Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, long-standing USDA Rural Development partners Pine Telephone and Pine Cellular in southeastern Oklahoma answered the call to serve their communities.
In late March, Pine Companies informed their fixed broadband customers that their data packages would be automatically doubled at no additional charge. This commitment came at a vital time as their customers sought virtual alternatives to maintain daily routines as they followed COVID-19 social distancing protocols. Pine Telephone serves a portion of the Choctaw Nation, and this increase helped tribal members continue to access the many services provided by the Choctaw Nation, including virtual medical visits for those who are eligible.
Taking care of customers is, and always has been, a top priority, Pine Companies General Manager Jerry Whisenhunt told me.
Pine Companies were among the recipients of the first round of USDA Rural Development’s ReConnect Program investments. Both Pine Telephone and Pine Cellular received a combined $13.3 million to deploy fiber-to-the-premises in parts of Pushmataha and McCurtain counties. This new investment further built out their current broadband network and will impact 1,022 additional households, 44 farms and ranches, 35 small businesses, as well as the police and fire departments in the towns of Rattan and Haworth.
Having the technical flexibility to adapt bandwidth capacity is one of the great advantages of fiber, but it’s even more important to recognize an emerging community need and rise to the challenge – especially today.
I’m grateful to Jerry and his team at Pine Companies – and all our partners across the nation that are working tirelessly to ensure our rural broadband infrastructure can meet the ever-increasing demands for connectivity.