A historic year for United and Turtle Mountain Communications, 2022 marks our 70th anniversary serving the rural communities of north-central North Dakota. Through the decades we have made it our mission to keep our friends and neighbors connected with the most innovative products and technologies, while providing the best in customer service.
Where it all began
United and Turtle Mountain Communications started out in 1952 as United Telephone Mutual Aid Corporation – UTMA. At the time we were a telephone cooperative specializing in “modern dial telephone service” operating primarily in the Langdon area. Francis Kitsch, a farmer from Garske, North Dakota, was named the first president of UTMA. Articles of Incorporation were filed on April 4th, 1952, thus establishing United Telephone Mutual Aid Corporation.
As the 1950s progressed, UTMA acquired several rural telephone companies and farmer-owned lines to improve the connections among rural customers, and by the end of the 1960s we had the infrastructure in place to begin offering direct-dial long distance service.
At UTMA, we continued to focus on telephone services throughout the 1970s and 1980s, continually expanding the area served and upgrading systems for improved service. When cable TV emerged as a must-have form of entertainment in the 1990s, it was a logical move that UTMA would position itself at the forefront of the entertainment revolution, making it possible for our customers to receive the signals that brought them cable programming. Of course, it didn’t end there. The internet was in its infancy at that time and our team foresaw the demand for internet access in rural North Dakota, going on to establish an extensive fiber-optic infrastructure finally completed in 2020.
Turtle Mountain Communications
In 1996, we founded Turtle Mountain Communications, a subsidiary that would serve the Rolla-Bottineau area adjacent to United Telephone’s Langdon-area service radius. Just a few years later, in 2008, United Telephone officially became United Communications.
Although our two sister companies have distinctly different service areas, we continue to work together under the same umbrella as United and Turtle Mountain Communications.
Giving back to our communities
Here at UTMA, we’re committed to giving back to our local communities through volunteering, fundraising and providing supportive opportunities. One such commitment we are honored to make is our annual United Telephone Educational Foundation scholarship program.
Since 1991, it has been the privilege of United and Turtle Mountain Communications and the United Telephone Educational Foundation to sponsor scholarships for more than 1,000 high school seniors bound for college, with total awards exceeding $820,000 to date. We strongly believe in investing in our communities, and that begins with giving our youth the opportunity to succeed. This past summer, the Foundation’s thirtieth year, we were proud to announce that another 27 promising students earned United Telephone Educational Foundation scholarships to help them pursue their dreams.
Staying connected during COVID-19
Everyone was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it requires a certain mindset to face such challenges effectively. Staying connected had never been more important, whether for working from home, attending school online, shopping, accessing entertainment, getting vital information, or simply staying in touch with loved ones.
“Many things changed about our daily lives when COVID began, but we never lost sight of our #1 priority, which is to serve our customers,” says Steve Swanson, General Manager of United and Turtle Mountain Communications.
Throughout the pandemic we’ve been able to offer eligible customers in need financial assistance through the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and its new iteration, the Affordable Connectivity Program. In addition, United and Turtle Mountain Communications installed eight Wi-Fi hotspots throughout our service areas, to ensure that those who didn’t otherwise have internet access would still be able to get online.
Looking over the horizon
Through seven decades, United and Turtle Mountain Communications has sought to bring the world to north central and northeast North Dakota through rapidly advancing forms of communication, whether that be telephone, television, or internet. Even in times of crisis, such as during COVID-19, we have risen to the challenge and kept our promise to our customers – our friends and neighbors – to provide high-quality, uninterrupted service. “As we look to the future, we’re excited to continue to bring the newest products, latest systems, and best service to North Dakotans,” Steve Swanson says.
To our friends, neighbors, and everyone in our United and Turtle Mountain Communications family, we want to say thank you for making us your local telecom service provider. Here’s to the next 70 years!