By Carolyn Tamler
George Henny, the Co-CEO of Whidbey Telecom describes the ethic of his company as: “Empowering, enhancing and inspiring people to thrive here.” Although many of the American ideals that drive business success relate to money, George believes that “If you provide excellent service at reasonable prices, the profits will follow.”
He enjoys telling the story of how his father, David Henny, purchased the Whidbey Telephone Company in 1953. David was studying to become a doctor but had wanted to own a phone company since he was a young boy. He dropped out of Reed College after his junior year and moved to Whidbey because he loved the natural surroundings while still being near Seattle. When he purchased the phone company, he had a vision of being a major contributor to the community.
Soon, many innovations followed. In 1959 and 1960, David Henny borrowed the money to take on the monumental task of burying all of the local phone lines and made South Whidbey Island the first community in the United States to do so. In the October 1962 Columbus storm, many cities and communities in Oregon and Washington lost phone connections, some for several weeks. But, not one person in the Whidbey Telephone Company market lost phone service.
In September 1994, Whidbey Telephone Company became the first telecom to provide local internet service west of the Rockies. In 2000, Whidbey also led the way by launching 5Mbps broadband at a time when 56k dial-up service was the standard.
In 2004, Whidbey Telephone Company simplified its name and numerous subsidiary brands into one -- Whidbey Telecom. Today, Whidbey Telecom provides telephone, high speed internet and security and alarms services to Hat Island, Point Roberts and Whidbey Island south of Greenbank Farm, as well as TV service to South Whidbey.
The original owner, David Henny, died unexpectedly in 2001, and two of his children, George Henny and Julia Henny are co-CEOs of the company. His wife, Marion Henny, remains the Board Chair. Today, the company has over 110 employees and growing. George believes what is most important is the positive role Whidbey Tel is playing in the life of the community. “Everything we do, we believe in empowering, enhancing and inspiring people to thrive here,” George shares. “It’s about being the trusted hometown team that is right here to help everyone live the wonderful “Whidbey Lifestyle” and yet have the ability to be connected better and faster than anywhere else in the state.”
|George Henny is continuing to grow Whidbey Telecom and is sharing his excitement about the “BiG GiG.” This service is gradually expanding to include everywhere that Whidbey Tel services. It delivers a gigabit per second or more if needed – 50 to 100 times faster than ordinary internet speeds. For those not familiar with gig language, he explains this will have a huge impact on the ability of tech people to work from their home or small offices on Whidbey instead of needing to go to Seattle and other mainland cities to do their tech jobs.|
As an example of the difference the BiG GiG is making, George tells the story of a well-known local professional photographer who got to experience the difference the BiG GiG makes for her. “What would have taken me three days just took me 10 minutes,” the photographer shared. “I’m telling everyone about it and what a difference it makes.”
George believes that living and working on Whidbey will align best with people who have values that extend far beyond making money. They value things like buying local; friendly and welcoming people; a green, eco-friendly and sustainable environment; walkable and bikeable areas; an extraordinary natural environment with forests, beaches and views; clean air; and the sound of the surf.
George notes, “Our story is much deeper that just being a business. We have a real commitment to this community. It’s not about technology; it’s about helping people live and thrive in a place they want to be.”
To help people understand what the BiG GiG can mean to their lives, Whidbey Telecom opened up a store at 2nd and Anthes in Langley. People can stop by and learn what this new technology can do for them and sit down at a computer to experience the high-speed service. BiG GiG-powered co-work spaces are also available at South Whidbey Commons and Fine Balance Imaging, with more locations coming soon.
The goal is more than just to have this high-speed internet service available for anyone, but to make it highly affordable as well. Everyone buying the service, whether business or residential, will pay the same $70 per month for service, and for those signing up now, this guaranteed price is good for as long as someone is a customer. “This is one of the best values anywhere, especially with no throttling or data caps,” George said.
To help with any questions, concerns or problems, Whidbey Tel has a dozen people locally employed in Tech Support, which is available 24/7. If a customer calls in, instead of someone in another part of the world, the customer is immediately connected to someone local who can help. People even get to know the Techs by name.
Above all, George Henny keeps stressing that Whidbey Telecom wants to do all it can to continue to help the Whidbey community thrive and be a welcoming place for professionals and their families.
To learn more, George Henny invites everyone to stop by the Langley store, sit down and give the BiG GiG a try. “It’s all about helping people prosper and thrive here. The BiG GiG empowers our community to grow the economy responsibly, especially by encouraging digital economy jobs that our region is becoming known for. Let’s welcome those families here because the Whidbey lifestyle is what resonates with them.”