It’s no longer your grandmother’s phone company, and Logan Telephone Cooperative has changed its name to reflect its evolution from the era of rotary-dialed phones to the age of Zoom video conferences.
Founded in 1954, the member-owned utility that serves parts of Logan, Muhlenberg, Simpson, Butler, Todd and Warren counties rebranded itself this week and is now known as LTC Connect.
It comes at a time when the company is rolling out more fiber optic cable and aiming to reach all its 5,300 members with broadband internet service.
“As technology has evolved, our business and the services we provide to members have evolved as well,” said Greg Hale, LTC Connect’s general manager. “Since we began providing internet service without a phone line in July 2019, we now have more members with internet service than phone service.
“While outstanding telephone service is still a high priority for us, having telephone as the only service in our name does not accurately reflect who we are as a company today.”
Evidence of how LTC Connect is transforming can be seen daily as crews continue to run fiber optic cable throughout the cooperative’s service area.
Hale said the company started its fiber-to-the-home program in 2013 and has now reached roughly two-thirds of its members.
Last fall, Hale announced that the cooperative was receiving a $34.4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that is allowing LTC Connect to continue its broadband expansion.
“Our focus is on trying to get fiber to the remaining one-third of our members,” Hale said. “We have invested about $37.5 million so far.”
Hale said the newly rebranded company will utilize general fund dollars, the USDA loan and possibly some other federal dollars to reach its members who don’t yet have broadband access.
“Our goal is to reach 100 percent of our members,” Hale said. “That last 15 percent will be the most rural areas. Those areas are expensive to reach because there aren’t as many customers.”
With the vast majority of its cable being run underground, LTC Connect’s fiber-to-the-home program is costly, but Hale and Logan County Judge-Executive Logan Chick said the investment is paying off.
Since Logan Telephone started its fiber-to-the-home program, Logan County cities Russellville, Auburn, Adairville and Lewisburg have all become so-called “Gig Cities,” meaning an internet speed of one gigabit (1,000 megabits) per second is available.
Auburn’s designation was particularly helpful, Chick said.
“Champion Petfoods located in Auburn largely because of” high-speed internet, Chick said when the USDA loan was announced. “They were concerned about internet access back to Canada. It’s a tool that’s really impressive.”
As vital as it is in industrial recruiting, Hale said broadband internet has become increasingly important for residential customers, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic that has forced many people to work from home.
“So many people are doing streaming now that they need high-speed internet,” Hale said. “And there are so many connected devices in homes that high speeds are needed.”
With the growth of broadband internet has come the decline of landline phones.
“National trends show more and more people going wireless,” Hale said. “Only about 20 to 25 percent of homes have landline phones now. The only advantage with having a landline is when you call the 9-1-1 emergency number it works better to pinpoint your location.”
Hale said LTC Connect is “nowhere near” as low as that national figure of 25 percent landline usage, but he said: “It’s definitely going down.”