In 1901, a group of 225 subscribers organized themselves and were granted a franchise from Benton City Telephone and Telegraph on April 10, 1901. On April 7, 1902 the franchise was given to Shellsburg Telephone Company. The first county line, constructed by Fred Hite, was laid from three miles west of Shellsburg and ran to the City of Shellsburg. Officers at that time were J.D. Hagen, President; Dr. I.S. Boles, Secretary; and J. A. Viles, Treasurer. In 1926 the first Articles of Incorporation were written and Shellsburg Telephone Company became Farmers Mutual Telephone Company of Shellsburg, with ownership by stockholder.
With the advancement of technology and continued growth, Farmers Mutual Telephone Company of Shellsburg was the first company to provide 24 hour service. On August 20, 1952, Farmers Mutual was the first telephone company in Iowa to be granted REA funds. This money was dedicated to a new dial telephone system replacing the magneto phone system. The new dial system would serve an 11 square mile area and have over 350 patrons with the capability to serve 409.
May of 1960, Urbana Telephone merged with Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, which brought an additional 310 subscribers to Farmers Mutual. The Urbana exchange was then converted to dial in June of 1961. Alburnett Telephone also merged with Farmers Mutual Telephone in June of 1967, bringing the total subscriber count to 1281.
In 1984 Farmers Mutual Telephone created a cable television subsidiary called Shellsburg Cablevision, Inc. It now serves Shellsburg, Urbana, Alburnett, Central City, Robins, Center Point, Ryan, and Coggon.
March of 1989, Farmers Mutual Telephone drafted new Articles of Incorporation, and became Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative of Shellsburg. All members of the Cooperative now have membership certificates instead of stock in the company.
In October 1989, Farmers Mutual became a part of the Equal Access Environment and connected to the Iowa Network Service tandem in Des Moines, Iowa. This network was built by 128 independent telephone companies in Iowa and gave our subscribers the ability to call 1+ and have the long distance carrier of their choice. A Northern Telecom DMS 10 host switch installed at the Shellsburg office connected three remote switches by way of fiber optic cable allowing all customers to be accessed through the Shellsburg office. All customers were given three-way calling, call forwarding, and call waiting free of charge. At this time the main central office was remodeled creating 1200 more square feet of space for switching equipment and office space.
December of 1994, FMTCS/DBS began as a subsidiary of Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative of Shellsburg through National Rural Telephone Cooperative (NRTC), giving capability of DIRECTV® satellite service. We began administering DIRECTV® service to over 4000 customers. Effective December 15, 2006, we decided to exit the DIRECTV® business.
In November 1999, Shellsburg Telecommunications, Inc., a subsidiary of Farmers Mutual Telephone, combined with nine other independent telephone companies to form Benton Linn Wireless, an affiliate of Iowa Wireless. Benton Linn Wireless was sold to i-wireless in December 2009. In November 2012, Shellsburg Telecommunications, Inc dissolved as a corporation.
Due to the continuous growth of our services, in the fall of 2000, Farmer Mutual Telephone began an intense remodeling project creating a building total of 9957 square feet . This has allowed additional storage, office and central office equipment space. Construction was completed in the summer of 2001. Late 2001 equipment was purchased and we became our own ISP providing high speed internet, cable modem service and dial up internet. We have since added WildBlue (satellite internet) and wireless internet. Internet continues to be the most sought after technology.
In 2003 Farmers Mutual Telephone and Shellsburg Cablevision began to use USA Communications as their dba so we could bill telephone, cable and internet charges on one bill.
Farmers Mutual Telephone Cooperative of Shellsburg and its subsidiaries are governed by a nine member Board of Directors. Officers are Roy Fish, President; Luke Paige, Vice President; Glenda Shipley, Secretary/Treasurer. Directors are Robb Cromer, Robert Thorkildson, James Carver, Shelly Parbs, Scott Hepker, and Allyn Miller. The cooperative staff is General Manager, Curtis Eldred; Plant Manager, Mitch Kuhn; Office Manager, Pam Martens. Plant personnel: Todd Hepker, Ben Lansing, Ben Arbuckle, AJ Narveson, Cody Sojka, Josh Robinson, and Mike Vogt. Internet Technician: Chad LeFevere. Office personnel: Judy Robertson, Kelly Elliott, Joyce Calvert, Marnie Edgerly, Cathy Griffin and Jody Traut.