“Highland Telephone Cooperative, Inc. of Sunbright, Tennessee is committed to providing quality telecommunications and related services using the latest technology at competitive rates. We will be knowledgeable about our services and strive to keep our customers informed. This will insure the long-term future of the co-operative and its place in the community.”
The Highland Telephone Cooperative Story
During the 1950’s, most of America saw a boom of post-war prosperity and growth. Yet for residents of America’s rural regions, basic phone service was still scarce. Because of the sparse population, private phone companies bypassed rural areas in favor of more profitable towns and cities. Highland Telephone Cooperative was formed to address the critical need for phone service in our region.
In order to offer service to everyone, and qualify for loans from the Rural Electrification Administration, HTC was formed as a member-owned cooperative in 1955. It started with 1,000 members. The phone system would be owned by all those it served, operating for their benefit. The system first served Scott and Morgan counties of Tennessee, eventually reaching into parts of Anderson and Campbell counties as well as McCreary County, Kentucky.
From the original group of members, and a small office above the hardware store in Sunbright where it all began, Highland Telephone Cooperative has grown to serve more than 28,000 members today. In addition to phone service, members can now enjoy a wide array of telecommunication services, including Internet and digital television. The cooperative is currently building a new network that will connect every home, business, school and industry to optical fiber technology. It is a communications system that will rival the best available anywhere, and one that we can all be proud of.
The Seven Cooperative Principles
Cooperatives around the world generally operate according to the same core principles and values, adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance in 1995. The International Cooperative Alliance is a global membership association of co-ops and co-op support organizations. Cooperatives trace the roots of these principles to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.
1. Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2. Democratic Member Control
Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
3. Members’ Economic Participation
Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
4. Autonomy and Independence
Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
5. Education, Training and Information
Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7. Concern for Community
While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.
What It Means to be a Cooperative
Cooperatives are different from investor-owned utilities in many important ways:
Cooperatives are formed by the people who purchase services from them. As a customer of Highland Telephone Cooperative, you are also a member and part owner, along with your neighbors.
Cooperatives are not driven by profit; they exist to provide a service. Because they are not owned by Wall Street investors, cooperatives can focus on improving the services their members receive.
Cooperatives are often located in rural areas, and they help support job growth and economic development in these regions.
Because their employees usually live in the communities they serve, cooperatives deliver customer service with a hometown touch.
When members have questions about their cooperative or its services, they can usually make a local phone call or stop by a local office and talk to a local person about their concerns.
It’s great to be a member of a cooperative!
The Annual Meeting of the members of Highland Telephone Cooperative is held the first Saturday in November of each year.