Whidbey Telecom

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Whidbey Telecom
Private
Industry Telecommunications
Founded 1908
Founder Jacob Anthes
Headquarters Langley, Washington, United States
Key people
Marion Henny (Chairperson)
Julia Henny-DeMartini (Co-CEO)
George Henny (Co-CEO)
Services Telephony
Internet
Television
Website whidbeytel.com

Whidbey Telecom (formerly 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 doing business as Hat Island Telephone Company on Hat (Gedney) Island. Whidbey Telecom is unusual because it is locally owned and has never been a part of a larger company. Whidbey Telecom is also unusual in that 100% of the lines it services are buried underground. The company attributes this action to highly reliable service in an area racked with storms that cause frequent power outages.

History[edit]

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. A local business man David C. Henny, in 1953, purchased a controlling interest in Whidbey Telephone Company in order to prevent a sale to AT&T. 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, Whidbey Telephone had overhead wires, and when the storms came, the lines went down. 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 yet to be a widespread service disruption due to infrastructure damage.

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 it 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. When Frontier took over the Verizon territory, they began an aggressive campaign to expand their services, and while they can't claim 100% availability in their territory, they have largely removed WhidbeyTel as competition.

Internet services[edit]

Internet services on Whidbey Island began in 1993. Whidbey Telephone began Whidbey Internet Services (WIS) to cover the telephone company's service area. At the same time, another company, Whidbey Internet Connections (WIC), was founded to serve customers of GTE on the north end of the island. WIC later expanded to also serve people on the south end of Whidbey Island. WIC's Internet domain was 'whidbey.net', whereas WIS's was 'whidbey.com'.

Whidbey Internet Connections and Whidbey Internet Services merged in 1995 into Whidbey.NET. 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, Whidbey.NET 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 does still provide dial-up services in those areas.

Beginning 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.

The DSL prices are competitive, although Whidbey Telecom is the only provider that covers their entire service area. Competition is split among Comcast and Wave for terrestrial based services, and Wild Blue, and HughesNet for celestial.

In addition to DSL services on South Whidbey, Whidbey Telecom also provides free WiFi Hotspots in many locations on South Whidbey for customers, as well as a pay-to-play service for visitors. Fiber to the home is not yet available, but businesses may connect using fibre technology, including gigabit service.

Television[edit]

The dream of offering Television services has been one Whidbey Telecom has had for many years. It was announced in 2011, that Whidbey Telecom would offer television to customers at competitive rates to those offered by Comcast. The service will utilize Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV technology to deliver television over the DSL service. The service was launched in the summer of 2013, with great fanfare, and quickly became the dominant player in the community, largely due to competitive pricing and local support services. The service is cost competitive with the other terrestrial options, and continues to expand offerings and service areas. 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.

Rebranding[edit]

In 2004, Whidbey Telephone company decided to consolidate its operations under a single name, Whidbey Telecom. This new identity was previewed at the Island County Fair and was officially launched in September.

  • '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[edit]

All operate in Area Code 360

Whidbey Island[edit]

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[edit]

  • All Areas - 945

Hat (Gedney) Island[edit]

  • All Areas - 444
Whidbey Telecom also has a 729 prefix if additional numbers are needed.

External links[edit]