Blue Earth Valley Communications (Bevcomm) has been connecting people together for 120 years and will be recognized for it.
Bevcomm has been named the 2013 Business of the Year by the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce.
At the annual banquet the Chamber recognizes a business which has excelled during the past year.
This year, the 73rd annual banquet will take place in Hamilton Hall on Friday, Jan. 17.
The last time Bevcomm was named Business of the Year was in 1987; they were known as Blue Earth Valley Telephone Co. back then.
The company was founded in 1895 and is currently in its fourth generation of management.
Bill Eckles, president and CEO of the telecommunications company, says the recognition is great. "I am very honored for our company to be given this award," Eckles says. "Our entire success is attributed to our hardworking and dedicated employees we have here."
Bevcomm serves a total of 23 communities and has nine offices. All together, there are 105 employees; 53 of them working in the Blue Earth headquarters.
The company serves over 20,000 homes in rural Minnesota and Wisconsin.
As of the end of third quarter Bevcomm was selling 32,900 services. Of those 12,691 were in Faribault County, according to Eckles.
They have 16,000 telephone subscribers, 5,000 cable TV subscribers and 11,000 broadband subscribers.
Last year, the Bevcomm Foundation provided a $100,000 grant to the United South Central School District to be used for technology upgrades, contingent upon USC building a new school.
Bevcomm also provided a $100,000 grant to the city of Blue Earth to help with their North Industrial Park expansion.
"Bevcomm has always tried to keep the needs of the communities as a focus," Eckles says.
Two years ago, the company also started providing school supplies to every child in kindergarten through sixth grade who lives in its area of service.
To accommodate low income families, Bevcomm started offering a $9.95 broadband plan last August.
"If the customer is receiving assistance from the Federal Lifeline program to help pay for telephone service we will sell them broadband for $9.95," Eckles explains.
Bevcomm has grown dramatically in the last 10 years or so, according to Eckles. Sixteen years ago Bevcomm only offered telephone service and dial-up Internet.
"We added cable to our available services about 10 years ago," he says. "We also have remodeled at least five times and added on behind us. Where our parking lot is behind the building, we bought a house and tore it down to add additional space for our employees. Right now, I believe we don't need to do anything further because everything is set up for Bevcomm to be successful."
In the 13 years Eckles has been CEO, there has not been a major network problem in Blue Earth.
Based on the five-nines reliability (telephone network has to be functional 99.999 percent of the time) it ends up being only a total of six minutes of down time alloted per year.
Bevcomm has enough battery power to last eight hours and a generator behind the building that will recharge the batteries. Even Without commercial power Bevcomm services can still run indefinitely, Eckles says.
"Our focus has been increasing broadband speeds and pushing cable television over the last 10 years and continuing forward with giving our customers the best possible service," Eckles explains. "It is great to see our customers are so loyal to the hometown company."
Going forward, Eckles sees the cable subscription model disappearing. He believes the customer will go straight to a network and pay them directly instead of paying a bundled cable subscription.
"Part of what's driving my thought is the fact cable rates are getting so far out of hand," Eckles says. "We are not that many years away from people not being able to afford cable television service."
Right now the technology is there to customize a package of channels the customer actually wants to watch. However, because of the way contracts work and the way they are sold to Bevcomm, they have to sell the big bundles, according to Eckles.
"This is truly an honor to be recognized for the work we all do here," Eckles says. "The award was not something we expected. We pride ourselves on serving our rural community the best we can."