Our History


The Fight to Offer Telephone Begins

October 1950 – A group of representatives from Grant, Hamilton, Haskell, Morton and Stevens Counties meet in Ulysses to evaluate the formation of a telephone cooperative. Pioneer Telephone Association, Inc. begins.

January 1951
Pioneer begins purchase discussions with the Border Telephone Company, located in Hamilton and Stanton counties and in the communities of Coolidge, Johnson, Manter and Syracuse; the Moscow, Richfield and Rolla exchanges; and the F&M Telephone Company, which served Ulysses and Grant County. All purchases would be contingent upon obtaining Kansas Corporation Commission approval and procuring an REA loan.

March 1951 – First staff is hired. W.C. Rhodes, manager of the Pioneer Cooperative Association, the local electric cooperative, was appointed as manager of Pioneer Telephone, to serve with no pay; Frank Horton and Company of Lamar, Missouri, was appointed Association engineer; and Ralph Winsted was hired as assistant manager by the electric cooperative, with duties that included monitoring the affairs of Pioneer Telephone.

October 1951 — Hearing before the Kansas Corporation Commission on Pioneer’s application for authority to establish a rural telephone cooperative. Among the witnesses testifying in favor of Pioneer’s application were 13 area farmers. Those opposed included city officials from Syracuse and Ulysses. The primary objections were financial. The hearing was recessed indefinitely pending the submission of a report by an independent engineering firm commissioned by the KCC.

February 1952 — By the re-convened Kansas Corporation Commission hearing, 99 business people and farmers had pledged more than $72,000 in equity required for the acquisition of an REA loan.

June 1952 — The Kansas Corporation Commission denied Pioneer’s application for a certificate of convenience and necessity to operate as a telephone utility.

December 1953 — Joseph B. Chilen, former Grant County Extension Agent, was named Pioneer’s Manager, and a 19-person Citizens Telephone Study Committee was formed in Ulysses to investigate the possibility of obtaining adequate rural telephone service in Grant County.

January 1953 — At a town meeting in Ulysses, by majority vote, the citizens of Ulysses endorsed the concept of the Pioneer Telephone Association attempting to purchase the local telephone system and converting it to dial.

October 1953 — After a three-year struggle, the Kansas Corporation Commission relented and Pioneer became an operating telephone company. By mid-year of 1954, construction on the new dial system had begun.

November 1955 — Pioneer purchased the Johnson, Manter, and Satanta exchanges, pending Kans       as Corporation Commission approval. The Ryus exchange was created from parts of the Ulysses and Satanta exchanges. Plans were also made to serve some Baca County, Colorado, residents from the Manter exchange and to provide service for the newly created Big Bow exchange.

October 1959 — Purchase of the Syracuse exchange, from the Border Telephone Company was approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission. The Coolidge exchange was formed from the western portion of the Syracuse exchange.


Continued Growth

March 1960 — Pioneer purchases the Deerfield exchange.

April 1960 — Pioneer became the first cooperative telephone company in Kansas to acquire a Bell exchange when it purchased the Lakin exchange from Southwestern Bell.

February 1969 — Suburban Dial, Inc., which consisted of the Colwich and Bentley exchanges near Wichita, was merged into Pioneer Telephone.


July 1969 — Colwich and Bentley were traded to Southwestern Bell for the Hugoton Exchange. In addition, Pioneer acquired all AT&T and Southwestern Bell toll facilities within Pioneer’s exchange boundaries. This was the first instance in which REA funds were used for the acquisition of toll plant.


Technological Improvements

1971 — Billing was converted to a computer-based system.

1975 — Annual Meeting, Pioneer committed to providing single party service to all its subscribers. This was the beginning of the end to the party line where neighbors could hear each others conversations.

1978 — the first digital central office was installed.


Innovative Leadership

1984 — All Pioneer’s subscribers were being provided with digital switching service.

1986 — Pioneer began providing interLATA toll service via a fiber optic cable. AT&T leases capacity from Pioneer on this fiber optic cable in the first arrangement of this type in Kansas.

1987 — In April longtime General Manager Joseph B. Chilen retired and was replaced by Richard Veach.


Expanded Service Offerings

1990 — Pioneer activated a two-way interactive instructional video network that tied together the schools in Deerfield, Elkhart, Hugoton, Lakin, Moscow, Rolla, Satanta, Sublette and Ulysses. It was the first system of its type to be installed in Kansas and the first fully digital two-way interactive switched system in service in the United States.

1995— Pioneer became an Internet Service Provider (ISP), introducing educational Internet networking services for the schools located in its service area. Soon thereafter, dial-up Internet access was also made available commercially to Pioneer’s telephone customers.

1998 — Pioneer entered into the multichannel video business by acquiring the cable television franchises in local  communities and offered Cable TV to twenty-two communities across western Kansas.

1999 — Pioneer was delivering high-speed Internet access using broadband technologies in both Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) over telco plant, and data over cable modems via the CATV system.


The Need for Speed

2002 — Pioneer Communications along with Midwest Energy began WestLink Communications, a cellular telephone company. A few years later WestLink was fully owned by Pioneer Communications.

2008 — Pioneer Communications completed the upgrade of its DSL equipment, Pioneer increased the basic DSL High-Speed Internet service from 1.5Mbps to 6 Mbps downstream. At the same time, Pioneer Communications increased the downstream speed for Cable Modem service to 6 Mbps. This new basic High-Speed Internet service was now provided to all Pioneer Communications High-Speed Internet customers, at no increase in cost to the customer.

2009 — Pioneer Communications began a Fiber-To-The-Premise deployment (FTTP).


Moving Into The Future

2012 — General Manager Richard Veach retired and was replaced by Catherine Moyer.

2013 — WestLink Communications was sold.

2014 — Pioneer Communications begins the transition from a Digital Telephony Switch to an IP Telephony Switch. This new IP Switch will allow Pioneer Communications to offer new, advanced IP-Based Voice Services to all customers.

2015 — DOCSIS 3.0 equipment is installed. This allowed for internet speeds up to 50Mbps.

2015 — Pioneer begins to offer faster internet speeds. Speeds of 10, 25, and 50Mbps are now available service area wide to keep up with the skyrocketing demand for bandwidth.

2017 — Ulysses is converted to 100% fiber optic network. DSL and Coaxial networks are decommissioned.

2018 — Hugoton is converted to 100% fiber optic network. DSL and Coaxial networks are decommissioned.

2018 — A new streaming video service is launched called StreamTV.

2019 — Lakin is converted to 100% fiber optic network. DSL and Coaxial networks are decommissioned.

2019 — All customers are converted from traditional RF cable TV to StreamTV. Traditional RF cable TV is decommissioned.


A Future to Remember

2020 — Began construction of state of the art fiber optic network in Garden City.

2020 — Syracuse is converted to 100% fiber optic network. DSL and Coaxial networks are decommissioned.

2020 — 2020 will go down in the record books as the year of COVID-19. Around Pioneer Communications it will be remembered as a year that we stepped up and did everything we possibly could for our communities in a major time of need. As education, work, healthcare, entertainment and communication seemingly moved 100% online in a matter of days, we quickly ramped up operations to ensure that our network could handle the additional traffic and stay secure and robust. As we tried to connect as many people as possible, we also had to ensure the health of our employees and find ways to continue our operations in a safe manner. We proudly donated over $130,000 in internet service to over 350 families and 700 students throughout western Kansas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020 — On September 10, Pioneer hosted its first ever drive in annual meeting due to COVID precautions. Members were provided a boxed dinner as well as prizes and gifts. The annual meeting was broadcast over FM radio.

2020 — Sublette, Holcomb, Scott City, and Leoti are upgraded to a DOCSIS 3.1 network allowing for faster internet speeds and greater reliability.

2021 — new fiber optic network in Garden City becomes operational.

2021 — Johnson and Manter are converted to 100% fiber optic network. DSL and coaxial networks are decommissioned.

2021 — 10-digit dialing takes effect. All subscribers in Kansas are now required to dial 10-digits to make outbound calls to make it easier for callers to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

2021 — Tribune and Sharon Springs are upgraded to a DOCSIS 3.1 network allowing for faster internet speeds and greater reliability.

2022 — Satanta is converted to 100% fiber optic network. DSL and Coaxial networks are decommissioned.

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