Rural Telephone Company—a communications service provider—has been locally owned and operated since 1979. In addition to offering local telephone service, they also provide a full range of internet and wireless services including cell phones and cable television.
Rural Telephone serves remote areas of Idaho, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. The territory includes some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the entire United States. However, beneath its beauty is a rugged and often dangerous land of treacherous mountains, deep canyons, sun-scorched deserts and seemingly impenetrable forests. Winter snow drifts, spring mud slides and summer lightning strikes add to the challenge of providing telephone service to thousands of square miles of wilderness. For more than 2,300 Idaho subscribers, Rural Telephone Company is their primary link to the outside world.
With a subscriber density of less than one per mile, company technicians will often travel overnight to reach subscribers as close as 60 miles or as far as 600 miles from Glenns Ferry.
Cable routes, often inaccessible to even four-wheel drive vehicles, were walked by foot. Today, snowmobiles are often used to reach subscribers and helicopter rentals are not uncommon.
In 1988, the North Fork and Tuscarora, Nevada exchanges were acquired. These systems were known as "shared/sometimes" systems - shared with coyotes needing a teething ring and cattle needing a scratching post. Sometimes they even worked, but not with any degree of reliability. The area included two of the largest ranches in the United States, and several large gold mining operations.
Tipanuk and Atlanta, Idaho also came on board in 1988. Tipanuk is located between Mountain Home and Boise covering 139 square miles, but its twenty inhabitants needed a link with the outside world. So did the thirty residents of Atlanta, a 252 square mile area served by only two roads. One road is closed in the winter, and the other is "open if" the snow isn't too deep.
The Company also assumed responsibility for the Shoup, Idaho area when the Idaho Public Utilities Commission turned to the Company to restore the existing, but rapidly deteriorating service; which featured magneto phones and aerial cable strung "on poles or whatever else was handy". This pristine country extends some 60 miles along the River of No Return. The availability of dependable phone service has made the area a major draw for fishing and rafting enthusiasts. A new digital system was installed in October 1990, an occasion that attracted Rural Electrification Administration (REA) dignitaries and national media attention.