South Plains Telephone Cooperative consist of three basic tiers. The Cooperative members makeup the primary division of the company. For the second tier, the members select a small group of representatives that make up the Board of Directors. The employees makeup the third and final tier.
Under the advisement of the general manager, the Board of Directors make the investment and business decisions for the cooperative. Once a year, cooperative members elect the Board of Directors at the annual meeting. A Nominating Committee selects the nominees for the election of the Directors. Both the nominating committee and the Board of Directors consist of members of the Cooperative.
The Cooperative divides the personnel into two departmental divisions, Commercial and Plant. Both departments are split into different operations. The Commercial department consists of customer service, accounting, billing, marketing, and Internet services. The plant department is made up of construction, installation/repair, central office and engineering.
In 1945, South Plains Electric Cooperative offered Southwestern Bell the opportunity to provide telephone service to their area using much of their existing equipment. Southwestern Bell declined the offer and the area continued to be without communication for another seven years.
On December 16, 1949, a group of individuals served by South Plains Electric Cooperative met to consider forming a company to provide themselves telephone service. The group called the company South Plains Rural Telephone Association. With South Plains Electric Cooperative already having the necessary business and construction facilities to begin the new endeavor, the South Plains Rural Telephone Association became a subsidiary of South Plains Electric Cooperative.
The group applied for loans from the Rural Electrification Association and began collecting a $50.00 membership fee from area persons who wanted to receive service. In April of 1950, the group applied the Articles of Incorporation and SPRTA learned the name would have to be changed to South Plains Telephone Cooperative.
Being one of the first rural telephone cooperatives, South Plains Telephone Cooperative met with a great deal of opposition and conflict. Many of the members became impatient while waiting for service and began to petition larger established companies for service to some of the larger areas in the South Plains Telephone Cooperative service area.
The conflict over this area continued all the way to Washington D C. A small group of representatives from the cooperative traveled to lobby the politicians to reach a decision. A large portion of the country hinged on the outcome of this event. The decision made here would set a precedent by which all other cooperatives would follow. Through the hard work and diligence of those representatives, congress established the South Plains Telephone Cooperative territory and declared the service boundaries.
Construction proceeded on a shoe string budget and the hopes that an REA grant would be approved. In January of 1951, Congress approved $25,000,000 for telephone cooperatives throughout the United States. South Plains Telephone Cooperative received $1,200,000 of the funds. This made South Plains Telephone Cooperative the recipient of the second largest allocation in the U.S. at that time. These funds covered 90 percent of the cost, leaving the members to provide the other ten percent of construction cost.
Later that same year, because of REA regulation, South Plains Electric separated its electrical and telephone operations creating two completely separate cooperatives. On March 3, 1952, South Plains Telephone Cooperative began construction on its own phone lines. This construction marked South Plains Telephone Cooperative as the first telephone cooperative to begin construction west of the Mississippi River.
At 1:38 a.m. on December 13, 1952, the Cotton Center exchange began processing calls. Texas Governor Allen Shivers completed the first long-distance call when he called S. H. Bradford on the stage of the Cotton Center High school. School officials received the call in the auditorium of the school in front of a small crowd of people. This event marked the first long-distance telephone call, on a cooperative line, in the State of Texas. This event also made South Plains Telephone Cooperative the first operational telephone cooperative in Texas, and only the second in nation. To celebrate this cornerstone of American history, some 400 people attended a barbecue luncheon held in honor of this achievement.
From early 1952 to 1953, eight more exchanges followed Cotton Center extending telephone service to the Halfway, County Line, Merrell, Happy Union, Hollandville, Caprock, Cone and McAdoo communities. By the end of 1953 South Plains Telephone Cooperative serviced three counties – Lubbock, Hale and Crosby County.
South Plains Telephone Cooperative purchased the Edmonson exchange in 1954 from T. A. Singer, former owner of Lubbock Telephone. Because of the type of equipment used, much of the equipment had to be replaced.
In 1956, South Plains Telephone Cooperative added the Fieldton exchange. In 1959, South Plains Telephone Cooperative continued to expand the service area to include the Arnett and Pettit exchanges. The original plans for these exchanges included underground service, rather than the traditional aerial wire used around the country. Financial supporters refused to fund the under ground construction, saying “it was not possible or feasible.”
South Plains Telephone Cooperative built their first office on the Slaton highway in 1958. At that time South Plains Telephone Cooperative only employed ten full-time employees, and one part-time employee, had 1,800 subscribers, 12 exchanges and served ten counties.
In the 1960’s, South Plains engineers won the underground battle, and began replacing over 1000 miles of aerial wire with underground construction. This also reduced the number of party lines from ten to four. From 1971 to 1973, South Plains Telephone Cooperative completed replacing the aerial wire and only one party line remained. Today South Plains Telephone Cooperative places over 99 percent of its communication lines underground and no longer offers any type of party line service.
South Plains Telephone Cooperative also led much of the communication industry when we began offering push button dialing in 1965. This led much of the industry by almost five years in implementing the new technology.
In 1977, South Plains Telephone Cooperative moved from the Slaton highway location and purchased the current office building at 2425 Marshall St. By 1990, South Plains Telephone Cooperative served almost 4,000 subscribers, 16 exchanges with digital equipment in eleven different counties.
South Plains Telephone Cooperative provides telecommunication services to almost 3,100 subscribers. South Plains Telephone Cooperative’s service area covers 2,335 square miles in 11 counties. In providing these services, South Plains Telephone Cooperative utilizes 303 miles of fiber optic cable in its transport network, connecting 16 different exchanges. This fiber optic network creates a self-healing ring around the Lubbock area enabling seamless communication, even at those times when this cable is damaged.
Members can access high-speed digital communications, Caller ID services, call forwarding, call waiting, anonymous call rejection, automatic recall, automatic call back, call trace, remote access call forwarding, selective call rejection, selective call waiting, speed calling, three-way calling and toll deny. These services are available and accessible by any member on the South Plains Telephone Cooperative network.
In addition to the communications services described above the cooperative has built greater than 1500 miles of fiber in an expanding and growing fiber to the home network. This fiber to the home network allows access to additional service such as symmetrical highspeed internet and IPTV, cable-like television, services. Fiber optics allow for greater diversity and the ability to add services that were once considered an impossibility or science fiction.
South Plains Telephone Cooperative provides these services and many others to keep our members on the leading edge of technology and to continue the longstanding tradition of quality telecommunications now and in the years to come.
South Plains Telephone Cooperative receives federal financial assistance from the Rural Electrification Administration. By receiving these funds, South Plains Telephone Cooperative abides by the provisions of title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in Section 504 of the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and the rules and regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture which provide that no person in the United States on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, or handicap shall be excluded form participation in, admission to access to, denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any of this organization’s programs or activities.
The person responsible for coordinating this organization’s nondiscrimination compliance efforts is the General Manager Wade Maner. Any individual, or specific class of individuals, who feels that this organization has subjected them to discrimination may obtain further information about the status and regulations listed above from and/or file a written complaint with this organization; or the Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250; or the Administrator, Rural Electrification Administration, Washington D.C. 20250. Complaints must be filed within 180 days after the alleged discrimination. Confidentiality will be maintained to the furthest extent possible.