VTC 60th Anniversary - Looking Back and Moving Forward

 

 

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Valley Telephone incorporated as a Cooperative

On May 3, 1962, Valley Telephone incorporated as a Cooperative with its headquarters established in the "Rix's Tavern" building on South Haskell, Avenue in Willcox, Arizona. The mission was to provide telephone service to Southwestern, New Mexico and to Southeastern, Arizona in Cochise and Graham County. It was the local farmers and ranchers who got behind the movement for the cooperative to be formed. Lyle Donovan was hired by the Board of Directors to be the first General Manager for the company and went to work on May 1, 1963. Most of the initial work was getting the cooperative up and running as there wasn't much in the way of service available in the area. The original exchanges included Pearce, Sunizona, Bonita, San Simon and Portal, Arizona along with Animas, New Mexico.

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Lyle Donovan was known as a pioneer

Lyle Donovan was known as a pioneer in rural telephone expansion and long-term management and was hired from Western New Mexico Telephone to help establish and run the Valley Telephone Cooperative. Lyle was responsible for much of the early expansion and upgrades to the Cooperative. This included the 1974 purchase of Western States Telephone in Hachita, New Mexico and expanding service to the Animas/Playas boundary as well as the Apache Telephone Company located in Bowie, Arizona. He also helped move from party line to private single line service in 1978 (no small task at the time), Formed Valley Telecommunications Company, Inc. in 1982 to provide competitive products such as business phone systems, and in 1983 purchased Continental Telephone Company of the West in Columbus, New Mexico and taking us halfway across the state. Lyle remained as General Manager until his retirement from Valley in 1984.

Reliable, local telephone service

During the early years at Valley, it was all about reliable, local telephone service for customers living in rural settings who couldn't get service from the Bell Telephone Company, which was purchased in 1899 from AT&T subsidiary American Bell Bell and eventually became US West. The idea of local farmers and ranchers not being able to communicate with others in nearby towns and communities is what drove the initiative to form the organization that would eventually become Valley Telephone Cooperative. Before long, Valley had phone lines and connections available for numerous customers throughout all of the exchange areas being served.

VTC 1990's Growth

Throughout the 1990's, Valley Telephone Cooperative continued to grow in size and function as well as technological abilities. Starting in 1991, the Valley Telephone Cooperative Foundation was formed to provide scholarships to members' students using unclaimed capital credits. Since that first year, Valley has given away over $1,000,000.00 in scholarship money for higher education. 1992 saw the start up of the "Valley TeleCom" cellular business with a store located in the current Safeway plaza in Willcox, and in 1995 Valley created Copper Valley Telephone Incorporated when they purchased the serving areas of Clifton/Morenci, York Valley, Duncan and Elfrida from US West with an office located in Clifton next to the Post Office. 1997 saw a whole new technology emerging in dial-up internet service provided by Valley with Apache Elementary School in Portal becoming our first internet customer.

Becoming Valley TeleCom Group

In 2000 we became the Valley TeleCom Group for the purpose of forming a new corporate identity to act as an umbrella for all the various entities that made up the company such as Valley Telephone Cooperative, Copper Valley Telephone and the newly formed Valley Connections, launched to serve cities like Willcox and Safford. This helped to give Valley a more unifying identity seen by both customers and the communities we served as well as all of our employees. It also reflected on the move towards newer technologies beyond telephone and basic dial up internet and in 2001, Valley embarked on building a state-of-the-art fiber optic network, which allowed us to start offering high-speed DSL Internet service to subscribers starting in 2003.

New State-Of-The-Art Fiber Optic Network

Building a new state-of-the-art fiber optic network was a daunting task for engineering, construction, installation and network staff who worked tirelessly to make it happen with a long haul running from Nogales, Arizona all the way to El Paso, Texas. The enormity of the overall job and timeline for completion included location of outside plant and central office for broadband connectivity, surveying and route planning, trenching and boring operations, fiber optic line pulling, carrier box installation and distribution to homes and offices throughout the various exchanges that Valley served. Putting in this network ensured future potential for faster speeds and greater connectivity for all Valley customers.

Introduction to DSL Internet Service

With the addition of the new fiber optic network, Valley was able to take dial-up internet users to a whole new world with the introduction of DSL Internet service. DSL or "Digital Subscriber Line" services allowed much greater speed and bandwidth to improve the overall experience of customers with faster download speeds for photographs and other large files. Valley's first DSL customer was Apache Elementary School (established in 1910), close to the "Geronimo Surrender Monument" near the Arizona-New Mexico border. What an amazing difference it must have made for the school to finally have the type of connectivity they needed for both students and teachers that had never been possible before. Another offering from Valley for all new DSL customers was a Free website of their own.

"Fiber to The Home"

In 2005, Valley sold its cellular operations but kept its existing towers in a lease agreement with Verizon. Then in 2006 Valley started offering "Fiber to The Home" services to both Safford and Willcox and headed into a whole new frontier as they launched their IPTV service throughout the area with a huge selection of channels along with pay-per-view movies, and a DVR (digital video recorder). They also started production for 4 separate local TV channels with three being dedicated to school districts and a separate channel "Community Channel One or TV1", that produced content for all types of events and activities all over the place. This included live broadcasts of High School football and basketball games along with other filmed programs. Over the next 11 years, "TV1" produced between 150 and 200 shows per year and won the 2015 National "Telechoice Award" for best local content (Valley ended TV operations in 2017 to concentrate on internet service). And as if 2006 wasn't busy enough, Valley built it's current two-story headquarters building on Maley Street in Willcox the same year. Click here to see a sample from Community Channel One.

50th Anniversary

It only feels like yesterday that Valley TeleCom Group celebrated its "Golden" Anniversary in 2012 with a special logo (pictured), gold coin chocolates in all our office locations and great specials all year long like $50 Visa gift cards, $50 off for six months, Free Kindle Fire Tablets, Super-Bundles, and Exclusive Live coverage of local High Schoot football and basketball along with Free pay per view movies on our TV service. We celebrated our customers who helped us get to where we were and we also produced a special commemorative 50th Anniversay video featuring our original General Manager Lyle Donovan along with longtime employee Rich Dullum and our current CEO Steve Metts, that we introduced at our Annual Meeting held in Animas, New Mexico (watch the video here).

60th Anniversary

The past ten years have seen remarkable progress and growth at Valley as we improved services in almost every imaginable way possible with increases in speed all the way to 1Gig, a premium WiFi service with heavy duty protection for networks at both home and in the office. One of the biggest moves Valley made was to entirely build-out the Town of Thatcher with over 108 miles of fiber optic cable to answer the demands of an ever-growing population. Today Valley TeleCom is a leader in state-of-the-art broadband services to residential and business customers throughout Arizona and New Mexico serving areas with a wide range of products and services to fit the varied needs of current and future subscribers. Valley TeleCom takes great pride in being a local company and in attaining customer satisfaction ratings above 95% with the help of great people doing an outstanding job.

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