Cablefax The Magazine - July 2014 - 24
INDEPENDENT COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Cunningham Telephone & Cable
It doesn't get more grass roots than Cunningham Telephone
& Cable. Its fi rst calls, in 1944, ran through a circuit board in
the basement of founders Dean and Hazel Cunningham. The
couple offered party line service to tiny Glen Elder, in north
central KS. Hazel helped run the basement switchboard,
which resembled something you'd see on " The Andy Griffi th
Show. " The fi rst day the company offered service, its acquired
plant was in sorry shape. Dean told the lone service tech, " We
don't have nothing to sell but customer service. Let's get to it. "
Skip forward 70 years and Cunningham Telephone now is
Cunningham Telephone & Cable. It's in 12 communities, providing
digital and HD video, high-speed data and voice. But
don't get overwhelmed by the numbers. As Brent Cunningham,
VP & GM, tells us, two of those communities have fewer
than 30 subscribers. In all, Cunningham has about 4,500 video
customers, with 25% taking digital service. Most communities
it serves are rural; the nearest Walmart is 40 miles away.
Cunningham also remains a family business, with 3rd and
4th generations of Cunninghams running it, along with 30
employees. After Dean, who was Brent's great grandfather,
his grandfather Robert ran things; following him was Brent's
uncle David. Now it's Brent's father, John.
The company's ethic remains pretty much what it's always
been-grow the business locally by providing great customer
service and offering advanced products. Today those products
are delivered by fi ber optics, digital and IP equipment.
Cunningham's customers are its neighbors. " We know
almost all our customers by their fi rst name, " Brent says. On
the morning we spoke with him, he received a call at 7:30 am
at home from a customer. " I don't mind that at all, " he says.
" I think it's an advantage that our customers can talk directly
with the management of our company. "
It's easy to see the roots of Cunningham's commitment to
community service. Commitment is a family trait. Two summers
ago, a Cunningham contractor crew accidentally cut a
sewer main. With all of its technicians occupied, company
President John Cunningham grabbed a spade and soon was
knee-deep in the mud. " That spoke volumes about commitment, "
In this environment, community participation is essential,
and Cunningham is heavily involved. Several years ago
PRICE CHOPPER: Each year Cunningham customers donate food to
benefit area food banks and reduce their cable bills.
an area food bank was in dire need, so Cunningham ran a
Christmas promotion in which customers could bring food
items to its offi ces and in return get a discount on their cable
bills. " I was amazed at the response we got, " Brent says.
" We've continued to do that every year since. " Other businesses
have followed suit.
The company also works closely with the local technical college,
serving on its advisory board, taking interns and providing
supplies for classes. " This year we had the opportunity to be a
founding member of the Solomon Valley Community Foundation,
which help set up an endowment fund for scholarships and
community projects. " Another recent initiative involved a donation
of funds and volunteer labor to help build a city park.
" Cunningham is a great role-model for small-town cable
companies, they care about their customers, and it is evident
in their service and community involvement, " says NCTC VP,
Communications Dan Mulvenon. Mulvenon knows fi rst-hand.
His father-in-law built the original system in Beloit, KS, now
owned by Cunningham. When his mother-in-law was moving
last year, Mulvenon's wife visited the Beloit offi ce. " She said
it was like stepping back in time-the same offi ce she visited
often as a child, but more so in the care and time the offi ce
rep took to help her with her mom's account. "
As Brent says, " We are fully vested in the success of these
Cunningham has 4200 DOCSIS 3.0 cable-modem customers
and about 2,800 CLEC voice customers.
areas not just for our company, but to help the areas succeed
for the benefi t of all of us. " After all, " we and all our employees
live here, too. "
- Seth Arenstein
Cablefax: The Magazine
Cablefax The Magazine - July 2014
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