Telephone Line: Small Company, Big Responsibility and The Absaraka Phone Company

At a time when more and more people are giving up their land line telephone, one tiny North Dakota town is keeping alive a very tiny company.

It’s really a one of kind company in the state and an interesting look at the way some rural areas get phone service.

The store on the main road closed a few years ago.

The Methodist Church, boarded up back in the 1980’s.

But in this tiny North Dakota town with a population of 23, they have their own phone company.

These are the inter workings of the Absaraka Phone Company.

“I don’t know what else to show you?”

Serving the town and surrounding area with 37 customers, Mike and Ann Faught are basically the company.

He does the tech work and she does the paperwork.

So how does this little company hang on?
“Back when AT&T broke up, the FCC decided that there needs to be a way for rural companies to make affordable phone service.  So there is a company called NECA, where it’s a pool and we take out money and the big companies put money in the pool,” says Ann Faught.

And it’s not just the phone they keep ringing.

“I don’t necessarily get a call about a phone outage.  I get a call because the Internet is down.  These lights monitor the 22 customers  with up to 4 megs of Internet,” says Mike Faught.  “In some ways the internet is more important to the country people than the city people because they have other ways of getting the  information out.”

Keith Monilaws, who’s also on the board of the phone company,  helped put the phone lines underground.
“The best thing I liked about it was, in the winter time when you had an ice storm and you had to go out there and knock the ice off the miles of line with a stick.  We didn’t have to do that anymore.  That was number one,” says Keith.

And it’s not just telephone and internet the company brings to Absaraka. 

They give back to the community in other ways.

“We give money to the local charities around the area.  Baseball, softball, ambulance, fire department, Hospice, even like the local school.  We give money for their post prom.  We give scholarships to any seniors in our companies area.  We like to be giving,” says Ann.

And maybe it’s the commitment to community that has kept this tiny phone company on the map.

“The dedication of the people there have kept the company going.  They could have skipped out and said the heck with us but they’re hanging in there with us.  Which is great,” says Keith.

“If we were mixed up with some other company far away and somebody had a problem, who do you call?  But here they just call my husband.  He might be out in the field because he is a farmer.Customers are proud about what Absaraka does.  There’s a lot of pride in Absaraka I guess,” says Ann.

The Absaraka phone company is only the second smallest in the nation.

Up on the Iron Range in Minnesota, the Wawina phone company has just 30 customers.”

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