Since 1911, Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Ltd. has provided telecommunications services to residents and businesses in Huron and Bruce Counties. HuronTel was one of the first "subscriber-owned" municipal telephone systems in the Province of Ontario.
The only customer-owned telecommunications co-operative in Bruce County is headquartered in Ripley, Ontario with satellite offices in Goderich, Wingham and Kincardine.
HuronTel offers landline telephone, cellular, internet, digital tv, security and metro-ethernet services to approximately 10,000 homes, businesses, health care and educational institutions in Mid-Western Ontario. The company has 34 employees and over $10 million dollars in annual revenues.
The Bell Telephone Company around the turn of the century installed the first phones in Huron Township. By 1910 Bell was serving 28 customers along the shore of Lake Huron, south of the town of Kincardine. Bell was not, however, anxious to provide phones in the rural area of Huron and Kincardine Townships and on March 7, 1911, residents of the area met in the Huron Township hall in the Village of Ripley to discuss the founding of a local telephone system in accordance with the Ontario Local Municipal Telephone Act of 1908.
It was decided at the meeting that the most suitable type of organization for the purpose would be a municipal telephone system. A petition was then circulated and presented to the council of the Township of Huron, which passed a by-law on April 11, 1911, providing for the establishment of the Huron and Kinloss Municipal Telephone System. "H & K" as it was known, was one of the first "subscriber-owned" municipal telephone systems in the Province of Ontario.
C.C. Huffman, a telephone engineer, was employed for on year to supervise construction, and the plant was built by W.G. Lytle and Company, a firm of contractors from Peterborough. Telephone poles were imported from Michigan. The first exchange was located in a building known as the Town and Country Restaurant on Ripley's Queen Street.
A.M. Treleaven was the first contract operator and he and his family operated the switchboard until 1924. The system got off to a very good start and at the end of two years; it was reporting almost 600 phones in service.
The Department of Labour declared HuronTel employee's as "essential to win the war", and received a high labour priority rating. In this manner, HuronTel employee's were not able to be drafted.
In 1944, the company took over an area south of Kincardine containing approximately 20 phones from the Lake Shore Mutual Telephone Co. Ltd. At the time, Matthew Gemmel, who started to work for the company in 1917 as a lineman was the Manager. He served the system for over 30 years until his death in 1949.
Francis Gemmel, who went to work for the system in 1926 succeeded his father as Manager, and in 1952, bought a portion of the Lucknow and Kinloss Telephone Co. Ltd. He resigned in 1955 to join the staff of the Ontario Telephone Authority as an engineering officer.
Clayton Nicholson spent the next 31 years as General Manager. The system steadily expanded its operations, and the number of customers increased year by year. Most of the growth can be attributed to increased demand for telephone service within the systems originally franchised area of Huron and Kinloss, but it also acquired an additional 600 phones when it purchased the assets of the neighbouring Goderich Rural Telephone Co. Ltd. in 1957. The Goderich Company served an area northeast of Goderich from an exchange at the Village of Dungannon.
In 1959 a new dial exchange was installed at Bervie to improve service to subscribers in the northeast section of the Ripley exchange area. The next step was the conversion to dial of the Dungannon exchange in 1963 and the system became completely automated when the Ripley exchange was converted in 1967.
Although finances were tight, Clayton Nicholson as Manager and Bob Johnston as Plant Foreman led the company during the difficult transition from magneto to dial and 8 party to semi-private use.
At this time, the company operated out of two locations in Ripley, administration at 84 Huron Street and installation and repair in a small utility building on the other side of the village.
When Clayton Nicholson retired in 1986, Glenn Grubb became General Manager. In 1989, the company converted it's electromechanical switches in Dungannon and Ripley to digital switching to provide touch tone and expanded capacity over the next few years and upgraded its service so that all residents would have access to single party lines.
In 1993, the company built a new Administration Centre at 60 Queen Street, former home of the CN rail station in the village of Ripley.
In 1995, at the urging of Management, Commissioners and local residents, the assets of the company were foremerly transferred to Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Limited by the Township of Huron, which gave full control of the company directly to its customers.
The company's Internet Service began in late 1995 and the company opened it's 284 Bayfield Road Goderich Office in June of 1999 to service the growing customer base.
Today, the company services more than 10,000 customers from Goderich to Owen Sound and all points in between and looks forward to challenges it will face as it quickly approaches it's 110th year in 2021!