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5 Questions With ...Editorial

Su Shin: Hawaiian Telcom’s president keeps homebound customers connected, enabling work and study during the pandemic

                                Su Shin
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Su Shin

Earlier this year, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders prompted a large increase in people working from home. How has Hawaiian Telcom responded to the sudden shift in demand for broadband services?

In preparation for increased traffic as a result of the stay-at-home orders, we accelerated some network upgrades and redistributed some of our bandwidth from business areas to residential areas to ensure there’s enough capacity on our core network. We will continue to leverage our ownership of trans-Pacific undersea cables to increase capacity and enhance our network resiliency, meaning if there’s an issue on one route, traffic can be re-routed and connections can be made.

As part of our efforts to improve performance and customer experience, we continue to turn up direct peering links, which are direct connections, with major content providers such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft based on the usage we’re seeing in our network.

How are you supporting students now relying on Telcom networks for virtual classrooms? And what do you see in the future for teleworking and distance- learning here?

When the pandemic began, Hawaiian Telcom waived late fees, opened our Wi-Fi hotspots to the public, offered two months of free internet service to students, and we continue to offer a discounted service called Internet Kokua for qualifying customers.

As a trusted technology partner of the HIDOE (Hawaii Department of Education), we collaborated to launch the ‘Ohana Help Desk, the nation’s first statewide, comprehensive help desk that provides technology support to public school students and their families.

COVID lockdowns forced the accelerated adoption and acceptance of telework and distance-learning. We are all experiencing, firsthand, the flexibility and optionality it provides. Virtual technology and collaboration tools enable remote access to practically everything we need and these enhancements continue to improve. I believe this is driving companies to rethink their business and how they operate, from who they hire to how and where they work. While some activities are better in person, we are finding that some remote work is not only possible but can provide benefits for both employees and companies.

What’s the status of your ongoing effort to expand the reach of fiber to bring broadband connectivity and video services to more people in more places in Hawaii?

Hawaiian Telcom has invested more than half a billion dollars in expanding our statewide fiber network, and we continue to deploy fiber throughout our state. Through a combination of federal funds and our own investment, we’ve extended broadband service to nearly 10,000 locations to date in unserved or underserved rural communities, primarily on the neighbor islands. In October, we completed our fiber expansion on Molokai that provides broadband speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second download and 300 megabits per second upload in Kualapuu and in Ualapue.

Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) is available to 36% of our state. On Oahu, our FTTP reach is closer to 50%, and when you include Fiber-to-the-Node or neighborhood, our reach is more extensive and continues to grow. We are committed to continuing to expand our fiber network statewide.

You began serving as Hawaiian Telcom’s president and general manager in February. What are your top priorities?

Short-term, we’re focused on ensuring that we can continue to keep our customers connected through this unprecedented pandemic. This includes taking steps to protect the health and safety of our employees and customers while carefully balancing our desire to support the community and our need to ensure we can remain financially viable.

Our long-term priority is to help bridge the digital divide by expanding our statewide fiber infrastructure. Our investment will help lay the foundation for economic growth and recovery. Access to broadband will enable remote learning, business innovation, telehealth opportunities and much more.

What do you find most rewarding in your work?

It’s been said that the key to a company’s success lies in its ability to pivot and adapt to changes. And that’s precisely what our team has done. We’ve successfully adapted to a new way of working and continued to serve our community without skipping a beat. Our team’s flexibility and dedication enabled us to help critical organizations like government, health care providers, and community support service agencies manage through this pandemic, whether they needed increased bandwidth, online communications and video conferencing solutions, or regular telephone service. Our employees have always embraced the vital role we play in keeping our community connected to what matters most. It’s been so rewarding to see them rise to the challenges COVID has presented; I couldn’t be prouder of our team.


>> Title: Hawaiian Telcom president and general manager

>> Professional history: Previously served as Hawaiian Telcom’s chief of staff; was senior vice president at Bennet Group, a public relations agency; broadcast journalist at KHNL-TV.

>> Education: McKinley High School grad; bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, University of La Verne in California.

>> Other community roles:Hawaii Business Roundtable Military Affairs Council — Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii; McKinley High School Foundation; University of Hawaii Outreach College advisory council; and Sustainability Business Forum — Hawaii Green Growth

>> Personal: Born in Korea, immigrated to Hawaii at age 5, was raised by a single mother in Kalihi’s Mayor Wright Homes. Married to Dan Meisenzahl (University of Hawaii spokesman); two college-age daughters, Maya and Kayla.

>> Favorite quote:From Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which serves as an important reminder from an amazing woman: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

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