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Shelton Mason County Journal
Shelton, Washington
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Mason County Journal
October 9, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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October 9, 2014
 

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Thursday, Qct. 9, 2014 -Mason County Journal- Page A-21 ;%% Director of Marketing and Public Relations Darran Oblizalo, and President and General Manager Rick Eisele, left, Operations Manager and Vice President Mike Oblizalo, Buechel stand in mid-September in their server room !n Union. Journal photo by Lloyd Mullen Customer Service Manager Kelle '( doubles down on Mason County By LLOYD MULLEN Iloyd@masoncounty. com Eighty years ago, newspaperman Morisen Pixley trekked from New York to Union. It was in Union that he decided to found Hood Canal Telephone Company and Washington state's first public util- ity district, now Mason County PUD 1 according to Hood Canal Communications. By 1956, Pixley had decided to sell his phone company to Richard and Eleanor Buechel. At that time, the telephone company served 123 customers. Fast forward another 58 years and Hood Canal Telephone Company is now Hood Canal Commu- nications and it provides cable, TV, Internet and home security systems. The once-small phone company now provides broadband Internet services to most of Mason County. "We just finished a very large project," President and General Manager Rick Buechel explained. "It was a $3 million project, and it took two years to complete." HCC just finished installing about 150 miles of passive fiber optic cables in Mason County in what the company calls, "a fiber-to-home project." The passive fiber system, according to Buechel, will provide customers with more reliability, better picture quality and faster Internet speeds. HCC currently offers customers speeds up to 50 megabits per second. With its new fiber network, it is able to offer faster speeds on a case-by-case basis. "With this network, we'll be able to offer any- thing the customer will need in the future," Buech- el said. ' As the company has grown, it now competes ~ith larger companies, such as Comcast, Buechel said. "I think the inlustry is changing from where We started as a telephone company, and now a broadband company, bringing that to rural Mason County. We've kept the company very viable." said Darren Eisele, director of marketing and public,re- lations for HCC. "We compete with Comcast, with Wave, Centu- ryLink (and) Dish providers. We compete with all of them," Buechel said. "It's service, pricing --"it's those aspects; you just have to be competitive. If we were just in the phone business, if we had never adapted - we would be a very small business." HCC has expanded its employee base from 22 in 1996 to 44 employees today. "We realize the distinction that makes us unique," Buechel said. "We answer. You can reach most anyone in our office by phone. You can get to anyone you need to. You do come into an auto at- tendant, but your hold time is just a few moments. You can dial extensions through our directory. We're much more accessible. We try to keep our re- pair times and install times shorter." HCC is also involved in the community, Eisele said. "We support United Way. We're involved in their Day of Caring program and are also involved in Union tourism," Eisele said. The company also donates to Adopt-A-Pet, an animal adoption service in Shelton. HCC has recently moved its attention from cable services. "We're focusing on deploying our broadband to more customers. We're losing some cable custom- ers, but we're gaining them in other areas," Rick Buechel said. Buechel said he knew cable had been on the downswing for a while but never had an "ah ha" moment. HCC's newest product is a home alarm system. "We realize the distinction that makes us unique, , We answer, You can reach almost anyone " in our office by phone," Rick Buechel, president and general manager, Hood Canal Communications "We have it operating now. We just haven't launched it yet," Buechel said. About six of HCC's customers are beta testing the system before it officially launches. The security system is interactive, according to Buechel. "I can look at my front door, my kitchen -- use my phone to turn my lights on and off. Even turn on my hot-water heater," Buechel said. As far as expanding outside of the county, HCC has no plans, according to Buechel. It is however, extending services within the county. To celebrate its 80th year, HCC is giving away prizes to customers from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 17. "Folks can visit our Union or Shelton office," Eisele said. "We are giving away a 39-inch LED TV and an iPad Air. We're also going to have prize bags that we hand out to each of our guests." Employees of HCC will dress up with a 1980s theme in mind. "It will be a really great opportunity for our cus- tomers to interact with the people they normally don't get to meet, the people they speak to on the phone. Folks love interacting with the man behind the phone," Eisele said. For more information on Hood Canal Communi- cations, go to hcc.net.