We are Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, the largest member-owned telecommunications cooperative in the state of Alabama, serving thousands of homes and businesses across DeKalb and Jackson counties. We are dedicated to bringing the highest-quality telecom services to the rural areas and small towns in our service area — providing more advanced technology than many of our big-city counterparts.
Our fiber network offers customers access to some of the fastest internet speeds in the country, including gigabit access in many areas. Fiber positions the region to attract new jobs, support economic growth, increase access to telemedicine and introduce improved opportunities in education.
Built on Tradition
That dedication to our members is born out of our founding in 1952. At the time, investor-owned telephone companies in Alabama were unwilling to offer service in the state’s rural areas, as the cost of extending their networks to sparsely populated areas was too high for such a low return on investment.
Local residents had already brought electricity to their communities by establishing the Sand Mountain Electric Cooperative, so they worked together once again to organize Farmers Telephone Cooperative. This required signing up prospective members, acquiring switching and network equipment, and building out a system to bring telephone service to DeKalb and Jackson counties.
By 1954, the young cooperative had purchased three privately held exchanges serving 234 telephones. Around that time, the board also completed negotiations with the Rural Electrification Administration (today’s Rural Utilities Service) for federal loans, which made it possible to expand service to 750 residents across five exchanges. By 1960, FTC served more than 2,000 members.
Dedicated to Improvement
We have always made it a priority to provide members with cutting-edge technology as soon as it becomes available. In the 1960s and 1970s, we installed underground telephone cable, cut over new switches and expanded our central offices. In the early 1980s, we became the first phone company in the entire state to implement digital switching technology. This allowed us to begin providing one-party service for all of our 15,000 members.
The 1990s saw more expansion as we became the first carrier to bring local cellular phone service to our region (AT&T would later acquire our cellular operations). We also began deploying optical fiber within our network, which would lay the foundation for the world-class fiber network we have today.
In 1996, we introduced internet access to our service area, rolling out DSL (the predecessor to today’s true high-speed internet) in 2002. That same year, we opened full-service local offices in Geraldine and Higdon.
To reflect the changing nature of the industry, we changed our name to Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative in February 2005. Just two years later, we began work to expand fiber throughout our system, a project that would span eight years and set the foundation for continued growth.
A Solid Future
The impact of this fiber expansion cannot be overstated. A majority of our members now have access to a fiber-to-the-home connection. As a result, thousands of homes, small businesses and industries can connect to infrastructure capable of delivering the most advanced telecommunications services available. From high-definition video streaming to remote connections and large file transfers, the network is in place to meet the demands of today and the challenges of tomorrow.
We have taken many actions to ensure this cooperative is in a position to serve the region for decades to come. One of the most significant of these actions has been the expansion of our services beyond our traditional territory. We provide advanced, fiber-based telecom services to portions of Section and Dutton in Jackson County, as well as Fort Payne, Crossville, Collinsville, Hammondville and Mentone in DeKalb County. This not only extends critical services to these neighboring communities, but also provides revenue to support the functions of the cooperative for its membership base.
In some areas, it is difficult to extend fiber on a cost-effective basis. It is therefore important that we have alternative technologies available to serve these regions. With that in mind, we purchased Boonlink, a Fort Payne-based company, to expand our wireless internet capabilities. This line-of-sight technology enables us to provide broadband services in a non-wired environment.
Many homeowners today are taking advantage of broadband’s connectivity to deploy smart home technology. In 2014 we launched our own security service that helps businesses and homeowners monitor and protect their property. These systems are expandable as advances in technology make new services possible.
Launching the Gig
In February 2014, the community gathered at a home in Geraldine for a major FTC announcement. The home was owned by the Ables family — the same family who held the very first membership in FTC. Instead of basic phone service, we were celebrating the very first FTC home being connected to gigabit internet service.
A thousand times faster than the average connection, “the gig” marked the beginning of a new era for FTC, setting the stage for tremendous advancement. The availability of gig service will drive economic development and open up new opportunities for our members and customers — opportunities we cannot even imagine today.
Focused on Service
In the decades since FTC was founded, the technology and services we provide have changed immensely for the people we serve across DeKalb and Jackson counties. But some things haven’t changed. Just as in 1952, we remain focused on serving our customers and strengthening our local connections to better carry out our cooperative mission. We’re proud to be member-owned and to provide the advanced, reliable telecom services that keep our neighbors connected.