Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Rural telecoms companies fill a variety of community needs

Residents on Whidbey Island, in the northwest corner of Washington state, get their telephone service from Whidbey Telecom, but that's not all the locally owned company does for its 10,000 customers. The company also turned an abandoned building into an internet cafe, company offices, a cellphone store, and a conference room for 100 that local and regional businesses often use, Ryan Blethen reports for The Seattle Times.

"We wanted to create a place that people wanted to be part of," said co-CEO George Henny.

Another rural telecom company in Washington, Pioneer Telephone Company in LaCrosse, works with local farmers to help them embrace technologies that can help them run their farms, such as creating yield maps and spray records. "Picking up services others have abandoned in the hamlets and towns carved out of the ravines and coulees of the Palouse is core to Pioneer’s mission of serving its community, sometimes in ways that have little to do with whether Netflix is available in Endicott, Whitman County," Blethen reports. "The 110-year-old company now uses its backhoe to dig graves in the tiny towns of Hay and LaCrosse. It also changes tires and began selling hunting and fishing licenses this year."

Pioneer's general manager, Dallas Filan, said providing all these local services is as important as the work they're doing to update and expand the area's broadband network. "We're positioning ourselves for the next 110 years," he told Blethen.

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