The Faces of Telecommunications

Telecommunications has changed a lot since 1957 when McDonald County Telephone was first incorporated, but the family that owns and operates the 61-year-old business has always known how to adapt and change with the times.

In fact, McDonald County Telephone first got into fiber optic internet in the mid-‘90s. Fiber optics lines, which are embedded underground, offer much faster speeds and more reliable service for customers.

“Customer demand for increased bandwidth and the growth of devices connected to the internet have made high-speed fiber access essential in daily life,” said Aaron Gent, vice president and third-generation leadership of the company.

In March, MCT completed installation of fiber optic networking in Anderson.

“We’re currently working on installation in Pineville and hope to have that complete by the end of 2019,” Gent said. “Next, we’ll begin working on our rural areas. Our goal is to have 100 percent of our customers on fiber by 2025.”

The company first started as the Pineville Exchange in the early 20th century and came into the hands of Victor and Billie Jo Rhine in 1951. The Rhines incorporated it under the name McDonald County Telephone in 1957 after acquiring Anderson Exchange. The Rhines’ daughter, Vicki Babbit, began working at MCT at a young age and later owned it until her passing in April 2018.

Today, Gent operates MCT with his father and president, Ross Babbit, and his sister, Ruth Roessler, who is secretary and treasurer. They work alongside Calvin Herrin, their longest-running employee, who has been with the company since 1958.

“We’ve been going through a big transition this year since Vicki’s passing,” Gent said. “But one thing that will never change is our excellent customer service.”

Roessler agreed.

“Our priorities are customer service, bringing a great value to our customers and giving back to our community,” she said. “It’s important to us to continue my grandparents’ and my mother’s strong legacy for future generations and for the community as a whole.”