History of HTC
Though hard to imagine today, most of Horry County was without telephone service just six short decades ago. Telephone companies in surrounding areas just didn't believe it was profitable to extend their service very deeply into a rural area. So several dedicated men in Horry County decided the time had come to cease waiting on outside companies to realize the importance of this community and begin providing the service for themselves.
On January 18, 1951, a committee was formed to help bring telephone service into rural Horry County's homes and businesses.
With the help of the Horry Electric Cooperative and County Agent V.M. Johnston, several men including P.L. Elvington, P.S. Page, H.E. Hayes, C.G. Bullock, A.B. Jackson, Joe Blount, F.M.Edge, Harry Davis, Barney Long, and F.M. Shuford, came together to create the foundation that would eventually support the nation's largest telephone cooperative and 25th largest telephone company.
|As a first undertaking, the committee made plans to seek memberships to support the proposed Cooperative. Members were required to purchase ten shares at five dollars per share for a total of $50, a prohibitive sum for many local residents at that time. With the search for members underway, the Committee initiated another strong campaign to convince existing telephone companies within the region to begin serving Horry County, hoping that the support and enthusiasm of the local residents would create new interest in the territory. No such luck. Seven companies were contacted, but still no one was interested. The possibilities of rural telephone service looked bleak, but the Committee resolved to keep trying.
On June 16th, 1952, the tide began to turn. Eighty-one members met at the Horry County Courthouse to officially incorporate Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc., adopt by-laws, and petition the State of South Carolina for a charter. Elections were also held to seat the first Board of Directors. Barney Long, Ernest Johnston, Sr., Joe Blount, E.L. McGougan, H.L. Davis, F.M. Edge, D.K. Stalvey, Henry G. McNeill, and W.D. Johnson became the initial directors of the new Cooperative. At a subsequent meeting, Henry G. McNeill was elected President (a position to which he was subsequently reelected for every year until his death in January, 2007) H.L. Davis, Vice President; Barney Long, Secretary and Treasurer; J. Kelly Dorman, Attorney, and F.M. Shuford, Coordinator.
An application for a loan was made to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and after much hard work and efforts by the Cooperative, the long awaited approval of a $1,019,000 loan was announced on December 12, 1952. The loan was contingent however, on the Cooperative reaching a membership quota. The quota was met within the short span of ten months. The Public Service granted a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for rural Horry County was well as for the Surfside, Little River, Garden City areas and the Murrells Inlet area of Georgetown County.
Coastal Telephone Company, a small company serving the Town of Loris, SC, was placed on the market for sale in 1952. Cooperative lawyers negotiated to acquire the company and successfully did so, thus completing the second phase of development of Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc. in 1954.
In the meantime, and after much deliberation and planning, construction got underway in the Murrells Inlet area. Additional lines one mile beyond the city limits of Conway as of January 1, 1953, were purchased from the Continental Telephone Company. A few switch lines in South Carolina were obtained from Service Telephone Company of Fair Bluff, NC, Continental Telephone Company, Pee Dee Farms Corporation and the Forestry Service.
|The Cooperative's office was relocated from the Horry Electric Cooperative building, where it had been housed for two years, to the Old Grace Hotel in Conway until a permanent facility at 1608 N. Main Street could be constructed and opened in 1957. The humble beginnings of a new telephone cooperative were finally evolving with steady progress.
And then a major obstacle to the progress blew into the area. Hurricane Hazel, historically one of the most destructive storms to hit the East Coast, roared through Murrells Inlet and Garden City in 1954, nearly wiping out everything in its path. Hazel destroyed homes, demolished businesses, and unfortunately for the struggling Cooperative, tore up the new facilities that had recently been placed in the Murrells Inlet and Garden City areas. The handful of Cooperative men was forced to roll up their sleeves and start again.
The Cooperative worked hard to put Hazel behind it, and by the end of 1954, the first official Horry Telephone Cooperative truck was purchased. During that same time, the first exchange was activated in Murrells Inlet with 87 subscribers and one toll outlet. After several years of trials and tribulations, determination came out on top, and Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc. was on its way, with eight employees, 421 subscribers, and total revenues of $14,523. Several additional toll lines were established in the Murrells Inlet area soon after.
|Advancing quickly compared to its previous pace, in April of 1955, Horry Telephone got contracts for exchange buildings and outside plant facilities in the Aynor, Floyds, and Horry exchanges. These exchanges were made active the following year. The franchise agreement for the Town of Loris was held up for a year because of problems with the Town Council, but that exchange was eventually installed in 1957. Horry Telephone Cooperative also found itself being utilized by the REA to run field trials on several types of cable including open wire, copper-weld wire, and the viability of underground facilities.|
The Cooperative lost its original manager, George Bell, and in August of 1955, Robert E. Jamison was named the new manager. Ogden Rankin was replaced as the Cooperative's appointed attorney in 1956 by James P. Stevens, Sr. A year later, on October 1, 1957, Mr. Jamison and Mr. Stevens gathered along with the members to hold Horry Telephone Cooperative's first annual stockholders' meeting. A report presented that evening detailed a total of five exchanges serving approximately 1,500 customers, and total assets of $1,320,484...a tribute to the individuals who worked so diligently to bring telephone service to rural Horry County.
However, more members were needed if the Cooperative was to be successful. The $50 membership fee was still too expensive for many of the residents of this rural community. After numerous meetings, the REA was finally persuaded to permit a reduction in the membership fees from $50 to $10 resulting in a welcome increase of new members. (Note: A membership fee is no longer required to sign up for HTC service. At the 2005 Annual Meeting, HTC Membership voted and changed the bylaws in order to refund the $10 membership fee to all HTC Members.)
The Cooperative continued to grow with the influx of new members, and by 1965, new exchanges had been established in Wampee, Lakewood, and Red Hill. But Mother Nature struck again in 1968, when a disastrous ice storm pulled down miles of open wire lines. Working twelve to fifteen hour days, and with the help of crews from Home Telephone Company out of Moncks Corner, SC, service was eventually restored. The management of the Cooperative decided it was time for preventive measures to keep the elements of nature from causing so much trouble. Plans began immediately to implement buried cable service, and today 97% of Horry Telephone Cooperative's plant facilities are installed underground.
|Field trial projects with REA continued. Through Horry Telephone's testing, it was found that air-filled cable tended to incur moisture problems, and that jelly-filled cable was a more suitable product. Horry Telephone also decided to go from eight-party lines to private lines, even though the recommendation from REA was to go to four-party lines. In 1972, Horry Telephone Cooperative became the first telephone company in the southeast to go completely to private lines within its service area.|
While redeveloping and enhancing its system over the next decade, HTC initiated another service that other companies in the region would not offer because, like phone service thirty years earlier, they deemed it too expensive to service less densely populated areas in the county. Horry Telephone Cablevision (now referred to as HTC Digital Cable) was formed in 1983, offering many residents their first look at cable television and popular channels such as USA and WTBS (now TBS). The HTC cable network has been upgraded regularly over the years and, today, offers a broad selection of Cable and Cable Plus channels; premium networks like HBO, Showtime, STARZ and Cinemax; Digital Passport featuring dozens of unique network, Music Choice, Video on Demand (VOD) programming and numerous High Definition (HD) networks.
The growth and development of Horry Telephone Cooperative and its services and products required additional room and a higher level of technical equipment. In 1978, a new facility was built in the Homewood section of Conway to house engineering, maintenance, construction, and the warehouse. A new administration office was built on the site in 1986. With an emphasis on providing the best communications services available, Horry Telephone Cooperative began building a completely digital network and 369 miles of fiber optics were implemented by the end of 1996.
By 2006, the total miles of fiber optic cable being installed throughout the county had increased to over 800 miles, and include a self-healing ring that reroutes calls and prevents the disruption of service if a cable is damaged.
Another part of Horry Telephone Cooperative's mission has always been to provide services at competitive prices. In 1989, the Cooperative implemented a Measured Extended Area Service, a program designed to reduce the cost of calls made within Horry and Georgetown counties by eliminating the need of dialing "1+". The costs of making these calls were reduced by 70%. This was followed in 1994 by the Measured Regional Service program, which began saving customers money by eliminating the "1+" to exchanges within the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. In 2007, HTC Voice Rewards effectively ended MEAS calling for customers with both landline and HTC Horizon wireless voice services.
|The nineties brought a continual flow of new services and enhancements to the Cooperative and its customers. Horry Telephone Long Distance, Inc. a subsidiary of Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc. began operating in 1992. The long distance calling plans of Horry Telephone Long Distance (HTLD) have evolved in order to remain competitive in the long distance market place and HTLD presently provides long distance service for over 61% of all HTC access lines. In 1995, Horry Telephone Long Distance opened its service to telephone customers outside of its prescribed service areas in Horry and Georgetown counties.
Continuing to expand its service variety and technological developments, HTC entered into the highly advanced area of broadband data networks. These networks allow for the high-speed exchange of services and information and, since their implementation, have allowed HTC to play a major role in the connection of educational facilities, healthcare institutions and local businesses with multiple locations to their respective data networks.
In addition, the broadband data networks positioned Horry Telephone to become one of the first direct local Internet access providers in the area. Kicking off its service in late July of 1995, Horry Telephone offered customers a local on-ramp to the information superhighway, and in less than a year provided access to over 1,600 subscribers. High-speed data for residential customers was the next step for local internet access. Currently HTC High Speed Internet offers residential high-speed service via a combination of fiber optics, cable modem technology and DSL (digital subscriber line) depending on the customer's location. By the end of 2006, over 70% of the 24,000 internet subscribers were accessing the web via a high-speed connection from HTC. Well over 80% of HTC subscribers have access to some form of broadband service.
The next generation of HTC High Speed Internet will be powered by fiber optic connections. HTC Bluewave will use fiber to the home (FTTH) technology to provide symmetrical high-speed NetRacer service. HTC offers Bluewave fiber to the home technology in both new and established developments and is the only area service provider utilizing FTTH technology. HTC currently has 816 miles of fiber throughout its service area. Imagine being able to enjoy high quality voice, video and data services from a single connection with nearly limitless capacity. These are just a few of the many benefits of HTC Bluewave, Fiber to the Home (FTTH). Late in 2006, HTC began replacing the traditional copper-wire connections, which have been the norm for telecommunications transmission in the past, in several neighborhoods. Light years beyond the capacity and capabilities of ordinary copper-wire, fiber optics can carry greater amounts of information over much longer distances in far less time. Fiber to the Home provides more bandwidth than current technologies, allowing for not only traditional voice service, high speed data and multiple high definition video signals, but also provides capacity for future services and emerging on-demand applications.
In 1996, HTC Wireless began offering 100% digital wireless voice service. Since then, HTC Horizon has steadily expanded and strengthened coverage throughout the county. Voice coverage is now nearly ubiquitous across the county. The next challenge for HTC Wireless is building a wireless broadband network so customers can take advantage of third generation (3G) mobile data and mobile video applications.
In 1998, HTC introduced HTC Communications, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of HTC. HTC Communications received approval from the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) to offer local telephone service in Horry and Georgetown Counties as a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC). In 1999, HTC began offering local dial tone services in the city limits of Conway, within the city limits of Myrtle Beach, and to the Pawleys Island community through HTC Communications. In addition to local telephone service, HTC Communications is also capable of providing a full menu of communications services such as long distance, Internet access, cable television, and digital wireless services.
HTC continued to prosper in the year 2000 with the launch of national directory assistance with call completion and a new calling feature, Call Name Delivery. Similar to Caller ID, this feature displays the caller's phone number along with the caller's first and last name on most Caller ID units.
HTC's rapid growth that year was also evident through the completion of the new Plant/Engineering building located on Highway 701 North in Conway. The facility serves as a home for HTC's Plant and Engineering departments and was greatly needed as a result of company-wide expansion. In addition to the daily operations, during inclement weather or other emergency situations, this new facility will become HTC's emergency command center.
During the latter part of 2000, the new 4.9¢ It's About Time™ long distance plan was developed for both residential and business customers. The plan allows customers to call state to state anytime of the day for just 4.9 cents a minute. In the winter of 2000, HTC implemented Local Number Portability (LNP) allowing residential and business subscribers to not only have a choice in who provides their local telephone service, but also to choose to keep their current telephone number if changing telephone carriers.
|HTC began 2001 with growth and expansion. In March, HTC opened a full service location on 38th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach at Plantation Point Plaza. Also in 2001, HTC Wireless became the local licensed provider for Cingular Wireless (now AT&T), the largest digital voice and data network in America. Only AT&T Wireless and HTC Horizon offer Rollover Minutes. That same year, HTC Wireless introduced Wireless Internet Express to offer customers an Internet experience with "always on" access|
In 2002, HTC celebrated its 50th Anniversary on June 16th. Throughout the year, HTC celebrated 50 years of service to the community by acknowledging and thanking members that came together to create the Cooperative. Also in 2002, HTLD introduced an improved version of 4.9 long distance calling. Business and residential customers can call in-state as well as state to state for only 4.9¢ per minute 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the minimal monthly fee.
In 2003, HTLD launched a new live answering service to small business. HTC Operator Services provides 24 hours/7 days a week service, allowing non-stop coverage at a fraction of the cost of hiring additional employees. In addition, HTC brought a "COW", Cell site on Wheels, to Horry County in order to increase coverage and call capacity for a specific area to help alleviate wireless congestion during high traffic periods. Telemarketing Call Screening and Remote Activation of call forwarding calling features were also offered that year. In order to make bill paying easier, HTC launched an E-bill service (now HTC My Account), a safe and secure way to manage accounts and pay bills online. Online bill payment is fast, free, and easy!
As mandated by the FCC, in 2004, HTC Wireless implemented Wireless Local Number Portability (WLNP), allowing subscribers to retain their existing wireless numbers when switching from their local service provider to another local service provider. During the same year, HTC Horizon entered into an agreement with Coastal Carolina University Athletics as its official wireless provider. The next challenge for HTC Wireless is building a wireless broadband network so customers can take advantage of third generation (3G) mobile data and mobile video applications.
The year 2004 was also monumental for HTC Digital Cable with the introduction of the new Interactive Guide, I-Guide. I-Guide allows all customers with an HTC Digital set-top box to easily find their favorite programs, set parental controls and reminders and order PPV all with a few pushes of the remote. A system wide cable upgrade of existing cable facilities began to allow for the introduction of DVRs, HDTV, VOD and increased channel capacity. In December, HTC Digital Cable launched Digital Video Recorder (DVR), allowing all customers that subscribe to a DVR set-top box to rewind, fast-forward and pause Live TV as well as record their favorite movies, shows and events just like a VCR without the need for tapes. Also in December, HTC Digital Cable launched local High Definition Television service to all cable customers. The first local High Definition channels included WPDE HD, WECT HD and FOX HD. Additional HD channels were added to the HD Tier as well as Premium HD channels. These services are now available to a majority of cable subscribers. HTC Digital Cable created a Digital Bonus Tier offering free Digital programming to all customers with a digital set-top box. Channels include The South Carolina Channel and Beach TV. Since 2003, HTC Digital Cable has increased its line-up to more than 200 channels. Some of the most recent additions include: Food Network, Bravo, Hallmark Channel, ESPN Classic, ESPN U, Toon Disney as well as additional premium and High Definition channels. HTC Digital Cable added ESPN Pay-Per-View Sports packages. ESPN Pay-Per-View includes ESPN GamePlan (College Football), ESPN FullCourt (College Basketball) and ESPN GrandSlam (College Baseball). HTC Digital Cable also introduced Premium Discount Packages that offer savings to customers with multiple premium services. The More You Get, The More You Save!
In October of 2005, HTC began offering two new rewards programs to its customers, rounding out the HTC Rewards Program. HTC Hometown Rewards provides customers a comprehensive telephone package with up to 5,000 minutes long distance and local calling, and the most popular features, including Caller ID, Call Waiting and Voice Mail for a low monthly rate. And HTC Community Rewards mirrors the popular HTC Member Rewards program, offering customers a monthly credit for having home phone service bundled with at least two other services (Digital Cable Plus, Internet, or HTC Wireless).
|To meet the needs of our growing community, HTC opened two new locations to serve the fast growing Little River, Longs, North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach communities. In June, HTC held the grand opening for a new office at the intersection of Highway 9 and Highway 57 in Little River. And in November, HTC Communications opened another retail store located in the Food Court of Coastal Grand Mall adjacent to the Cinemark Theatre.
The new HTC store is the eighth HTC branch office location in Horry County. For added convenience, the store is open during mall hours,including evenings and weekends.
In late 2005, HTC introduced Wireless Home PC Networking for a small monthly rate. HTC professional installers ensure that all the family PCs can access the internet at the same time, and provide wireless access to laptops from any room in the house.
In 2006, the communities HTC serves experienced dramatic growth; housing developments can be seen in nearly every community within Horry and Georgetown counties. While this growth may be hard to predict, HTC, your local telecommunications provider, has been developing strategies to connect these new communities with the latest state-of-the-art communications technology available, fiber-optics.
In March 2006, HTC launched its Home Integration service and partnered with Myrtle Beach Building Supply to provide an interactive home integration display at the Horry-Georgetown Homebuilders' Association Annual Home Show. HTC Home Integration offers home wiring for the future with telephone, digital cable, high-speed internet, wireless home networking, whole house audio, surround sound, home theatre, central vacuum, certified structured wiring, security systems and monitoring. As new developments continue to expand in our area, HTC Home Integration installers are available to perform professional structured wiring for inside the home. During the construction phase, HTC Home Integration Coordinators work with builders and contractors to provide professionally installed structured wiring that delivers a variety of control functions, high-speed data services and home entertainment throughout the home.
Also in 2006, HTC started providing a free personal computer security suite, PC-cillin, by Trend Micro to all HTC Internet customers. This simple downloadable security suite provides anti-virus, anti-SPAM, anti-phishing, anti-spyware, enhanced personal Firewall, wi-fi intrusion prevention, home networking control, and parental control - all for free, a $49.95/year value!
In the fall of 2006, HTC Digital Cable launched SportSouth, formally known as Turner South, the only network that captures the special spirit of the South and brings it all with style. SportSouth was made available to all HTC Digital Cable customers as a part of the Cable Plus Package. In another decision to provide more local sports options, HTC added ESPNU which specializes in NCAA Division I-AA football and other collegiate sports not typically shown on ESPN. CCU football games have been featured on both networks. In a continued effort to increase the value of the existing channel line-up, HTC Digital Cable also added six new channels to the line up including Boomerang, EWTN, Fine Living, Gospel Music Channel, VERSUS (formerly OLN) and WE.
Also announced in the fall were some big changes regarding capital credits. Not only can HTC Members receive capital credits for telephone and cable services, but HTC also began paying capital credits on all HTC services. If a customer subscribes to telephone and cable, they can receive capital credits based on Internet and HTC Wireless services in addition to telephone and cable.
In late 2006, HTC Internet introduced Hotspot in a Box to help business customers establish wireless internet access hot spots in restaurants, car dealerships, auto repair, and medical offices. For residential internet subscribers, HTC Internet also upgraded PC-cillin, a free personal computer security suite offered by HTC Internet services.
Over the last ten years, consumers have seen countless changes to their wireless service. And just as wireless technology has been evolving, the industry itself has been transforming the way people communicate at work, home, and when traveling. In October of 2006, HTC Horizon celebrated 10 years and numerous accomplishments in providing outstanding wireless service to our local community. HTC Wireless offers wireless service to an expanded customer base as an authorized retailer for AT&T (formerly Cingular), the largest digital voice and data network in America with more cell sites across the country than any other wireless carrier. More than 300 new cell sites were added in the Carolinas in 2006.
January 2007 was a busy month for HTC with the introduction of several new product offerings. HTC was proud to announce the launch of the new HTC Bluewave fiber to the home service in communities throughout Horry and Georgetown counties. HTC Bluewave is a state-of-the-art fiber optic network that delivers unparalleled bandwidth for extremely high-speed Internet access and data transmittal, 100% digital cable TV video, and traditional voice service through a single delivery point to a customer's home. Fiber optic cable can carry more information further and faster than any other type of cable.
HTC Bluewave provides unsurpassed reliability because fiber optic cable is not affected by outside interference and will not rust or corrode. Unlike traditional TV networks using coaxial cable, HTC Bluewave easily meets the high bandwidth demands of HDTV (High Definition Television) and VOD (Video on Demand). In addition, with an HD DVR (High Definition Digital Video Recorder), customers can receive all local network affiliate signals in High Definition at no additional charge. HTC Bluewave also features an extensive channel lineup, including free and exclusive local VOD content.
Also in early 2007, HTC introduced E2IT Remote Data Recovery Service, a new technology solution that helps business customers protect and restore vital data from all disasters - natural, including flood and fire - and unnatural - accidental human error, piracy, viruses and sabotage.
HTC E2IT is the umbrella under which HTC will offer a comprehensive menu of managed services, including Remote Data Recovery, Local Area Network (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN) design, firewall and Virtual Private Network (VPN) security.
HTC E2IT offers customers the ability to protect vital data via remote backup to the HTC datacenter while achieving non-disruptive and consistent backup/recovery operations. The datacenter is environmentally monitored 24 by 7 by 365 and has redundant power and HVAC systems. Customer data is protected at the HTC datacenter by a two-tiered architecture consisting of highly scalable RAID storage systems and enterprise-class tape libraries. This means that in the event of a disaster, customers utilizing the service can fully restore their systems much faster than with existing traditional tape drive back-up systems.
HTC E2IT Remote Data Recovery Services alleviate the need for customers to maintain and update backup and recovery hardware and software in-house. By reducing or eliminating the need for additional internal IT resources required to create consistent backups, and the verification of those backups, customers can realize significant cost savings. In addition, HTC E2IT Remote Data Recovery Services run seamlessly in the background, which means there is no disruption to business applications.
HTC also introduced HTC Voice Rewards in early 2007 with FREE calling for customers subscribing to HTC traditional residential telephone and HTC Wireless services. This allowed HTC residential phone customers with both services to place landline calls free of charge to any MEAS exchange throughout all of Horry and Georgetown counties.
HTC Wireless customers also benefited in two ways: 1) calls made to their wireless phone from any of these MEAS exchanges do not count against their monthly airtime minutes; and 2) calls made from their wireless phone to any other HTC phone while within the regional calling area do not count against their monthly airtime minutes. That means customers have more minutes to use calling friends and family in Horry and Georgetown counties and potentially more Rollover minutes. There's no enrollment or activation fee. Some customers qualify automatically if their accounts are cross referenced. Other customers simply need to request enrollment in the program to determine eligibility and receive immediate savings.
In April 2007, HTC launched its new corporate website located at www.htcinc.net. The new site was developed to be more user-friendly and vibrant so that visitors have a visual treat while finding information on all HTC products and services easily and quickly. The site was designed to be inviting, interesting and informative.
The new HTC corporate site was streamlined to take visitors directly to one of eight major categories - Internet, Wireless, Cable, Telephone, Home Security, Business Services, About HTC and Customer Service. Each product category contains direct links to Special Promotions, Products, Features/Services and Support & Frequently Asked Questions.
In July 2007, HTC Digital Cable announced the addition of five new channels to the line up including Sprout, HGTV HD, Food Network HD, National Geographic HD, and A&E HD. Sprout is part of the Digital Passport package and all four HD networks are part of the HD Tier.
At this time, HTC Digital Cable provided access to more than 200 channels including 27 in High Definition and 46 CD quality, commercial free music channels.
In October of 2007, HTC Wireless , an authorized retailer for AT&T, announced the launch of 3G (Third Generation) Mobile Wireless Broadband Service in key areas of the local market. HTC Wireless' 3G technology gives customers the ability to rapidly access email, browse the wireless Internet, connect to business applications, and watch video clips-while waiting for the next flight at Myrtle Beach International Airport or between classes at Coastal Carolina University and Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
HTC Wireless 3G technology offers advanced wireless services such as video clips and wireless Internet at much faster speeds than ever before. Customers can now download a game or ringtone, or access e-mail and the wireless Internet at true broadband speeds. HTC Wireless' 3G network provides average download data speeds between 400-700 kilobits per second with bursts to over one megabit per second.
AT&T and HTC Wireless are the only carriers to offer voice and data simultaneously from one device. Corporate users can conduct conference calls while viewing related documents or email. General consumers can make wireless calls while viewing breaking news on CNN and FOX News Channel, the latest sports scores on ESPN, or directions at the same time.
Although the year 2007 was another prosperous year for HTC, on Wednesday, January 3, 2007, the HTC family was shaken by the loss of Mr. Henry G. McNeill, founder and president since its inception nearly 55 years ago.
"His compassion for rural America and dedication to the Cooperative philosophy were unparalleled," said Mr. Curley Huggins, HTC Chief Executive Officer. "His leadership is a tremendous loss, yet his spirit and energy will endure in the hearts and lives of so many he touched throughout his 87 years."
The HTC Board of Directors appointed Mr. Ken Summerall representing Conway, District 1 as the new Board President.
Henry G. McNeill
"While no one would ever be able to fill the void left by Mr. McNeill's passing, I have complete confidence in Mr. Summerall's knowledge, ability, and willingness to serve. He has served on the HTC board for 35 years, has served as Treasurer since 2003, and indeed brings vast board experience to his new position. In addition to the HTC board, Mr. Summerall has served on numerous local committees and boards," continued Mr. Huggins.
"It's humbling to be selected to serve as president. I don't deserve and will not try to take Mr. Henry McNeill's place. I will, however, do all I can to preserve his memory and continue the legacy he has created," said Ken Summerall, HTC's newly elected President. "Mr. McNeill played an instrumental part in the reason I decided to serve on the board 35 years ago and as his successor, I am fully committed to carrying out the plans that he and the board have made for our future. I am looking forward to continuing my service with the cooperative and working with this first-class workforce to keep our commitment and preserve our plans for the members we serve."
In addition, to the position of President, Morris Graham, District 4-Aynor was elected to Vice-President; Betty Jordan, District 8-Murrells Inlet was elected to Secretary, and Cynthia Cannon, District 1-Conway was elected to Treasurer.
As HTC management made plans for the future, the mission of 2008 was to look for more ways to help members SAVE. HTC immediately kicked off the ibundle to introduce various ways for those who choose HTC over the competition can save. And while HTC looked for ways to help members save, HTC continued to make a significant investment in converting large portions of its existing network to HTC Bluewave fiber optics.
One of the highlights early on in the year was the announcement that HTC was selected by the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce to serve as the Official Communications Provider for the presidential debates held in January in Myrtle Beach. HTC provided a 1 gigabit internet backbone to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for the Republican debate, and the Palace Theatre and Phillips Seafood House for the Democratic event. The majority of the media was connected with internet enabled PCs and handheld devices and HTC secured the wireless infrastructure for those needing access. HTC also deployed the COW, Cellsite on Wheels, used to house the transmitting/receiving equipment necessary to provide wireless service on an event driven basis.
Also in January, HTC Digital Cable announced the addition of not just one but seven new channels to the line up including MSNBC, UNCTV, Chiller, Fox Business Channel, History Channel HD, TBS HD and CNN HD. MSNBC and UNCTV are part of the Cable Plus package, Chiller and Fox Business Channel are part of the Digital Passport package and all three HD networks are part of the new HD Basic and HD Plus packages.
Unfortunate news hit the HTC family again in June of 2008, when Mr. Clifton Bellamy, retired HTC Board Member with almost 28 years of service representing the Wampee/Little River, District 5, passed away at the age of 79.
"The HTC family was deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Clifton Bellamy and our hearts went out to the entire Bellamy family," said Mr. Curley P. Huggins, HTC Chief Executive Officer. "Mr. Bellamy was a dedicated and faithful Board Member, and served the HTC membership with great integrity. He will long be remembered for his high moral character, soft spoken personality and gentle spirit."
In September 2008, HTC hosted grand opening festivities and opened its newest full service retail location to serve the fast growing Carolina Forest Community in Towne Centre at the intersection of Carolina Forest Boulevard and River Oaks Drive.
In November, HTC Digital Cable announced the addition of six new high definition channels to the line up including ABC Family HD, QVC HD, Disney HD, Toon Disney HD, ESPNews HD and ESPNU HD. All six HD channels are free and available to most customers as long as they subscribe to the package that includes the linear channel. With these new HD networks, HTC Digital Cable had a total of 46 HD networks in the lineup.
The year 2009 began with discussion about the Digital Transition. Even though everyone was talking about the "big switch", all HTC Digital Cable customers could sit back and relax on when the digital transition took place. HTC already had technology in place to handle the local over-the-air broadcasts in their new digital format. HTC captured the signals and sent them to customers' homes through the same cable connection that delivers popular channels like ESPN, CNN, Discovery and many others. As long as TV sets were connected to a cable outlet provided by HTC, it would continue to display local stations. As a matter of fact, HTC customers were already viewing TV in the digital format on HTC Channel 10, WMBF. HTC did its part in providing information, materials and resources to make the switch as seamless as possible for customers.
In February, HTC received a called from West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative after a devastating ice storm that hit Kentucky January 26 and left nearly 1 million homes and businesses without power. HTC sent two full aerial crews and bucket trucks to join West Kentucky crews, National Guard troops, and other utility crews in the recovery efforts following the storm. Although power and telecommunications services were restored quickly, it was the power of the people and the spirit of the cooperative that pulled West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative and other Cooperatives through the aftermath the ice storm.
Also in February, HTC announced the launch of CBS College Sports XXL. All HTC NetRacer customers have access to exclusive online content available FREE ($14.95 per month value) for viewing and listening to NCAA sporting events and shows.
In March 2009, HTC launched its newest portal. With the new www.HTCConnect.com home page, HTC High Speed Internet customers have hundreds of choices of news feeds, online videos, sports, entertainment, local event updates, and links to HTC My Account, SCCourier Web Mail, HTC TV listings and local movie times.
Best of all, the new page has many upgrades including the ability to customize news and entertainment modules, add RSS feeds and post news and events for the community. Customers can select which news to view, track stock portfolios using Yahoo! Finance, and even add zip codes to view weather for other areas! To take a home page tour, customers can simply click on site help and FAQ to follow the steps to customize their home page, and get answers to frequently asked questions.
In April, HTC announced the opening of the newly renovated full service retail location at 38th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach located in Plantation Point Plaza.
The redesigned office included more than 2500 square feet of retail space and individual workstations that provide much greater customer comfort and privacy.
In response to the devastating wildfires that swept eastern Horry County in April 2009, HTC once again deployed the HTC COW, also known as a "Cellsite on Wheels". The COW was deployed for the Emergency Operations Center to assist with increased cellular demand created by the fire and emergency services personnel.
Just in time for summer, HTC Digital Cable added FitTV to the lineup as a part of the Digital passport package. FitTV inspires viewers to achieve fitness and well-being - on their own terms. FitTV's entertaining programs motivate viewers to reduce stress, create healthier meals, and build an active lifestyle.
With the DTV Transition taking place on June 12, HTC announced that it was ready to receive calls from customers who may have missed the digital transition deadline. Also in June, HTC Digital Cable launched MSNBC in 1080i High Definition so customers could watch MSNBC's popular primetime programming.
In October, Mr. Curley P. Huggins, HTC's Chief Executive Officer for more than 20 years, announced his retirement during his address at the Annual Membership meeting.
"I am very proud and pleased of the many accomplishments that we, as a Cooperative team, have been able to achieve in my years of service here," said Huggins. "HTC has been my second family for nearly four decades, and I want to thank each of the employees who have worked to ensure our growth and success, and I want to encourage the spirit of the Cooperative to live on for our future employees and member and customers."
"Curley has always kept HTC on the forefront with regards to technology and products. His passion for the Cooperative is evident in his dedication and service through some of the most volatile technology and regulatory challenges over the years," said Board Chairman, Ken Summerall. "We owe him a deep debt of gratitude and we wish him the very best in his retirement."
Curley P. Huggins
Huggins began his career in 1972, working in various departments across the organization including: Plant; Engineering; and Accounting before he was named CEO in 1987. He has served on numerous state and national industry boards including the board of National Telcom Insurance Group, as Secretary-Treasurer for the National Telephone Cooperative Association. In addition, Huggins is a past board member of the Conway Chamber of Commerce and also served on Horry County's Technical Education Committee.
During his tenure as CEO of HTC, Huggins encouraged state and national partnerships and was passionate about Cooperatives working together for the good of the rural member/customer. Under his guidance, HTC grew to be the largest telephone cooperative in the United States and the 18th largest telephone company.
Starting a company from scratch is hardly a simple task, and the founders of HTC had more than their fair share of dilemmas and set backs. Yet through the persistence of the late Henry G. McNeill, President for over 55 years, former manager Robert Jamison, our newly retired CEO, Curley P. Huggins, our new CEO, Michael Hagg, the Cooperative now serves over 96,000 access lines with state-of-the art equipment and services.
As the nation's largest telephone cooperative and the 18th largest telephone company in the U.S., HTC is the epitome of an organization dedicated to serving the families, neighbors, and businesses within our community.
Mike Hagg, CEO