From the beginning Consolidated has always been a coming together of family, friends and neighbors to bring service to the people of southwestern North Dakota.
On January 2, 1961, Bowman-Slope Rural Telephone Mutual Aid Corporation & Dunn Telephone Mutual Aid Corporation joined together to become Consolidated Telephone Cooperative. At that time Consolidated provided telephone service in Amidon, Dodge, Dunn Center, Grassy Butte, Halliday, Ladd, Manning, Rhame, Scranton, and Twin Buttes. In 1978 Consolidated expanded and began providing service in Richardton, South Heart, Reeder, Regent, and Marmarth. In 1996 Consolidated expanded again by acquiring 5 additional communities from U.S. West. The addition of Killdeer, Mott, Hettinger, New England and Bowman more than doubled the number of customers served. In 2001 these 5 communities officially became part of the cooperative.
In 1997 Consolidated’s Board of Directors and management made the decision to compete as a local telephone service provider in the Dickinson area. Dickinson State University was the first customer for our competitive local exchange company, otherwise known as the CLEC. DSU was cutover during the Thanksgiving break in 1998 and remains a valued customer today. The CLEC has grown dramatically over the last 20 years with customers in Dickinson, Belfield and Gladstone. In 1998 Consolidated’s commercial venture also began providing Internet service in both the cooperative and competitive service areas. In 2000 Consolidated acquired a CATV system in Dickinson and today that video distribution system provides service to the entire cooperative service area. These subsidiary operations are wholly owned by the cooperative and have allowed it to spread the cost of providing voice, video and data services amongst a larger customer base to keep prices affordable.
In 2005, Consolidated took on the very ambitious goal of serving all cooperative customers with a fiber to the home infrastructure. Today Consolidated is 100% Fiber to the Home in all of the cooperative exchanges, serving 19 communities. Consolidated is working towards the same goal in Dickinson, upgrading its customers from coax to fiber facilities.
Consolidated faces many challenges today- uncertainty in universal service and network access compensation, declines in landline subscribers and competition just to name a few. At the same time we see many potential opportunities on the horizon. The Internet has unlocked possibilities we could just barely imagine a generation ago. Throughout its history Consolidated has maintained its vision of providing access to the world to all of the customers it serves.
Since 1961 Consolidated has grown by leaps and bounds from the two struggling telephone companies it began as. Consolidated has invested millions of dollars in equipment and infrastructure to provide top quality Internet, video and voice services. Looking back not only provides a backdrop to our roots, it also gives us an opportunity to reflect on those who have through grit, guts, and perseverance made Consolidated what it is today. Family, friends and neighbors bringing service to family, friends and neighbors. Our belief that treating our customers and employees with honesty and integrity is the only way to conduct business has guided us throughout our history. Consolidated’s motto of “Reach the World from Here” continues to drive its efforts to bring its customers the same services available to people in urban areas at reasonably comparable cost.
What is a Co-op and why were they formed?
A cooperative is a private business organization this is owned and controlled by the people who use its products, supplies or services. Cooperatives have historically been formed to promote the interests of the less powerful members of society, with the idea that consumers could accomplish more collectively than they could as individuals. In the telecommunications industry they were born out of the need for goods and services that were not offered in rural communities, because it was not often profitable for commercial telecommunications companies to serve rural areas. Farmers, ranchers and members of the community banded together to find a way to obtain essential services, such as telephony, at a reasonable cost. Thus, telecommunications cooperatives were born.
What does being a Co-op customer mean?
Cooperatives are run by their customers: You. In order to become a member of a co-op you must use its services. Every member has one vote, so organizational decision making is shared by all members of the cooperative. A Board of Directors is elected by the membership in order to handle the day to day operations. By purchasing services from your local telecommunications co-op you are enabling them to bring new and advanced services to your community. Being a member of a co-op also has financial benefits. Revenues earned above operating expenses are disbursed to members on a pro-rated basis. These capital credits are allocated in a proportional manner – the more services you use from the co-op, the more credits that are available to you.
The biggest advantage to you as a customer is that co-ops are not motivated by profit, but by high-quality goods or services that meet the needs of their membership at the most affordable rate possible. Rural telecommunications cooperatives are fighting for your interests and trying to ensure that you have access to the same essential services as a member of urban areas.