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Pioneer Telephone Cooperative, Inc. is joining together with nearly 40,000 other cooperative businesses nationwide in October to celebrate National Cooperative Month, which recognizes the many ways cooperatives help to build stronger communities and a strong economy. “Cooperatives Commit” is the theme for this year’s celebration, when cooperatives across the nation engage in efforts to make more people aware of the advantages of the cooperative business model.
Cooperatives are motivated to serve their members, not outside investors, and as an integral part of our vision statement, we are committed as “A Partner in Progress” with our members, communities and the customers we serve. Pioneer is committed to serving our members and giving back to those we serve. It’s a critical part of what drives our actions, making us a more integral part of the communities we serve. “Community is not just where we work, it’s why we work,” said Richard Ruhl, General Manager.
The sound financial condition of Pioneer Telephone Cooperative is reflected in the amount of patronage capital returned to the membership for the year 2016. In March, 2017, a patronage capital credit payment of approximately $9.2 million was made to the membership for the year 2016. In addition, during the year 2016, Pioneer also paid approximately $1.6 million on the estates of deceased subscribers/members. Together these two (2) patronage distributions total approximately $10.8 million in patronage cash returned to the membership for the year 2016.
Since 1976, Pioneer has returned over $29.9 million in patronage capital on estates to our membership. Inclusive of last year’s payments, Pioneer Telephone will have paid a grand total of approximately $87 million in general membership and estate patronage capital cash payments to the Cooperative membership.
In this age of increasing cost for higher education, Pioneer continues its commitment to students through its College and Technology Scholarship Program, with more than $949,927 paid in scholarships since the program’s inception in 1991.
As more and more customers embrace the higher data speeds offered through Pioneer’s wireless broadband networks, the upgrade and expansion of our network infrastructure continues at an unprecedented pace. During the year 2016, Pioneer Telephone and its subsidiary companies invested approximately $50 million to construct, upgrade and expand our networks, products and services to our customers. These capital expenditures will be used to expand and maximize the efficiencies in our existing broadband infrastructure; further our evolution to the next generation of Gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home services and Special Access networks; expand our 4G LTE Wireless Core network; upgrade our existing 4G LTE Rural American network; and strengthen our spectrum assets for the evolution to a denser 4G LTE IP wireless network and the future 5G networks.
In December 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the long awaited “Rate of Return Reform Order,” whereby Pioneer Telephone is projected to receive $126,890,960, over a 10-year period, in “Alternative Connect America Fund” (ACAM) funding. These funds are to be used for the build-out of broadband services to approximately 18,953 rural locations in western Oklahoma. Under the Order, Pioneer is obligated to serve broadband to 10,709 fully-funded locations, of which 75% of the locations require (10/1) Mbps broadband; 25% require (25/3) Mbps broadband; and, 19% require (4/1) Mbps broadband speeds. In addition, 6,183 rural locations fall under a “reasonable request” obligation for broadband services. The additional ACAM dollars, when used in conjunction with our existing annual capital build-out dollars, will substantially increase the Pioneer Telephone annual fiber optic construction goals for the next 10 years. The total amount of construction dollars could easily exceed $200 million in additional broadband investment in rural Oklahoma over the next decade.
The Pioneer Board of Trustees and Executive Management recognize the severity of the trends and the significant Regulatory changes underway in the telecommunications industry, particularly the challenges and changes our business will continue to confront with the Federal and State Universal Service support. As the Pioneer Board of Trustees and the Executive Management Team face these ongoing challenges, they understand the importance of implementing a strong strategic plan, coupled with an aggressive products and services diversification strategy. An aggressive strategic plan is critical in order to prioritize revenue enhancements, cost efficiencies and validate the opportunities to expand our service areas and offerings in order to strengthen our current and future revenue streams. With total assets in excess of $334 Million, no outstanding debt, and adequate cash reserves, Pioneer is well positioned to take your Telephone Cooperative into the future.
The success of any organization, like Pioneer, would not be possible without the strong dedication, talent and skill of its employees. Pioneer will continue to deliver on their mission of “Taking You Forward” as “Partners in Progress” with the customers, communities and members we serve.

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