NITCO may still be the local phone company for many households in the Region, but its talented staff and visionary leadership have been taking services to new levels for decades, thanks to hard work and the latest technology.
From a fledgling phone company in the 1890s to a primary digital voice, high-speed broadband and long distance carrier today, NITCO continues its progress forward, thanks to investments in cutting-edge technology. “We’ve got a lot of things that are really changing the company and all are driven by technology and customer needs,” says Tom Carroll, NITCO’s senior vice president of sales and marketing.
At the top of the curve is NITCO’s investment in fiber optic technology. The company currently plays a big part in working with municipalities that are investing in fiber optic technology. “We’re working with municipalities throughout Northwest Indiana, helping them develop a vision for their fiber networks” Carroll says. Currently, NITCO is helping municipalities with design strategies to manage over 26 miles of fiber optic network.
“We also have a wireless internet product” available, even for the most rural of NICTO customers, “those that really need higher speed in areas that have poor DSL coverage from other carriers.” NITCO currently has about 1,000 wireless customers, and this portion of its business is fast growing.
NITCO’s wireless internet technology is changing as well. In testing now is LTE cell phone-based technology that more readily penetrates trees and other obstacles and makes its way into customers’ homes more successfully. “We have always been that telecommunications company that’s technology-driven, and that’s still true today.”
“It’s technology and customer demand that is driving where (the company is going to go)” and how it adopts and develops new products, Carroll says. “Customers (tell us) ‘I want higher speed and I want faster internet.’ We’re trying to find the best way to service customers (and give them) the products they need.”
NITCO’s customer base spreads through four counties: Lake, Porter, Jasper and Newton. “That’s our primary territory,” he says.
Being “the first” in Northwest Indiana and keeping the emphasis local has been NITCO’s modus operandi for decades. “We were the first dial-up internet provider (connection)” for many Region families, Carroll says. Now NITCO is introducing a special new product, its own cable TV offering, NITCO TV.
NITCO TV will be a premium HD-only cable service offering more than 100 cable channels plus all the Chicago local stations. The new product will be rolled out this fall. “We should be able to eventually reach about 10,000 customers with the cable product,” he says. “That’s big news; NITCO is in the cable TV business. That levels the playing field with our competitors. They offer (cable TV, voice and internet packages), now NITCO does, too. There’ll be more (information) coming out about that in the coming months: channel line-ups, pricing. We’ll probably be signing up customers in the next 90 days.”
It’s all a challenge that NITCO employees will be more than ready to handle, Carroll says. “The best thing about NITCO is (its) employees. Our employees are amazing,” he says. The company currently has a workforce of 80 and handles everything in-house, from local customer service representatives to construction crews that install both fiber optic and copper-based technologies.
“We’ve got thousands of telephone poles to manage,” says Carroll. “We have 300 square miles (of customer base) to manage.” NITCO’s own staff also handles engineering, technical support, billing, sales and marketing, a 180-mile fiber network and support for 14,000 homes and 8,000 customers.
“Our company never rests,” says Carroll. “We always have people on duty. We are there for the customer 24/7, 365 days a year. And soon to come (for NITCO customers) will be great television.”