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Directory assistance center to close in isles, laying off 17

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A Pennsylvania-based directory assistance company, kgb_USA, is shutting down its Hawaii call center on June 1.

Company spokeswoman Amy Wolfcale said 17 Hawaii workers were notified last week of the closure. She did not provide the cause for the shutdown.

The company, formerly known as INFONXX North America, has nine call centers in the U.S., British Columbia and the Philippines. The Hawaii 411 directory assistance call center is at the Airport Trade Center at 550 Paiea St.

It provides directory services for customers of Oceanic Time Warner Cable, Verizon Wireless, Sprint PCS/Nextel (Virgin & Boost Mobile) and Wavecom Solutions, formerly Pacific Lightnet, according to the Hawaii office.

"We’ve known about it and already migrated half of the traffic away from them to other sources and plan on migrating the other half by May 1 so there will be no disruption at all," said Alan Pollack, vice president of marketing of Oceanic.

Directory assistance companies have faced increased competition in recent years with the development of smartphones and other technology that makes it easier for consumers to access information on their own through online directories such as switchboard. com and yellowpages.com.

Metro One Telecommunications Inc., whose local call center provided directory assistance to customers of Hawaiian Telcom Communications Inc., shuttered in 2008, leaving 50 workers without jobs.

Pennsylvania-based Penn­cro Associates Inc., a telemarketing and bill collection firm that operated a major call center in Hilo since 1999, closed its doors in 2004, laying off more than 170 employees.

Kgb_USA is part of a privately held global information company based in New York.

Besides traditional directory assistance services, the company provides movie listings, train schedules and price comparisons via mobile and landline phones, as well as text messaging and Internet access. Kgb, which also operates in Europe, provides local directory assistance, as well as a coupon deal site and people search engine that enables consumers to manage their online reputation. The company served more than a hundred million consumers globally last year, according to its website.

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