An Industry Pioneer: The History of Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services

Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services marks its birth in 1905, when it was first organized under the name of the Hawley and Lackawaxen Telephone Company. Even before the turn of the century, area residents had begun to organize in response to the need they saw in the community for a communications system. Consequently, some of the leaders and original investors in the young phone company were storeowners, woodsmen, farmers, and members of the Forest Lake Club. One of these original backers was Andreas Solversen, of Rowland, grandfather and great grandfather, respectively, of Richard Solversen, Sr. and Jr., both of whom played instrumental roles in the creation of this rural communications provider.

Originally, the company had two exchanges; one in a house in Bohemia, and the other in the Lackawaxen area. Eventually, the Bohemia exchange was discontinued, and the final location of the other original exchange was on the riverbank, just before the approach to the Lackawaxen Bridge.

In 1953-54, E.Y. Stroud, of Dingman’s Ferry, PA, acquired controlling shares in the company. Under his leadership, Lackawaxen Telephone restructured its finances through its participation in the new federal telephone loan program made possible by the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in Washington, D.C. This expansion enabled the company to complete its cutover from the old magneto hand-crank system to modern dial tone in January 1957.

During the 1955 flood, the operator on duty in Lackawaxen was forced to leave her post as the dangerous floodwaters approached. Her decision to flee proved a wise one, as the flood washed away the entire exchange. By working with the Bell company nearby, Richard Solversen, Sr. secured an old magneto switchboard that he set up in the barn of G.W. Rowland (the site of the Rowland General Store). When he and others realized that Rowland represented the most central location in the company’s territory, they decided to place the new exchange in the location that serves to this day. Following the death of her husband, Mrs. Mildred Stroud took over as LTC president. In overseeing the company’s operations, she depended on the counsel and assistance of the Solversen family.

In 1972, Hale S. Coughlin, Jr., of Fayetteville, NY, purchased the Stroud family’s shares and became majority shareholder. Mr. Coughlin worked diligently to expand LTC’s operations and to set the groundwork for the company’s status today. From the old magneto system that served less than 100 subscribers in the off-season, Lackawaxen now serves close to 4,000 customers. Since the time Mr. Coughlin took over, the company has installed six remote offices — in Lackawaxen, Greeley, Masthope, Fawn Lake, Tink Wig, and Woodloch. In addition, Mr. Coughlin led the effort in making Lackawaxen’s a partner in Cellular Plus.

Following Mr. Coughlin’s passing in 1994, his family has made great efforts to maintain his vision and commitment to provide the local community with modern, high-quality communications services. In 1995, LTC turned up a new billing system, enabling our local office to print and mail customer bills, helping to make the process more accurate. LTC installed 30 miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the exchange in 1995, and a year later, converted to new Nortel switching equipment that allowed us to offer such high-tech services as Caller ID, Voice Mail, Repeat Dial, Return Call, and others.

In December 1996, LTC established a long-distance subsidiary, Lackawaxen Long Distance, to provide customers competitive long-distance rates coupled with the benefit and convenience of a provider located here in the community. In February 1997, the company moved into our new headquarters in Rowland, demonstrating anew our commitment and support of the local communities we serve.

In September 1997, our service area became part of the Internet society, when LTC began to offer local, dial-up access to the Internet. And just last winter, we helped Wayne and Pike counties bridge the Digital Divide when we rolled out our new high-speed Predator DSL (digital subscriber line) service.

They say, "past is prologue." In our case, that certainly rings true. For, without the history of LTC, one could scarcely appreciate the launching of Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services. We’ve changed part of our name to reflect the tremendous changes affecting the industry in which we work and the services we provide. No, this is certainly not your father’s telephone company. With Internet access, Predator DSL, long-distance, and more to come, we are truly a full-service telecommunications provider.

Still, we have not changed the most important part of our name, Lackawaxen. And that’s how it should be, because no matter how sophisticated the service or eye-popping the technology, the important thing for us is that we’re here in the community, offering these products and services to you, our friends and neighbors … our partners in the community. And that’s how it will stay!

Yes, Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services has grown pretty dramatically since 1905. And, with the enactment of new laws and the regulatory activity they’ve generated at both the federal and state levels, Lackawaxen Telecommunications and other rural independent telephone companies have embarked on the intense journey from monopoly structure to the anything-goes competitive environment. It promises to be anything but an easy trip. Yet, the company remains as firmly dedicated to serving the customer as it was the day those turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania pioneers first set out to establish a communications system here in our community.


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