Cable creeps into the corporation

By Bob Brewin, Computer World |  Networking

Honolulu -- The cable guy may soon be coming to your office.

When First Hawaiian Bank decided to roll out high-speed Internet access to its 56 branches throughout the four major Hawaiian islands this spring, it made a carrier choice that might seem strange to anyone frustrated with poor service from his cable TV company. The bank chose Oceanic Cable, the local cable affiliate of New York-based Time Warner Inc.

According to Mark Taylor, vice president of retail information and planning at First Hawaiian, a division of BancWest Corp. in Honolulu, the easiest and most economical way for the bank to obtain broadband Internet access was to subscribe, through Oceanic, to a corporate high-speed cable LAN service called Road Runner.

The message is clear: Cable is going corporate.

Ernest Takahashi, information systems director at Honolulu-based Wilson, Okamoto & Associates Inc., a civil and structural engineering firm, said he decided to use Oceanic's cable LAN service because it provided the wide bandwidth the company needs to "send large CAD drawing files that are megabytes in size . . . not just on the island, but to the mainland as well."

Over the past five months, First Hawaiian has connected 600 desktops to the high-speed (10M bit/sec.) Oceanic service. It expects to have 1,000 desktops hooked into the cable system by the end of the year.

Takahashi said Oceanic provides him with faster and more reliable service at a lower cost than similar offerings from the local phone company, a subsidiary of New York-based Verizon Communications. Takahashi said that when his company priced comparable high-speed services from Verizon 18 months ago, the phone company's rates were "almost double" those of Oceanic.

Verizon failed to return calls for comment by press time.

Homegrown Demand

Oceanic spent $75 million eight years ago to upgrade its cable network to support two-way, high-speed data service for its 300,000 residential subscribers. It initially had no intention of serving the corporate market because it didn't anticipate that there would be any demand, said Kiman Wong, the company's general manager of Internet services.

But "once people had [Road Runner] at home, they wanted it at work," Wong said. The company now services 1,300 commercial accounts. To beef up its commercial business, Oceanic developed a suite of corporate access products, offers Web hosting services and plans to extend its commercial reach by wiring the urban core of Honolulu, Wong added.

Cox Business Services, a division of Cox Communications Inc. in Atlanta, is another cable company that is pushing toward providing high-speed Internet access for businesses. Users said they're pleased to find a cheaper alternative to the local phone company.

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