As late as 1949, rural areas in Abbeville, McCormick and Anderson Counties had no telephone service except for two small local operations. In the fall of 1951, a group of local businessmen met to discuss the possibilities of forming a telephone company. The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) had a loan program to help make telephone service a reality in the rural parts of America. One of the REA requirements for the low interest loan was that there had to be some existing telephone property. In order to satisfy that requirement, West Carolina bought the Due West Telephone company in 1952 from Henry Bowie. The company had about 200 subscribers and had been in business for a number of years. Negotiations were made to acquire the rural lines of the South Carolina Continental Telephone Company in the McCormick area. Shortly thereafter the company bought the Starr-Iva Telephone Company, which had been owned and operated by the Thompson family since 1901. The owner, Lewis Thompson, agreed to become the General Manager and he guided the operations of the cooperative until his death in 1988. Dave Herron succeeded him as General Manager.
West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc. was formed in 1952. Since it's beginning, West Carolina Tel has not only met it's primary goal of providing basic telephone service to the rural areas of Abbeville and McCormick counties, and the Starr and Iva areas of Anderson County, but has been able to provide the enhanced services others have come to expect in metropolitan areas of the United States. Our central offices have been fully digital since October of 1993 and by the end of 2001, nearly 500 miles of fiber optic cable had been deployed. A major component of this deployment has been installing a fiber optic ring that will "self heal" if there is a cut in the fiber and re-route your call through one of our other offices. Calling Features have been available for some time now and Caller ID services have been available since October of 1995.
Your telephone company began providing local access to the Internet in May of 1995. By dialing either 391-INET (4638) or 348-INET (4638) you will have full access to the Internet. We are obviously proud of this in that we are one of the first Rural Telephone Cooperatives to provide this level of access to its subscribers. West Carolina was also one of the first rural telephone companies to provide high speed DSL Internet access in November of 2000. High bandwidth data services are proving to be the communications technology of the future.
When it has been cost prohibitive for West Carolina Tel to accomplish a goal on its own, we have been able to partner with others in order to be able to reach that goal. A good example is how we were able to prepare for the future and obtain a license to provide wireless digital phone service to the Major Trading Area which includes all of South and North Carolina. Thirty five Rural Telephone Companies partnered with BELLSOUTH WIRELESS, DUKENET COMMUNICATIONS AND CAROLINA POWER AND LIGHT in order to bid on the MTA license at an auction which was conducted by the Federal Communications Commission. Once again, we were able to ensure our subscribers had access to the same technological advantages as citizens in metropolitan areas. We have a strong relationship with our school systems and are involved in the deployment of distance learning centers for the local Technical College.
We, at West Carolina Tel, aren't through either. As new service become available and our customers request additional capabilities, we are working to provide them. One current example of this is central office based voice mail. This digital service can replace worn out tape driven answering machines at an affordable monthly charge. It can even notify you when you have a message automatically. Another service that West Carolina Tel began offering was our paging service. This service was offered in 1998 and was very popular with the business community.
In 1999, West Carolina Communications LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc. was formed offering competitively priced, non-complicated long distance service. Doing business as West Carolina Long Distance, service has been expanded to include calling cards and 800 service.
In 2001, West Carolina Communications LLC received the certification as a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC). This enabled us to provide services in the municipalities of Abbeville, McCormick and Calhoun Falls. The construction soon began, and by the end of 2003 all of our services were being offered to customers in these areas.
In September 2003, we began offering television service, and not just any TV service but digital service. Digital TV gave us the opportunity to offer our customers services like, caller ID over the set, voice mail notification, in demand pay-per-view, and better picture and sound quality.
Since our inception, West Carolina has always made decisions based on what was best for our customers, and when we saw the need to have customer service centers in multiple locations in our service area, we responded. In January 2004, McCormick county's old post office, at 200 Virginia Street, was remodeled into our very first remote customer service site. In December 2005, West Carolina remodeled one of its own central offices, at 619 W. Front Street in the town of Iva, to begin serving customers on that side of our territory. And, we were not finished there, in 2009, we held a grand opening to publicize not only the opening of our new Customer Service Center in Abbeville at 233 Hwy 28 By-pass, but to announce the beginning of our Fiber-to-the-Home project.
As new services were being developed, West Carolina understood, that in order for our customers to have access to the latest in advanced technologies, the way we delivered service to the home would have to change. So, in September 2008 we began our Fiber-to-the-Home project. This would include the installation of a fiber optic network that would connect our customer homes in the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) area via fiber to West Carolina's network. When the project is complete, over 1400 miles of fiber will have been installed.
Being a cooperative, our member/subscribers are the owners. These members, through their elected Board of Directors, ensure they are getting the absolute best value for their dollar. If, through wise and careful management, there are profits made over and above those funds required for annual expenses and anticipated capital expenditures, the members can expect those dollars to be returned to them in the form of capital credit checks.
West Carolina Tel was here for you yesterday, it is here today and will be here tomorrow providing the best quality communications services available, at the most affordable price possible.