Monday, August 31, 2015

All About That Risk

Yesterday I woke up to  Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" playing in my head, except the lyric is "all about that risk, all about that risk - no trouble."  After reading Governor Ige's interview with Star Advertiser reporter Kathryn Mykleseth in the morning paper, the catchy tune and my recurring lyric sounded even more urgent in my mind.  The Governor's intransigent position, again without any evidence of sound technical and economic analysis and transparency, is a high risk proposition.  And, god forbid, if those who question the Governor's position are correct, the risks of his belief will be done on the backs of those who can least afford it.  Let me give you a real life example on how critical infrastructure investments could be make in the future if we do not keep rates affordable and service accessible to all electricity customers.

At the end of June, my daughter Misha lost the lease for her juice bar and had to find a new location.  To help her, I was assigned to get the business' telephone and internet service installed.  Like many other businesses having internet service is indispensable and in her situation necessary for her point of sale system.  After doing some research, I determined that Hawaiian TelCom (HawTel) offered the best bundled package.  When I talked with the  HawTel Sales Representative he was concerned that the area's DSL capacity was maxed out.  Next I called Oceanic Time Warner Cable (Oceanic) to get information. The person I spoke with said that he needed to check cable availability for that area and he would get back to me.  Another option was to look into wireless with a data plan.

I was happy to get a call back from HawTel saying that upon rechecking the address DSL was available and they would be processing the installation order.  That was great news because Misha wanted to offer free Wi-Fi to customers too.  But then, the next day, I received another call back from HawTel saying they were incorrect about DSL availability and only could offer a landline. I canceled the installation. The primary reason for opening the account was access to the internet, not a landline. Unfortunately, HawTel did not have a competitive wireless plan to meet our needs.  We had no choice but to go wireless with a more expensive voice and data plan.

HawTel has to make major upgrades to its infrastructure.  It could not give our business DSL because its copper wires are maxed out and it cannot upgrade to fiber optics because of its limited financing capabilities.  Therefore, HawTel is investing where it can get the biggest and fastest return on investment in the competitive telcom market.  Ironically, the Puhi area on Kauai is growing and we're just over the boundary from where fiber optics is available.  But there are other areas on Kauai and throughout the State that are far more attractive for new investments and more lucrative service offerings.

It's not like we didn't have another option.  We did, but it was more expensive.

Why am I sharing this with you?  Well, I don't think we want our electricity system heading down this path too - that is, only the most lucrative areas or customers will have access to infrastructure upgrades, the best pricing schemes and service offerings to meet customer needs.

Our telecommunications and electric grid backbones are critical infrastructure required for a healthy and vibrant economy and quality  of life.  Who, how and where we make these infrastructure upgrades and the equality on how these investments are sited, financed and paid for are important policy questions that the Governor was very vague on in his interview.  Like I said earlier, his proposition is a high risk proposition which I believe will create some winners and, unfortunately, many losers.

A last word on customer service, I never received that call back from Oceanic.

1 comment:

  1. hi, i enjoy reading your posts related to energy. today you wrote about telecom; i can finally share some worthwhile information with you.

    1) you can get telephone service in the surrounding puhi area for $19/month unlimited minutes. do you know how many minutes are used on average? there are pay as you go options as well; so for example if the juice bar uses < 100 minutes a month that'll be $9/month.

    2) internet will vary depending on your needs. you can get unlimited internet for $80/month. if you don't need unlimited again you have the option to leverage pay as you go.

    you even have some pretty cool features like no answer transfer. say no one answers the line, you can have an pre-recorded attendent ask what it is they need, ie directions or leave a voicemail? if they need directions they press 1 and a google maps link will be sent to the number their calling from.

    true infrastructure isn't the best on kauai but you have plenty of technology and options on kauai - don't let anyone fool you!