CHAMPLAIN - The basic philosophy of Champlain Telephone Company has remained the same over the past century - provide customers service they need and do it in the most efficient way possible.
Champlain Telephone Company - a regulated telecommunications company providing residential and commercial services to Champlain, Mooers, Mooers Forks, Rouses Point, and Altona - was founded Sept. 24, 1903 by Maurice Knapp, Orin Southwick and A.B. Spellman. The business, today overseen by President and Chief Executive Officer Trent Trahan, a descendant of the Knapp family, has seen a world of changes and has made a commitment to bringing the rest of the world to the North Country.
"The vision of this company has not changed since the day it began," said Trahan. "It was expansion ... starting with the idea of getting a telephone pole to go to the next house, then the next house and the next."
That was the business of Champlain Telephone Company for many years, and as technology changed and new opportunities arose, the business was ready and waiting. When the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed in 1995, it was the perfect opportunity for Champlain Telephone Company to begin eyeing expanding its operation south, serving people of the greater Plattsburgh area.
Champlain Telephone Company created its subsidiary, PrimeLink, which won bids for telephone service rights-of-way on the former Air Force base and created a telephone system in the city of Plattsburgh. The development and widespread use of the Internet around that time also created a new world and a new way to communicate with people across the globe.
During that same time, the companies began developing a fiber optic system from Montreal to Albany.
"That opened up a whole new world for us," said Trahan. "We started offering dial-up Internet service and we started growing customers as we started offering our own long distance."
Until the invention of fiber optics, all telecommunications was done over copper or lead wire, explained Trahan, with a very low bandwidth - the capacity for which data could travel.
"It was pretty amazing," Trahan said of the switch to fiber optics. "It's crystal clear."
The fiber optic network not only made the telecommunications industry move light years ahead of where it was, it also opened the door to many successes for Champlain Telephone Company and PrimeLink.
"We now have 70 percent of the business lines in Plattsburgh," said Trahan. "We've essentially doubled the size of the company between Champlain [Telephone Company] and PrimeLink."
Residential customers have benefitted from the technology, but on a larger scale, schools, law offices, major industries and even those in the healthcare field have found ways to improve how they do business, thereby strengthening the local economy, said Champlain Telephone Company vice president and chief financial officer Greg MacConnell.
"We created a major pipeline between Valcour Imaging and CVPH [Medical Center], which allows them to share and store images electronically," said MacConnell.
The fiber optic "pipeline" gives both ends of the secured connection instant access to patient records that were once hand-delivered in paper form, which took more time, said MacConnell. X-rays and other medical documents can now be readily-accessible at the push of a button, giving those diagnosing conditions more information that can paint a more detailed picture of a person's health history.
"It took three to five business days out of their business cycle," said MacConnell. "Which can mean a lot when you're talking about diagnosing something like a fast-growing cancer."
"I think the medical industry itself, on a global basis, is benefitting tremendously from the availability of fiber optic technology and greater access to bandwidth and connectivity between medical facilities," MacConnell added.
Having reliable access to the Internet and telephone service is also critical in strengthening the region, said Trahan, as well as drawing businesses to set up shop here.
"We certainly believe that fiber and data connections are the beginning of that whole thing," said Trahan. "You can live any place in the United States or in the world for that matter. But, can you communicate with the world? We view our company as the opportunity to communicate with the world."
That understanding is what has kept the North Country successful in attracting businesses, said MacConnell, and will keep it successful in the future.
"Trent did an awesome job arming us with the technology we need to be competitive," said MacConnell.
The expansion of Champlain Telephone Company's services into the Glens Falls region, which started in the early 2000s, has also strengthened the company, said MacConnell. Most recently, the company secured financing through NBT Bank to continue its plan to expand fiber optic services to the south, serving communities like Glens Falls, Queensbury, Fort Edward and Hudson Falls.
"We're very excited about that," said MacConnell. "We see Glens Falls as a tremendous growth opportunity."
Trahan and MacConnell both noted that the success of Champlain Telephone Company and PrimeLink couldn't happen without their dedicated employees.
"We have fantastic employees that have made this work," said Trahan, adding many employees also give of their time doing good in the community on behalf of their employers.
"Our employees give back to the community in many, many ways," said MacConnell, noting many help the efforts of the companies in supporting Go Red for Women, the Plattsburgh Start! Heart Walk, the Foundation of CVPH, and many other charitable causes. "I think that speaks volumes about the quality of our employees."