development.

Hawaiian Telcom's lineup includes eight pricing tiers with about 250 channels, including 150 in the basic tier. About 60 channels are available in high definition.

"It's very common, what you're used to in the marketplace," Chu said.

Pricing packages vary widely depending on what tiers are selected and whether the TV service is bundled with other services, such as Internet and telephone, he said.

However, Hawaiian Telcom provided a pricing comparison at the request of the Star-Advertiser. An Oceanic Time Warner bill that included its Digital Variety Pak of more than 300 channels, high-speed Internet, high-definition channels, a digital video recorder, HBO and phone service was priced at $182.75. A comparable package offered by Hawaiian Telcom was priced at $158.75.

Hawaiian Telcom has been testing the service among a select group of about 250 households on Oahu since last year. The company began converting them to paying customers July 1. The response so far has been positive, Chu said.

"We're meeting what people are looking for in terms of value," he said. "We actually had consumers bring their Oceanic bill into us with a combination of video, broadband and voice. We priced it out for them and showed them the demonstration. Once we did that, the vast majority said, ‘That's great, that's what we're looking for.'"

Consumers who are phoning Hawaiian Telcom to ask about the TV service are being told they will be contacted by the company at a later date, said Scott Simon, company spokesman.

"If people are interested in the service right now, we'd ask them to hold off and give us some time to stage it and do it the right way. At some point we'll have a website you can go on to find out if you are capable of getting the service, or to put your name in and say, ‘Contact us when it's available in our area,'" he said.

Hawaiian Telcom's reputation suffered as a result of significant customer service problems that occurred when it changed ownership in 2005. Simon said the company was making a conscious effort to not rush out its TV service.

"We're benefiting from the lessons learned from others," Simon said. "Some others in the past — and I've spoken to them — were too aggressive and opened up their doors too quickly. They just weren't ready. So we're making sure that it's going to be a good customer experience. That will change over time. When we're ready to step on the accelerator, it will be more of a mass-marketing program."

Hawaiian Telcom has begun hiring additional staff and retraining existing technicians to install modems and other equipment for its new service when it ramps up, Simon said, although he declined to provide specific numbers.

CABLE BILL COMPARISON

A sampling of features offered by Oceanic Time Warner and Hawaiian Telcom and the cost for the package. Features vary for some categories, such as Internet speed:
OCEANIC TIME WARNER     HAWAIIAN TELCOM
Standard plus Digital Variety Pak     Advantage TV
(300-plus channels)     (150-plus channels)
Road Runner high-speed Internet     High-speed Internet
HD Entertainment Pak     HD channels
Digital video recorder     Whole Home DVR
HBO     HBO Pack
Phone service     Phone service
Second TV     Second TV
Total $182.75     Total $158.75






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