Telecommunications in Hawaii, A Brief History

Hawaii’s telecommunications industry continues to change with newer technologies and services, and the regulation of Hawaii’s telecommunications industry is also changing. This industry used to be called “the telephone industry” and the sole provider of local basic phone service in Hawaii was Hawaiian Telephone Company (as another sign of change, Hawaiian Telephone Company merged with Bell Atlantic and became Verizon Hawaii). In 2005 it was sold to The Carlyle Group and became Hawaiian Telcom.

Now, the ever-growing collection of services available to us is called “telecommunications” and there are an increasing number of companies from which we can buy those services. Of these telecommunications services, some are still under traditional regulation (like basic local exchange service), some are less strictly regulated (like long-distance service and wireless telephone) and some are virtually unregulated (like the Internet and cable television). Traditional regulation of monopoly services is predominantly performed at the state level, in our case by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (Commission). Services that cross state boundaries or use radio frequencies are primarily regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The Division of Consumer Advocacy primarily reviews and acts upon filings made by telecommunications services providers with the Commission. However, the Division has also participated in proceedings before the FCC. Due to the critical nature of communications within modern society, the Consumer Advocate tries to ensure that these telecommunications services are available ubiquitously at reasonable, affordable rates.

As a customer, you have certain rights pertaining to the service you receive, regardless of who your service provider may be. If you have a question pertaining to the bill or the service you receive, you should call your service provider to obtain an explanation. If you are not satisfied with the response, you are also entitled to file a complaint with the Commission. For your convenience, we have included a form (PDF)-(HTML format) that you may want to print and mail to the Commission, with a copy to the applicable company and our office.