The first meeting to discuss organizing a telephone company was held on July 31, 1950 in Bison, South Dakota, with the Grand Electric Board of Directors serving on the committee. The next couple of years were spent trying to get area residents to sign up for the telephone service to make the system feasible. West River Cooperative Telephone Company (WRCTC) was officially organized on October 23, 1953 and was governed by a nine man Board of Directors. In October 1957, bids were awarded for construction of a dial telephone system for Bison.
WRCTC purchased the Sorum Telephone Company in 1958. In 1972, Bison, the one original exchange was split into three exchanges consisting of Bison, Meadow and Sorum. On April 7, 1975, WRCTC purchased Buffalo and Camp Crook from US West. Digital central office switching was installed in Bison during the period of 1985 to 1987. In 1987, the first fiber optic cable was installed from Bison to Buffalo.
In the early 1980’s, cable television systems were beginning to develop in small towns throughout the area. Rather than having an outside company create a cable system for the area in 1981, West River Cooperative Telephone Company’s Board of Directors had a feasibility study conducted for a CATV system for the Town of Bison to see the amount of interest and who might acquire the service. An application was made to the Town of Bison for a Franchise in September of 1981. Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation for West River Telephone were amended in October, of 1981 to incorporate the CATV. A motion was made to proceed with the construction of a CATV system in Bison in December of 1981. Martin and Associates out of Mitchell were hired to do the initial design and staking of the system. Thomas Construction actually built the system. A loan application was submitted to RUS for $1.5 million. Sign up for members in the Town of Bison began in February, 1982 with a potential of 207 subscribers. Although sign-up was low, plans proceeded. Permits were received from the FCC and cable was laid in October of 1982 and the system was complete in December of 1982 with 135 signed-up members. West River CATV was organized in 1982 with 119 members originally signing up and 135 connecting by December of that year.
In June 1996, WRCTC purchased the Lemmon, Newell and Nisland Exchanges from US West. These exchanges were operated by Stateline Telecommunications, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of WRCTC. Host/remote digital central office switching was installed in 1997-1998 in all West River and Stateline Exchanges. The Bison Central Office switch now served as the host switch for the seven remote switches at Meadow, Sorum, Buffalo, Camp Crook, Lemmon, Newell and Nisland. Interexchange fiber optic cables were also installed in 1997-1998 to interconnect all West River and Stateline Exchanges and to connect to the South Dakota Network (SDN) at Maurine.
As of 2004, West River Cable Television became a wholly-owned subsidiary of West River Cooperative Telephone Company, providing quality cable in the towns of Bison, Buffalo, Faith, McIntosh, McLaughlin, Lemmon, Selfridge (ND), and Timber Lake. All of these towns, excluding Bison, were purchased from Midcontinent Communications in August of 2004, and operations by WRCATV began on November 17, 2004. Total new subscriber base at the time of the purchase was 1,039.
In 2011, WRCTC completed the Fiber to the Home (FTTH) project, making it possible for every subscriber on our system to acquire high speed DSL internet. The year 2013 will mark 60 years of business for WRCTC. WRCTC is proud to serve the communities of Lemmon, Bison, Buffalo, Newell, Meadow, Sorum, Camp Crook, Nisland, Prairie City, and Reva with phone, long distance and internet services. They serve approximately 3,000 members and offer phone, Internet and cable television services.