C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority began its formal organizational history in 1958 when the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe purchased a privately owned telephone company from the Harding family.
The Tribe saw an opportunity in 1957 to become the owner of the existing telephone company.
Chairman Frank Ducheneaux, Sr. led the effort and $105,000.00 later, the first tribal telephone company in the United States became reality. As a role model during the past 60 years, eight other tribes have started their own telecommunication companies.
The company struggled with aerial plant and old switching equipment from 1958 until the late 1970’s. Telephone service was multi-party, always at the mercy of Mother Nature and most rural folks did not have phone service during that time throughout the reservation. Some farmer/rancher owned switcher companies existed – they owned and maintained their own neighborhood system, the Green Grass Telephone Company is a prime example. These privately-owned systems then linked into the main system that was located in Eagle Butte.
The tribal telephone company and the reservation’s population changed drastically in a period from 1974 to 1977. Tribal and Telco management became the first tribe to borrow from the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and single party buried copper telephone service was taken throughout the reservation.
The REA government program was designed to finance electric and telephone systems throughout the United States. Cheyenne River Telephone took advantage of the program and the new modern service became reality by 1977.
The REA funding not only provided new modern telephone plant and switching equipment, the new REA loan also allowed a new headquarter building to be constructed in Eagle Butte, The company employed new young technicians, purchased new service vehicles and construction equipment. In a few short years the company was modernized. Since 1977, the company has built a solid financial relationship with Rural Utility Service (RUS), utilizing the loan process to access millions of dollars of working capital.
Through 50 plus years of progression, the company has worked hard to provide the most modern state of the art telecommunications services that are currently available to its customers. In 1999, the company upgraded all five (5) telephone exchanges to new Nortel Digital Switches to be Y2K compliant. The year 2000 saw Class services such as Caller ID, ISDN features and other SS7 offerings. Over 250 miles of fiber optic cable has been installed as a backbone to haul local and long distance traffic throughout the service area. The company has over 1,800 miles of buried underground copper cable that offered continuous and reliable service during the harsh winter weather of the South Dakota plains. The company service area consists of 4,600 square miles which includes 20 communities spread out over 2.8 million acres of land.
C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority applied for a USDA RUS Broadband Loan and began offering IPTV Service in 2008. IPTV, or Internet Protocol Television, at that time was very new and C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority was the first company in the state of South Dakota to offer it. This service utilized the DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) technology, satellites and middleware which required costly equipment upgrades and replacements every two years.
In 2013, yet another costly equipment replacement was required and it was at this point, the C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority Board of Directors made the decision to suspend the service indefinitely.
In 2008, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe authorized the C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority Board of Directors to move forward with the USDA Rural Utility Service Loan Application to deploy Fiber to the Home (FTTH) in the five (5) exchanges which we provide service to.
In 2009, RUS approved the $37.8 million dollar loan and C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority began its extensive Fiber to the Home construction in the Eagle Butte exchange in 2010. The RUS FTTH loan project will be completed in December 2016. We now have approximately 1,450 miles of fiber optics throughout the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
The fiber optics will play an important role in economic develop on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation as the Tribe looks for opportunities to bring more jobs here.
C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority has been working diligently on getting customers cut over to the new fiber optic service from the old copper cable service, which is close to forty (40) years old.
As the FTTH Project nears completion, C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority will be evaluating additional services such as Over the Top Television, Home Security Systems, and Prepaid Wi-Fi to offer the customer. A survey will be sent out to customers to determine what the interest is for such services.
C.R.S.T. Telephone will celebrate 60 years of business in 2018 and we look forward to continuing our success into the next 60 years.
The backbone of C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority’s success is our dedicated, well-trained employees. We maintain a progressive training program in which employees are kept educated on the latest technological advancements. We are very proud of our employees and their commitment and loyalty to our business. We boast about the employee retention and the longevity of employment here, some working here for 36 years.
C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority offers an excellent benefits package: Health Insurance, Vision and Dental plans, and Retirement.
If you are interested in working at C.R.S.T. Telephone Authority, please look for open positions in the West River Eagle. We do have Employment Applications available on our website and you can submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.