Highland News Leader

AG Communications has been connecting the area for 60 years

The welcome are a the AG Communications member appreciation picnic.
The welcome are a the AG Communications member appreciation picnic. Courtesy photo

Delmar Korsmeyer was around 6 years old when his parents first got a telephone on their rural Alhambra farm in the early 1940s. It was the one of their first modern conveniences. It wasn’t until in 1949 that electricity was even available, Korsmeyer recalled.

Now 76, Korsmeyer said he is still planning for technology upgrades. He intends to have a fiber-optic broadband connection installed on his century-old farm when it becomes available later this year through AG Communications, formerly known as the Alhambra-Grantfork Telephone Co.

“People are comparing the installation of fiber to when electricity was brought onto area farms,” said Korsmeyer, who also serves as president of the board of directors for AG.

AG currently supplies more than 70 percent of its customers with fiber, AG general manager and treasurer Kevin Osterbur said.

“But by 2017, we hope to have fiber brought to 90 percent of our customers homes,” he said.

Ostebur said having an all-fiber optic network gives customers access a more secure connection, increased speed and reliability, and a home capable of handling future technological advances.

“That is why today’s fiber is considered a necessity like electricity,” Korsmeyer said.

As it expands its broadband network, the company is also expanding its office. Once renovations are complete, AG is planning to move into a new office building at 305 E. Main St. in Alhambra, the former Galaxy restaurant. Korsmeyer said the company is out of space at its existing office at 114 Wall St., which is next door, so it bought the former Galaxy building at auction and is converting the once popular dining place into office space for its 12 employees.

The early days

In 1905, the Hillsboro Telephone Co. organized and operated a telephone service in Alhambra. But it was soon sold to Roy Vandebrook and Jacob Leef. (Leef is Korsmeyer’s great-great grandfather.)

The company continued operation until May 1913, at which time the Alhambra Mutual Telephone Co. was organized. The first officers were: the Rev. C.F. Warber, pastor at Salem Evangelical Church, president; F.W. Brunnworth, vice president; E.H. Henschen, secretary; and W.H. Beckman, a cashier at Citizen State Bank, treasurer.

The first Alhambra Mutual Telephone Co. office was in the home of Christ Rabberman. At the first annual meeting, there were 51 subscribers and five rental phones.

But by 1949, there were 300 subscribers, and Alhambra Mutual Telephone Co. owned a building that contained the office and rooms for the operators and families to live in.

The merger

On March 11, 1953, a joint meeting of the directors of the Alhambra Mutual and Grantfork Mutual companies was held to discuss a possible merger. The purpose of the merger was to build a dial telephone system with financing through the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), Korsmeyer said.

A month later, the directors of both companies selected Alhambra-Grantfork Telephone for the name of their new merged company.

In August 1954, REA approved a $242,000 loan to rebuild the telephone system.

Korsmeyer said both companies wanted to merge because each of the company’s telephone poles were in bad shape.

“They had to do something,” he said.

But it took two years before the merger became official in 1955. They were allowed to sell 1,500 shares of stock, but only issued 1,118 shares. Each share cost $25 then.

“There was no limit on how many shares you could buy,” Korsmeyer said. “People now want to buy the shares so badly, because we pay such high dividends each year.”

How times have changed

In August 1957, the company first introduced “dial service,” which provided the customer a quicker and more convenient connection, because they didn’t need to call an operator to make a connections.

The next innovation was “single party service” in 1967.

“We were one of the first small companies to provide a private line to every customer, rather than eight to 16 people on a line. That was common for the rural areas at this time in the U.S.,” Korsmeyer said.

In 1978, AG installed one of the first rural, computer-controlled switching offices. This type of switching gear was required to furnish all of the advanced features that makes the telephone system more useful, Korsmeyer said. He cited push-button dialing, call waiting and call forwarding as examples.

In October 1996, AG first started to provide local access to the Internet.

In 2001, AG began to offer ADSL service in Alhambra. ADSL is a much faster Internet service than dial-up and allows customers to use the telephone at the same time they are online. The main drawback of ADSL is the requirement of being within 3 1/2 miles of the serving office.

The outside plant received an upgrade between 2002 and 2004. The “backbone” of the plant was connected with fiber cable to nine remote switching units in addition to the main switch equipment in Alhambra and a remote in Grantfork. Copper cable was also replaced as needed. The addition of these remotes reduced the distance from the subscribers to the remotes. This short distance improved telephone service and allowed ADSL high-speed Internet service to almost every customer.

Appreciation picnic

AG now holds an appreciation picnic held every two years. This year’s picnic was held on Aug. 2 at the Grantfork Firmen’s Park. It was also a celebration of 60 years of service for the telephone company.

“It was a huge success with over 375 in attendance,” Korsmeyer said.

To celebrate their anniversary, AG provided guests with an afternoon of free giveaways, drawings, food, ice cream, music, kids’ games and a bounce house. Some of the attendance prizes that were given to guests were free internet service, cash, gift certificates, and BBQ sets. There were also displays featuring historic cars, tractors, and telephone memorabilia. The big prize was a 40-inch LED TV.

“How many companies do you hear about today holding an appreciation picnic like this?” Korsmeyer said.