EXCLUSIVE: State regulators ask Hawaiian Telcom about phone outages that lasted weeks

EXCLUSIVE: State regulators ask Hawaiian Telcom about phone outages that lasted weeks
Published: Oct. 5, 2015 at 9:47 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 5, 2015 at 9:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State regulators are demanding answers from Hawaiian Telcom about why repairs to rain-soaked telephone lines took weeks and even up to one month in some cases.

Phone customers from Nuuanu, Waialae Iki, McCully and Hawaii Kai have reported being out of Hawaiian Telcom landline and internet service for one to two weeks recently.

Hawaiian Telcom said it is still working on fixing 800 trouble calls, down from a high of 1,000 trouble calls on Aug. 24. But as its crews repair some phone lines, other lines started having problems because of all the rain the state has experienced in the last month.

Hawaiian Telcom said the heavy rains damaged and soaked underground phone cables and then continued rainy weather delayed repairs in recent weeks.

Nearly 90 Hawaiian Telcom customers -- mostly businesses -- reported landline and internet outages in the Halawa Valley area last month and some of them were out of service for 10 days.

Two businesses in the Standard Financial Plaza on King Street near City Hall, including Kats Sushi, had no phone service for nearly one month.

"One would think that simply because rain happens on the island of Oahu or anywhere else in this state, that it doesn't create problems, wreak havoc with the phone system," said Randy Iwase, who chairs the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates Hawaiian Telcom's landline phone service.

After Hawaii News Now presented him with several complaints from customers about longer outages, Iwase will ask Hawaiian Telcom for an official explanation of what happened.

"What's wrong?  What are you going to be doing to identify these problems?  Is there preventive maintenance that you can go through?" Iwase asked.

Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman Su Shin said, "It's not OK to us that our customers are out of service and we're doing all we can to resolve that issue as soon as possible."

Shin said crews have been working seven days a week on repairs and the company brought in temporary contractors to help Hawaiian Telcom crews but she said the continued rainy weather delayed some of the fixes.

"We can't do certain types of repair work while it's actively raining because it could cause more damage and actually create more problems," Shin added.

Iwase said his office has received seven complaints from phone customers in recent weeks about repair problems.

Iwase said phone customers who want to file a complaint against Hawaiian Telcom should fill out an "informal complaint" form on the PUC's website: http://puc.hawaii.gov/filing/complaint/informal-complaints/

"The phone company is to strive to resolve 95 percent of these complaints within 24 hours.  If there's natural disaster, it's 48 hours.  And clearly it's not happening," Iwase said.

Shin said the late August rain was extremely intense and record-breaking – nearly as much on Aug. 24 as the entire month of August last year.  She said that amounted to far from the normal levels of rain its equipment can regularly handle.

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