- Shawnee Communications will develop, service, and maintain modern communications technology for residents and businesses in rural communities in Southern & Central Illinois.
- We will build a telephone and Internet connectivity infrastructure to bring our customers the best, most reliable technology at realistic costs.
- The activities of Shawnee Communications will be beneficial to our communities. In addition to providing improved communications technologies, we will support community organizations that enhance the quality of life in our business areas.
The Shawnee Communications Story
In early 1948, the citizen-owned & operated Equality Telephone Company made the transition into a fully-fledged corporation. Over the next several years, advances in technology led the way for Equality Telephone to repair and upgrade much of their infrastructure. One of the key improvements allowed Equality Telephone to evolve from a 14-party operator-handled service to a single-party rotary-dial service.
Equality Telephone Company acquired Hardin County Telephone Company in 1966. Like Equality Telephone in the 1940’s, the newly acquired system was in need of facility repair and upgrades. Once infrastructure improvements were made to bring Hardin County Telephone on par with Equality Telephone, one last task remained: switching from aerial to buried cable. The transition to buried cable was a costly and complicated task due to the large amount of service areas that lie within the Shawnee National Forest.
Equality Telephone Company and Hardin County Telephone Company merged to form Shawnee Telephone Company in early 1985. The name Shawnee Telephone was chosen to pay homage to the beautiful natural wonders located in the Shawnee National Forest and to reflect the ownership’s deeply seeded local roots.
In 1995, Shawnee Telephone Company received FCC notification that local telephone companies would be allowed to enter the long distance market. The only FCC requirement was that the long distance services be controlled by a separate affiliated entity, so Shawnee Communications, Inc. and ShawneeLink Corporation were established. Shawnee Telephone Company and ShawneeLink became wholly owned subsidiaries of Shawnee Communications, however, Shawnee Communications and its subsidiaries remained locally owned and operated.
With long distance service available to the public, Shawnee Communications turned attention to the next technological trend: the Internet. In the spring of 1996, ShawneeLink Corp. began offering dial-up Internet access within the Shawnee Telephone service area. Early 1997 saw dial-up Internet access slowly spread outside of the Shawnee Telephone service area, and by the end of 1998, dial up access was being offered to more than 40 Southern Illinois communities.
ShawneeLink began providing High Speed DSL in over 20 Southern Illinois communities during 2003. With faster speeds and improved stability, DSL quickly became the medium of choice for Internet users. As technology grew, ShawneeLink was able to provide DSL access to qualifying areas in two separate regions. The first region includes towns as far West as Chester, Anna & Marissa, as far North as Sesser and Pinckneyville, as far East as Shawneetown and Rosiclare, and as far South as Brookport. The second region included locations as far North as Robinson and Newton, as far West as Flora, Fairfield and McLeansboro, as far East as Lawrenceville and Mt. Carmel, and as far South as Carmi and Norris City.
Shawnee Telephone began laying the foundation for future technologies in 2005 with the upgrade to fiber optic cable. The process of burying the fiber optic lines is just as tedious a task as was the burial of telephone lines during the 1940’s and 60’s. However, the fiber network will improve telephone transmissions, solidify Internet speeds and be compatible with emerging technologies. A completion date has not been established although crews are working diligently to complete the network expansion.
In September 2008, Shawnee connected our first subscribers to our FTTH Network. Over the next six months, Shawnee converted over 400 subscribers in Simpson and hundreds of subscribers in the Leamington and “rural” Equality exchanges. By the end of 2008, Simpson and Leamington were our first two fully FTTH exchanges.
On July 8, 2010 Shawnee was awarded $7.35 million in grants and loans from the federal government and $1 million in state matching funds for its “Southern Illinois Sustainable Broadband Transformation” project that would build a sustainable broadband network to support additional economic development in Southern Illinois. The federal award, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Administration, was one of 66 funded nationwide, for a total of $7.2 billion. The state matching funds would come through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The project would see FTTH adoption in the exchanges Cave In Rock, Eddyville, Elizabethtown and Rosiclare, along with the township of Golconda, which is outside Shawnee’s traditional service territory. Guidelines for the grant gave Shawnee a 3-year window to complete the project, however we completed all builds in less than 2-years.
Over the next four years, Shawnee deployed FTTH services to Boyd’s Addition (Cave In Rock), Hicks, rural Rosiclare, rural Elizabethtown, rural Eddyville, and Renshaw.
In June 2016, Shawnee completed the purchase of Moultrie Independent Telephone Company (MITCO) and its subsidiaries, which included One-Eleven Internet. Upon execution of the purchase agreement, Shawnee immediately began mapping Lovington for a FTTH build. After months of planning and construction, FTTH conversions in Lovington began in September 2017 and were completed before the end of the year.
2017 served as a launching pad for FTTH expansion. After receiving numerous complaints from residents at The Peninsula at Lake of Egypt regarding their inability to receive telephone & Internet service from their incumbent provider, the Illinois Commerce Commission transferred the responsibility of serving that community to Shawnee. The Peninsula would be an extension of the Simpson exchange, but serving the new location would require nearly 10 miles of fiber to be buried along Tunnel Hill Rd. Once construction was complete, homes along Tunnel Hill Rd would also have access to FTTH services.
During the summer of 2018, Shawnee launched their I Want Fiber (IWF) program which would help communities that did not have access to reliable Internet service to document their desire for us to bring FTTH services to their community. By directing Southern Illinois residents to shawnee.com/iwantfiber, individuals could register their interest in FTTH services. Once registration goals for a community was met, we would officially sign up prospective customers and begin construction. The IWF process build brought FTTH service to 11 previously unserved homes on River Rd, just outside of Golconda.
2018 also saw Shawnee start the process of evaluating new equipment which would be utilized to replace legacy wireless equipment that provided limited broadband options. During the fall of 2018, new wireless equipment was installed for residents in the Bradford Hills subdivision outside of Sullivan. Field testing was successful and further deployment and conversions will begin in the Summer of 2019.