By Fred Johnson
Executive Vice President and General Manager
It was a good day. Friday, February 6, marked yet another milestone in the history of FTC. With the launch of widespread Gigabit Internet Access, FTC introduced one of Alabama’s first widespread, widely deployed and affordable ultra-high-speed Broadband service. It wasn’t the first time we made headlines.
We launched the digital revolution in telecommunications technology in Alabama by initializing the state’s first digital multiplex switch on February 28, 1979. Our latest accomplishment is proof positive that 36 years later we are still at it. I like to think that speaks volumes about our commitment to those we serve and the communities in which they live, work, and raise their families.
Elsewhere, in this publication you will read what this new service level means to both residential and business customers. In fact, every town touched by our optical fiber network can now claim to be “Gig City” just like Chattanooga and a few other big cities across the nation. You will doubtless take note of the fact that our network far exceeds the minimum definition of Broadband newly adopted by the FCC. In fact, our baseline Internet access offering is now a symmetrical 100 Mbps service that is four times the capacity of the FCC’s current standard. I urge you to resist any temptation to dismiss the hype as just a faster version of Internet access. It is far more than that which leads me to the topic I really want to highlight.
In 2007, our Board of Trustees carefully spent more than a year evaluating all the options available to and facing our Cooperative. They sought much counsel and advice from leading experts at all levels of the business. They essentially decided that FTC would totally commit itself to maintaining state of the art/leading edge technology and resolved that FTC would meet the future needs of the communities, which gave it its existence. It was an “all-in” decision. There was no half-hearted commitment. Once that decision was reached we held course through unforeseen economic crisis and material changes in Federal public policy that have essentially turned the world of rural telecommunications on its end. However, thanks to the support of our members and customers, the diligence of our workforce, and, in my opinion, wisdom from the good Lord, FTC is, in several measurements, as strong today as it was at the dawn of the millennium. This is an accomplishment for which we all are wholeheartedly grateful.
Our launch was meaningful in another way as well. A favorite folk saying goes like this. “Always dance with the one that brought you to the ball.” Clearly, this serves as a reminder that you should never forget the people responsible for your success. The FTC of today is indebted to many influential men and women from years past who believed in their communities and understood that a modern telecommunications system was essential to the economic viability and prosperity of those communities. Mr. R. E. Ables was one such man. He so strongly believed in the mission of this cooperative that in 1952 he subscribed to Membership Number 1. Mr. and Mrs. Ables and their entire family were lifelong champions of FTC and its mission. We were delighted to recognize Mrs. Ables at our 60th Annual Meeting last August. Thus, it was with much gratitude and satisfaction that we returned to the Ables’ home-place on February 6, to launch our new level of service even though the service itself became instantly available across the entire optical fiber network of the Cooperative. The symbolism speaks for itself. Mr. and Mrs. Ables and their family have long demonstrated that the best hope for a community lies in the dedication of its inhabitants to constantly seek its improvement. Our respect that day for the Ables family was intended both to say thank you to a generation of people who cared enough to make a difference in their communities and to demonstrate that a succeeding generation of FTC’s leadership remains firmly committed to that very same cause.