The Alaska Telephone Association was founded in 1949, prior to statehood. At that time only Alaska’s largest communities had local telephone systems and several of those communities lacked any connection to the long-distance network. They used the local telephone systems to place local-only telephone calls. In 1949 many Alaskans needed, but often lacked, the ability to place a simple telephone call.
In response to the tremendous need for telephone service throughout Alaska, Martha Cushing (Sitka Telephone Company), along with her brother-in-law (Dick Cushing) and David Finn (Anchorage Telephone Utility) established ATA in the belief that:
- Alaska’s economic future was directly dependent upon the development and statewide availability of affordable local and long-distance telephone services
- The concentrated and collective efforts of a strong statewide telephone association would ensure government attention to and corporate investment in Alaska’s network infrastructure
Seventy years ago the challenge was formidable. The cost of constructing telecommunications networks in a land of extremes - harsh winters, short construction seasons, vast distances, lack of road systems - was daunting. The task was so immense that by 1979 over 200 Alaska communities still lacked basic local telephone service. It was not until the late 1980s, 40 years after ATA’s founding, that virtually every community in the State finally enjoyed local and long-distance telephone service.
Today ATA member companies are responding to a challenge not unlike that faced in 1949: connect all Alaskans to broadband service. Our member companies are working to identify and employ all available resources to engineer, construct, and operate a comprehensive, modern broadband network throughout Alaska, connecting all Alaskans. And the Alaska Telephone Association will continue to work with our members to accomplish that mandate.