Most of us are too young to recall a time when going online or making a call wasn’t as easy as a touch of your thumb. But way back in the day, we got our start in the then-revolutionary telephone business. Here’s a glimpse of CTTCs 69-year (and counting) telecommunications history.
With advancements to the telephone during the 19th century, the 1930s saw a burgeoning telephone network in urban cores. Meanwhile, rural service suffered from deteriorating, or non-existent, infrastructure. The disparity grew, eventually leading Congress to pass the Communications Act of 1934. Though it established the concept of adequate universal service, the disparity grew. In 1949, Congress amended the Rural Electrification Act to spark rural telecommunications growth through low-interest loans.
The small towns spread across the western edges of the Texas Hill Country were no exception to the rural silence. At the time, the area that CTTC currently serves lacked any initial phone line infrastructure. In 1951 a group of local businessmen took the telecommunications plight to Washington. The group was granted a loan and together they formed a collaborative, Central Texas TeleCommunications, to bring telecommunications technology to a big chunk of rural Texas.
The evolution of telecommunications services
CTTC’s initial offering was a party-line, eventually evolving to the private lines most of us can easily recall. From rotary phones to portable phones, as technology advanced, the cooperative upheld their commitment to providing their customers with the latest. In the 90s, the urban world went online and we broadened our services – investing in DSL/dial-up networks to bring our rural customers broadband. Twenty years later, we’ve hit another milestone, installing one of the largest rural fiber optic networks in the country.
“We started as a party-line phone service provider with the vision of connecting our rural neighbors with the same quality that city folks enjoy,” says Jamey Wigley, CTTC’s General Manager. “Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of change. Internet and wireless devices have changed the way people communicate, do business and spend their free time. And, CTTC has evolved with the changing technology to better serve our customers.”
How we got here
Thanks to both fortune and foresight, CTTC was established as a member-owned cooperative. This allows us a lot of freedom. Serving rural areas has never been a priority for major companies like Southwestern Bell. Historically, they build infrastructure in densely populated areas, competing for the largest profit share with other investor-backed corporations. But, as a co-op, we’re able to funnel our profits directly to infrastructure and service investment. There is a lot of motivation in our isolation: we’re able – and willing – to build a network we want to use.
Sometimes that means re-burying 3,200-square miles of cable – like we did to upgrade party lines to private. Other times, like in 1995, it means the installation of new copper cables for dial-up. Still other times it means the massive hundred-million-dollar undertaking to install fiber optic cable, replacing every existing cable in the ground. Sometimes it means maintenance or improving customer service.
“We’re structured to respond to our customer’s needs,” says Wigley. “It’s thanks to our company’s structure and culture that we’ve built broadband service that rivals (or beats) the quality of big city providers.”
Now our member-owned co-op is powering nine schools, hundreds of businesses and thousands of residents with reliable (and fast) internet. Our ability to evolve means that our high-schoolers can jumpstart their college education with distance learning credits. It eliminates a common barrier for rural businesses, supporting high-impact business growth, digital operations and logistics. And, it allows families to stay connected to their communities both at home and afar.
The heart & soul of CTTC
It’s worth noting that the backbone of CTTC is our dedicated employees. There are so many layers to our success. Without our employees – many of whom are with us until retirement – the cooperative could not provide our high-quality service. From the teams that work ‘round the clock – even on holidays – manning the call center, offering tech support 24/7, laying new fiber-optic lines, addressing services outages or network damages – their dedication and passion is the reason we can run a sophisticated broadband company in a rural area. Indeed, their commitment to CTTC’s customers is a true embodiment of our mission and culture.
“The culture of our company is reflected in our employees through the way they serve our customers.” – Jamey Wigley, General Manager
Moving into 2019 and beyond
We’re currently seeing higher growth numbers as people seek out the slower pace and affordability that small-town Texas offers. As these numbers grow, we’re excited to continue providing service to our past, present and future customers.
Technology is moving at warp speed. The sky’s the limit – but one thing remains constant. That’s the commitment of a cooperative made all the way back in 1951 – the pledge to evolve and advance rural telecommunications.
The commitment that started with now-obsolete technology investment, has been affirmed over 69 years and through four major technology era advancements. And it doesn’t end with our investment in fiber optics. Rather, we will continue to reinvest profits in the latest technology to ensure fast, reliable connectivity so our customers can build lives and businesses they love.