HCTC is more than a provider of state-of-the-art telecommunications products and services. We’re a member-owned cooperative with an elected Board of Directors who govern our organization using our bylaws, member input, and business and industry conditions to guide their decisions. We are proud residents of the communities we serve, and we’re dedicated to not only providing the best services possible, but doing so in a way that is ethical, safe, and productive for our friends and neighbors.
Born as a Cooperative in February, 1951, Hill Country Telephone Cooperative has grown and evolved into HCTC, the company you see today. On February 13, 1951, a group of five men formed the Cooperative for the purpose of furnishing telephone service in rural areas of the Texas Hill Country. Larger telecom companies had deemed the areas as unprofitable and had passed them by on the way to larger cities.
Operating under the cooperative principles and governed by a Board of Directors, Hill Country Telephone Cooperative grew and expanded by offering state-of-the art technologies to rural subscribers. When changes in regulation permitted the delivery of telephone service in competitive markets, Hill Country Telecommunications was established as a subsidiary of the company to capitalize on those changes and diversify the services offered. Hill Country Telephone Cooperative and Hill Country Telecommunications provided a plethora of telecommunications related products and services, including long distance, Internet, security systems and more to a combined 14 exchanges in 15 counties across the Texas Hill Country (including competitive markets in Mason, Kerrville, Fredericksburg and Junction) spanning almost 3000 square miles.
Recently, both the parent Cooperative and its subsidiary have combined their branding and customer communication efforts under the moniker of HCTC. Realizing the importance of broadband availability for rural economic development, HCTC has embarked on a mission to make broadband available throughout its service area. As the future of communications is unfolding and revealing broadband as the preferred technology, HCTC is strategically positioning itself to meet the ever-changing needs of its members, today and into the future.
Dear Members: I would like to offer greetings during my first message to you as your CEO. Since returning to the Cooperative in March of this year, I have been working with your team to assess our progress in services capability as well as financial performance. I am delighted to see solid performance in both areas and an excellent foundation upon which to move forward.
One of our biggest challenges in addition to technology change, costs and competitive pressures, is the ongoing struggle to convince our politicians and regulators that Rural Communications Infrastructure should be the same national imperative as Universal Service was for telephony in the 1950’s. As Cooperative Members, Customers, and Rural Citizens, you are well aware that a vibrant, educated, robust rural economy is critical to the nation’s health, food supply, defense, energy and general well-being. The more Urban Centric the nation becomes, the less we are adequately represented in the political debate for resource priorities.
We reside in what our Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would refer to as a “Market Failure” area. This means that the normal business profit motive and potential does not support the investment required to bring us the latest communications technology, specifically Broadband Internet Access. We at HCTC fully recognize that affordable and high quality internet access is the critical pathway to information, education, security and almost all business activity.
In the case of the traditional telephony portion of our Cooperative, less than 20% of the total funds we require for operations and capital investment come from your monthly billing. The balance of the mechanisms that subsidize the needs gap are clearly the target of ongoing Federal and State Regulatory efforts for reduction or complete elimination. Toward that end, while we invest every effort to continue to justify the national benefit from subsidization, we also recognize that revenue replacement, particularly outside our residential member community, is vital to our future. That’s why we’ve aggressively and successfully expanded into business services in Kerrville and have ventured additionally into the communities of Mason, Junction, Fredericksburg and soon Sonora.
That does not mean we are distracted from our first and foremost priority, to continue to improve broadband capability and availability within our traditional communications service area. We began our foray into landline Broadband in 2009 with a large multi-year fiber optics project. We retained up to the last three or four miles of existing copper cable but located needed electronics much closer to the subscriber. That strategy has largely continued, but in recent years we’ve looked for appropriate exception cases that justified fiber-to-the-home. The effect of all this is that about 65% of the Membership has access to 25Mbps speeds and about 85% has access to at least 10Mbps. Ninety-five percent of the Cooperative has access to at least 3Mbps.
Great accomplishment considering our territory, and it meets current FCC objectives. But, we know this is not good enough. That is why we are moving aggressively into fiber-to-the-premise and why several more densely populated areas including Comfort, Ingram, and Hunt already have fiber extensively positioned for future and, if needed, current use for speeds up to the Gigabit range.
So, no matter how things change, one thing will not with your Cooperative. We are committed to serve the Membership. You have an excellent staff of employees. Every one of them at all times is aware you are the Ownership, not just customers. We’re not perfect, but we respond. We are local. We are committed. We are involved in our communities. Thank you for the privilege to serve you.
Alan Link Chief Executive Officer
2017 President’s Report
Randy Bass, President
2017 has been another very good year for Hill Country Telephone Cooperative (HCTC) and its subsidiary Hill Country Telecommunications. HCTC, as in past years, had a few challenges in 2017, but overall it has been a successful year. This year, just as last, the Board of Directors and Management Team spent countless days of hard work and analysis, and developed a plan for the future to off-set the anticipated decline in support from the state and federal government. The plan developed has been an essential guiding blueprint of action for HCTC in the last year. As a result, HCTC was able to more than off-set the actual reduction in state and federal support. HCTC put the finishing touches on the Data Center, which is now in operation. The expanded service to Junction is complete and in operation. HCTC is continuing to expand service in Kerrville and Fredericksburg, with a fiber project between Fredericksburg and Stonewall nearing completion. The HCTC Management Team and Board of Directors is continuing to evaluate other expansion opportunities and projects that will further increase the HCTC footprint and help decrease the need for government regulated support. Another significant occurrence of interest to all Co-op members in 2017 is the retirement of Delbert Wilson, HCTC’s CEO for the last 10 years. HCTC made huge strides under Delbert’s guidance, and he deserves a great amount of gratitude and thanks for his years of leadership. HCTC was very fortunate to be able to rehire its former COO, Alan Link, to the position of CEO. This hire was a tremendous accomplishment for the Board of Directors, as it facilitated a very smooth transition from one CEO to another. Alan has taken command, and as expected, under his leadership success has continued and the future remains bright for HCTC.
On February 13, 1951, a group of five men met and formed Hill Country Telephone Cooperative, Inc. (Hill Country) for the purpose of furnishing area-wide telephone service in rural areas to the widest practical number of users. Being based on the Cooperative plan at the lowest cost, consistent with sound economy and good management, today Hill Country Telephone Cooperative provides telecommunication services in 15 exchanges located in 14 counties spread over 2900 square miles in rugged Hill Country terrain. The Cooperative is governed by a Board of Directors, with the 11 members representing nine districts.
The Cooperative’s objectives are to continue to enhance, improve and maintain telecommunications services at its highest level at the least possible cost to its members. As the Texas Hill Country continues to grow and the needs and demographics of its subscriber base evolve, Hill Country Telephone Cooperative, realizing the importance of broadband availability for rural economic development, has embarked on a mission to make broadband available throughout its service area. As the future of telecommunications is unfolding and broadband is the direction, Hill Country is strategically positioning itself to meet the ever-changing needs of its members, today and into the future.
Any person, firm, association, corporation, or body politic or subdivision thereof, may become a member of Hill Country Telephone Cooperative, Inc. by agreeing to comply with and be bound by the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws of the Cooperative and any rules and regulations adopted by the Board of Directors that are consistent with local, state and federal law.