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Producing Excellence

Blackfoot Telecommunications Group

Missoula, MT

Products: Telecommunications

Size of Operation: 20,000 customers

In Business Since: 1954

Farm Credit Partner: CoBank

Over the past few years, Blackfoot Telecommunications Group has grown and changed almost as quickly as the fast-paced communications industry itself. Once simply a provider of telephone service in rural Montana, Blackfoot now delivers state-of-the-art communications services to more than 20,000 customers in eight counties in both Montana and Idaho.

The company, which traces its roots to the creation of Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative in 1954, provides advanced communications services to residential and commercial customers. In addition to traditional voice and high-speed data, the company offers IT services, data transport, web hosting and communications billing software services. With more than 800 miles of fiber optic cable, Blackfoot also owns western Montana’s largest private Voice over Internet Protocol network.

In 2013, with the help of a $40 million loan from CoBank, Blackfoot acquired Fremont Telcom Co. and Fretel Communications, LLC, formerly owned by FairPoint Communications, which provided high-bandwidth data and voice services to business and residential customers in eastern Idaho. Blackfoot also acquired FairPoint’s ownership interest in Syringa Networks, a fast-growing fibertransport company based in Boise.

“The acquisitions made good sense for our business and for our customers,” said Bill Squires, Blackfoot’s CEO, and a director on CoBank’s board since 2014. “We’ve been able to add great talent to our team and that has redefined how we drive innovation to bring products and services to market faster. We’ve also been able to dramatically improve the way local businesses connect and communicate.”

“It also made sense to have CoBank as our financial partner,” Squires said. “Since they’re a cooperative, they understand our business and our needs.”

“It’s essential for residents and businesses in rural parts of the country to not only have dependable phone service, but also access to high-speed Internet and other important services,” said Rob West, senior vice president of CoBank’s Communications Banking Division. “If we can help a customer give their customers the tools needed to compete in the 21st century, then we’ve done our job and fulfilled our mission.”

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