Small Telecom on Rural Island Sometimes Digs Graves, Changes Tires

Whether it involves building towers to accommodate coverage or laying miles of cable, tiny telecommunications companies provide rural towns with services beyond phone and internet, reported The Seattle Times.

Companies like second-generation run Whidbey Telecom and 110-year old Pioneer Telecom Company, are focused on helping their respective communities. Whidbey has provided telephone services to rural areas, including South Whidbey Island, since 1953, and is now laying out its fiber-optic network for broadband. Pioneer Telecom’s services go beyond providing telephone and internet service to LaCrosse and other rural areas; like digging graves, changing tires, and selling hunting and fishing licenses to support its community.  

Whidbey, run by George Henny and his sister Julia Henny DeMartini, and Pioneer, are two of the eighteen companies that belong to the Washington Independent Telecommunications Association (WITA). The WITA advocates for its members and keeps them apprised of new technologies and training. Since the companies within WITA cover some of the hardest-to-reach places in the state, they wouldn’t be able to serve customers without federal and state money, reported the Times.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order easing the permitting process for companies to erect wireless towers in rural areas, Inside Towers reported. Additionally, the FCC allocated $500 million towards rural broadband, according to Chairman Ajit Pai.

Pioneer tapped into the federal Universal Service Fund and the state’s universal program to partly pay for a project stretching fiber to all of its customers. About 15 percent of the $8 million project is being paid for by the company. “No way this small of a company could afford it on our own,” Pioneer general manager Dallas Filan said.

Despite their size differences and wildly differing communities, Filan’s desire to create infrastructure encouraging people to move to LaCrosse, echoes Whidbey’s co-CEO George Henny’s goal of ensuring his community is part of the global economy for the future. “We’re positioning ourselves for the next 110 years,” Henny said.

June 29, 2018

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

Newsletter Trial Sign Up