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Whidbey Telecom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Whidbey Telecom
TypePrivate
IndustryTelecommunications
Founded1908
FounderJacob Anthes
HeadquartersLangley, Washington, United States
Key people
Marion Henny (Chairperson)
Julia Henny-DeMartini (Co-CEO)
George Henny (Co-CEO)
ServicesTelephony
Internet
Security
Websitewhidbeytel.com

Whidbey Telecom (legally Whidbey Telephone Company and often called Whidbey Tel) is a private, independent telecommunications company operating on the South End of Whidbey Island in Washington State, the community of Point Roberts, Washington, and its affiliate Hat Island Telephone Company on Hat (Gedney) Island. Whidbey Telecom has been locally owned and operated since it started business in 1908.

History

Whidbey Telephone was founded in 1908 by local business owners and farmers in Langley, Washington. They wanted to provide telephone service to the community but wanted to keep the ownership local to prevent an outside company from interfering in the affairs of the Whidbey Island community. All residents of South Whidbey had access to the Whidbey Telephone system by 1920. The company prospered, but after World War II an influx of new residents began to tax the small phone company. By 1950, the company began to make major upgrades to its network but began to lose money. In 1953 local businessman, David C. Henny purchased a controlling interest in Whidbey Telephone Company. Under his leadership, the company was able to restructure and become profitable again, all the while completing much-needed upgrades to the infrastructure. The Henny family still controls the company.

Winters in Washington bring many storms. Until 1961, Whidbey Telephone had overhead wires, and when the storms came, the lines went down due to wind, trees, and snow. After several winters, where more than 60% of their customers lost service, the company decided to bury its entire network. By 1961, 100% of its lines were buried, a first for local telephone companies. Since then there has not been widespread service disruption due to damaged to company owned infrastructure.

Whidbey Telephone became the first local phone company (west of the Rocky Mountains) to provide Internet access to its customers, in 1994. In 2000, while many phone companies were just beginning to offer DSL services, Whidbey began an aggressive campaign to provide the service to all of its customers. In just two years, the entire service area, including Point Roberts and Hat Island had DSL service available. For a few years, the company's Internet division, Whidbey.NET, even offered DSL to residents in Verizon territory on Whidbey Island and other local communities. Whidbey Telecom's current internet and phone service area includes all of South Whidbey Island, including Clinton, Langley, Freeland and most of Greenbank, Washington, as well as Hat (Gender) Island, and Pt. Roberts.

In 2016 Whidbey Telecom announced[1] that it would be installing fiber optic cables to homes and businesses in its service area. The BiG GiG® Fiber Network launched later to year in Langley, making Whidbey Telecom the only internet provider on Whidbey Island to provide synchronous upload and download speeds of up to 1000 Mbit/s for both residential and business subscribers. Services were expanded to cover downtown Clinton, downtown Freeland, Bayview Center, Ken's Korner, and a few dense neighborhoods by the end of 2017. In 2019, Whidbey Telecom introduced The BiG GiG Fiber Network in Point Roberts, Washington. The company has stated a commitment to make fiber optic services available to the entire service area of South Whidbey.

Internet services

Internet services on Whidbey Island began in 1994. Whidbey Telephone began Whidbey Internet Services (WIS) to cover the telephone company's service area. At the same time, another company, Whidbey Connections, Inc. (WCI), was founded to serve customers of GTE on the north end of the island. WIS soon expanded to cover people on the north end of the Island, and WCI later expanded to also serve people on the south end of Whidbey Island. WCI's Internet domain was 'whidbey.net', whereas WIS's was 'whidbey.com'. Initial available Internet speeds were 14.4kbit/s and later 28.8kbit/s, as demand grew.

In 1995, Whidbey Telephone Company acquired the assets of Whidbey Connections, Inc., and integrated into Whidbey Internet Service to form WhidbeyNET. As a result of the merger, some customers of Whidbey.NET on the south end of Whidbey continue to have '.net' addresses whereas most south end customers have '.com'. Until 2001, WhidbeyNET maintained two different customer databases on their servers, leading some customers to have different passwords, and even different usernames depending on how and where they connected to the ISP.

Whidbey.NET began to offer DSL services to some customers (within one mile of local exchange systems) in 2000. By 2002, all Whidbey Telephone customers were capable of receiving Whidbey.NET DSL on south Whidbey Island and in Point Roberts. In 2005, the newly rebranded Whidbey Telecom Internet and Broadband began offering 5.5 Mbit/s DSL, and set their other speeds at 512kbit/s, and 2.5 Mbit/s. However, Whidbey Telecom does not offer DSL services in Verizon territory on Whidbey Island, but did provide dial-up services in those areas until 2019. Dial-up services are no longer offered by Whidbey Telecom.

In the spring of 2009, Whidbey Telecom began upgrading customers, free of charge, from ADSL to ADSL2+ services. This included speed upgrades to 18Mbit/s, 12Mbit/s, and 6Mbit/s. A new 30Mbit/s bonded ADSL2+ service was also made available at that time. Additionally, existing dial-up customers were offered a discounted 3Mbit/s service, in advance of Whidbey Telecom's phasing out their dial-up service on South Whidbey and in Point Roberts which was completed by Summer 2010. With the addition of Television services, even faster Internet connections have become available, utilizing VDSL2+ technologies up to 50Mbit/s.

In 2016, Whidbey Telecom announced an aggressive campaign to install Fiber to the Home. Known as "The Big Gig", the service offers 1Gbit/s synchronous service to homes and businesses. The first customers were connected by October of that same year. The initial build out is focusing on the communities of Langley, Freeland, Clinton, and Bayview; but will expand to cover much of the current service area. As of 2021, fiber service has expanded to include the Harbor Hills Neighborhood, Scatchet Head, Sandy Hook, Classic/Old County Rd., Cedar Cove, and Ken's Korner; with neighborhoods along Mutiny Bay to Bush Point as well as the neighborhoods from downtown Clinton, to Deer Lake and south along Heggness and Holst Rds. coming on line in 2021.

The company is aggressively expanding service coverage on South Whidbey, and in the process of planning fiber coverage on Point Roberts.

Free WiFi Hotspots are also available throughout the community, at public and private buildings, community parks, the Fairgrounds, and the Ferry Holding Lines. All are free to use for anyone needing access.

Television

It was announced in 2011, that Whidbey Telecom would offer television to customers at competitive rates to those offered by Comcast. The service utilized Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV technology to deliver television over the DSL service. The new WhidbeyTV service was launched in the summer of 2013, with great fanfare, and quickly became the significant player in the community, with competitive pricing, local support services, and its own channel, called "WhidbeyTV", producing original shows and sharing local content. The service is cost competitive with the other terrestrial options, and continued to expand offerings and service areas until 2018. It is currently limited to South Whidbey, and not all of South Whidbey qualifies due to the dedicated bandwidth required for television not being easily available in some pockets, but upgrades are being made to the network to bring the WhidbeyTV's service areas in line with those of Internet & Broadband.

In late 2018, Whidbey Telecom announced it was shifting its TV strategy from providing linear TV to partnering with Dish. This shift was due to the dramatic rise in content costs and of a fundamental change in viewing habits of society from linear to streaming entertainment. While it was a difficult decision by the company it enabled Whidbey Telecom to focus on strengthening its investment in its local fiber optic network to its customers. The company continues to provide its local WhidbeyTV video, streaming for free through WhidbeyTV.com, albeit with limited self publication.

Security and Alarms

In the early 2000s, Whidbey Telecom began its on alarm installation and monitoring company, branded as "American Alarms". There were many companies already operating on Whidbey Island, but few had the local knowledge or ability to respond to issues, as a local company. Due to the unique natures of the Island, the rebranded "Whidbey Telecom Security & Alarms" uses all communications methods available in order to ensure proper operation on Whidbey Island, Pt. Roberts, and into Skagit County; including POTS, WiFi, IP, and Cellular communications. Modern installations are partnered with Alarm.com software to provide a level of security to customers that one would not expect in such a rural area.

Whidbey Telecom is a UL Listed Alarm Monitoring Center, located at their headquarters in Langley (Bayview).

Rebranding

In September 2004, Whidbey Telephone company consolidated its operations under a single name, Whidbey Telecom.[2]

  • 'Whidbey.NET' became 'Whidbey Telecom Internet and Broadband'
  • 'Western Long Distance' became 'Whidbey Telecom Long Distance'
  • 'American Alarm Systems, Inc.' became 'Whidbey Telecom Security and Alarms'

Service area and Exchanges

All operate in Area Code 360

Whidbey Island

Any new customers or lines are assigned numbers based on geographic location, but customers are no longer required to change prefix when moving between service areas.

  • Clinton - 341
  • Freeland - 331
  • Langley - 221
  • Bayview - 321
  • Locales outside of the service area with a South Whidbey number (Foreign Exchange) - 321
  • Maxwellton Beach, Scatchet Head, and Sandy Hook/Cultus Bay - 579
  • Bells Beach, Baby Island, Beverly Beach - 730
  • Greenbank - 222

Point Roberts

  • All Areas - 945

Hat (Gedney) Island

Hat Island Telephone Company

  • All Areas - 444

References

  1. ^ https://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/news/a-fiber-future-faster-connection-speeds-a-gateway-to-economic-success-experts-say/
  2. ^ "Whidbey Telecom promotes more than just superior phone and internet service". Whidbey Island. Retrieved 2021-06-28.
This page was last edited on 28 June 2021, at 19:40
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