Mutual Telephone Companies in Alberta
1934 to 1974
Mutual Telephone Companies in Alberta 1935 to 1974
Telephones were introduced in Alberta in 1885 and began to spread across the province after the Bell Telephone Company established itself in Calgary in 1887. Bell refused to extend services to rural areas believing them to be unprofitable. Consequently, the provincial government of Alberta began to build rural telephone lines in 1907 and, in the following year, took over Bell's provincial infrastructure and established a department that would become Alberta Government Telephones (AGT). In 1908, telephone lines were extended to other towns and villages near Calgary. Central offices and switchboards were set up in local offices in the villages. The central offices and rural districts were operated by the government until 1932 when the rural telephone lines were turned over to local mutual telephone companies (MTCs). During the 1930s, AGT had difficulty maintaining its infrastructure due to falling revenues exacerbated by unpaid bills. In 1932 devastating weather destroyed much of the rural phone systems and AGT did not want to rebuild due to the costs. These co-operative organizations, under which local residents built local telephone networks connected to the main government network. AGT began divesting itself of its rural networks by handing them over to the mutual telephone companies. By the end of 1936, 600 MTCs had been formed, which increased to over 1,000 by the early 1960s. By 1974 the MTC’s could not afford to pay for the modern telephone exchanges and AGT purchased all the MTC’s and the rural upgrade of telephone lines and exchanges began. The rural party lines, consisting of up twenty subscribers per line, were replaced with the four party systems. Underground cabling and modern central offices have resulted in private lines to every subscriber in Alberta.