Oceanic grows,
cuts and repurposes

Public hearings on Kauai this week will factor into whether Oceanic Cable goes statewide.

It's time for regulatory approvals required for the company's purchase of Garden Isle Telecommunications, announced in January.

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs hearings will be 6 p.m. Thursday at Waimea High School and Friday at Wilcox Elementary School.

Oceanic provides cable television and Internet access to about 350,000 homes, schools and businesses on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

Vice President for Finance Russell Saiki in January estimated Kauai's cable penetration at 75 percent. Other households receive TV via rooftop antennas or satellite dishes, according to Garden Isle Telecom President Bill Harkins. Industry sources estimate Oceanic's market share at 90 percent and say that while satellite TV has a 16 percent penetration rate on the mainland, fewer than 1 percent of Hawaii's households receive television via direct-to-home satellite dishes.

Regulations requiring satellite services to carry local stations' signals are currently being challenged at the federal level and in the courts.

Reaching, retrenching

As Oceanic has moved to expand its reach, it has cut jobs and plans other changes.

The company is shifting its emphasis, said President Nate Smith, "repurposing" employees for greater efficiency.

Oceanic will receive most of its statewide phone traffic on Oahu and "we probably won't need as many people answering phones on the neighbor islands," but "will need more people selling the additional services we're going to be offering and installing and servicing them," he said.

Expansion of broadband applications such as videoconferencing presents "the vast majority of jobs going forward," Smith said.

Some employees have been reassigned while a handful of others have taken early retirement or have left the company, like 20-year veteran Kit Beuret, who ended up as director of public affairs.

Starting in customer service, the former radio jazz-show host moved to the repair department as the night-time dispatcher.

"I sat in front of a microphone," he said.

Beuret hasn't strayed far from the microphone. "I still do voiceovers," for filmmakers and the like.

Repurposing isn't only happening with employees. KHNL's 6 p.m. newscast will be offered on-demand to Oceanic digital customers after 7 p.m. via channel 110.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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