Imagine the headlines if this happened today — a group of rural Texas residents raise money to build their own internet network because corporate internet providers determined their area didn’t deserve coverage.
Such a story would get coverage from coast to coast and go viral on social media. Internet service has become essential to modern life, and recent media trends emphasize grassroots efforts to fill in where investor-controlled corporations fall short.
But that seemingly sensational situation is how Hill Country Telephone Cooperative (HCTC) got started decades ago with the technology of the day. It’s tough to get more grassroots than the story of our founding, and we’re proud to have built on that legacy to continue serving you today.
October is National Cooperative Month, supported by the National Cooperative Business Association and recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That designation always leads me to reflect on our remarkable story. When this company was founded, the ranchers, merchants, teachers, doctors and other community members knew this area needed a telephone network capable of keeping up with the rest of the country. For reasons of safety, economic growth and convenience, they wanted phone service, and they took it upon themselves to make it happen. Meanwhile, the big phone companies wouldn’t build here because it wasn’t profitable enough.
Creating a cooperative wasn’t easy. Each founding member pledged money upfront and then provided continued support in order for the new cooperative to get started. Each individual took a risk — but it was a risk worth taking because they knew they needed a modern communications network.
Today, broadband is the dominant communications need for our area, and HCTC has evolved to deliver that modern connection to meet the sophisticated requirements of the Texas Hill Country.
Our history and structure as a cooperative business make us different from other companies. Like the more than 40,000 other cooperative businesses in the U.S., we are member-owned. That means the people we serve are more than just customers — they are invested in our company in the same way we are invested in the communities we share. While most other telecom and cable providers exist to enrich their corporate investors or owners, we are fundamentally different. Our purpose is to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve — and to ensure we can do that today and in the future.
We’ve built our networks in areas so difficult to reach or so sparsely populated that no other provider would think of connecting. We’re here because we carry the legacy of our founders and our members.
- There are 40,000 cooperative businesses with 343 million members in the United States.
- Cooperatives generate $514 billion in revenue and more than $25 billion in wages.
- National Cooperative Month has been a nationally recognized celebration since 1964.
- Agricultural cooperatives are the most common type of cooperative in the U.S., but there
are also cooperatives specializing in housing, electrical distribution, retail and, of course,