USTelecom Media

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Big Bend Telephone

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Tell us about Big Bend Telephone Company.

Big Bend Telephone Company (BBTC) is a third-generation, family-owned business based in Alpine, Texas that was founded in 1960. Our service area is 17,594 sq. miles, larger than nine states, including Massachusetts. We serve .25 customers per square mile in areas with a lot of rocky, mountainous terrain and unpaved roads. Only about 12 percent of the roads in our service area are paved, and we serve about 50 percent of the Texas-Mexico border (or 485 miles).

What unique challenges does your company face while serving customers throughout west Texas, including Big Bend National Park? You cover a lot of area out there.

BBTC utilizes the most cost-effective strategies, equipment, and technology to provide voice and broadband service to this rugged terrain. We have overcome, and continue to manage, challenges that make BBTC a truly High Cost Provider in comparison to other rural communications companies. We operate a mesh network utilizing copper, fiber, fixed wireless technologies, and a satellite solution and have invested in more than 24,000 route miles of terrestrial plant and 3,000 miles of fiber optic plant.

Because of the terrain and sparse population, we sometimes have to get creative. For one very remote state park, BBTC relies on fiber to a central office, a point-to-point wireless link to a mountaintop site, and an additional point-to-point wireless link to a broadband loop carrier that supports short-loop copper to reach the customer’s premises with advanced voice and broadband solutions. We also have to meet higher levels of network redundancy, resiliency, and employee training to serve the federal and state institutions securing the U.S.-Mexico border.

When you think about your company’s future, what, if anything, keeps you up at night?

A major concern is falling through the cracks as an unintended consequence of federal and state reform. We do not fit well into regulatory models, and given our low density, large land mass and high costs, our efforts toward efficiencies and growth cannot offset “one size fits all” policies and objectives. The contributions of rural carriers are significant to the greater good but poorly understood by a growing number of our representatives. This trend is extremely concerning.

Now that you’re the new Chair of the USTelecom Leadership Committee, what goals or hopes do you have for the group this year?

It’s quite an honor to serve USTelecom in this capacity, and I hope to increase small company membership and continue building a strong bridge and fostering a deep understanding of issues and challenges between carriers of all sizes. Small rural carriers play a significant role in our nation’s communications infrastructure, and my goal is to continue illustrating that relevance and show how small, mid-size and large carriers can work together to provide for consumer broadband demand.

What are two websites that you can’t get through the day without checking?

Wall Street Journal and Forbes Business