To Our Loyal Subscribers and Dedicated Staff:
There is no question that 2020 will be a year to remember and one that most of us would rather forget. In addition to a mark on history that will be etched in our memories for generations, our response to the COVID 19 pandemic has changed how we live, work, learn, and care for our health. 2020 saw many businesses struggle to maintain operations during shelter in place orders.
At OTELCO, we’ve been providing connectivity for more than a century, first with telephone, and since the mid 1990s with Internet access. Navigating the COVID 19 response landscape has punctuated the importance of remote connectivity in every walk of life, and the role that OTELCO and other providers play in facilitating that connectivity.
Last March while we were moving to a remote work environment for the safety of our employees, we were simultaneously working with our business customers to provide the technology necessary to keep them operating and their staff working. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the team also faced increasing call volumes related to severe weather events and the ever-increasing consumer hardship.
As more people began to telecommute and schools moved to remote learning, the demand for Internet service soared beyond anything we could image and certainly beyond what we plan for in any given year. Along with this increased demand for service, we participated in programs in 3 different states to help ensure that people who needed connectivity the most were served. Again, our call volume and service order volume were at historic highs.
As an employer of more than 200 staff and a service provider to more than 30,000 subscribers in 6 states, we’ve worked diligently to accommodate our staff needs whether it be to supervise their young children as they school from home or care for older family members. At the same time, we knew our subscribers were facing the very same challenges. Our accommodations to help keep our staff working allowed us to maintain a high level of customer care and service when it was needed most.
Admittedly, finding the balance has been challenging and on occasion like most ISPs we’ve seen longer than usual call queues and longer wait times for certain repairs and installs. In response we’ve added a chat feature to our website to provide another channel for communication with customer care and tech support; we’re actively hiring staff in customer care, tech support and installation & repair, and we continually work to streamline all our processes.
As 2020 draws to a close, it’s safe to assume that 2021 will bring some similar challenges and likely some new ones as COVID 19 will not disappear when we turn the calendar page. I anticipate that we’ll all need to continue a path of patience and tolerance as the virus continues to impact every facet of our lives.
I thank our OTELCO staff for rising to the task of serving our customers in very challenging circumstances. I also offer an abundance of gratitude to you, our residential and business subscribers, for your patience and loyalty to the OTELCO brand through what has been an extremely trying 9 months.
Richard Clark, OTELCO President and CEO