When Hurricane Harvey engulfed the Texas Gulf Coast in 2017 with massive flooding, YK Communications managed to keep its network running throughout the storm.
“We had 100 percent uptime during Hurricane Harvey,’’ said Russell Kacer, president of YK Communications. “A few locations lost commercial power, but we did not have damage due to the storm itself. Our network was up and running during the entire storm.’’
With creativity and an eye to the customer, YK Communications – located in Ganado and serving a 320 square-mile area in the Texas Coastal Bend – has been upgrading its copper networks and investing in new fiber technologies to keep its more than 3,000 consumer and business customers connected. During and after the storm, it was clear that investment paid off.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Matagorda County emergency operations center in Bay City was flooded. After receiving a 4 a.m. call, YK Communications established an emergency center in YK’s offices to support emergency efforts for the surrounding community.
Kacer stressed the value of social media to keep customers informed while maintaining a sense of community with frequent posts on Facebook and photos showing employees keeping the network running.
The independent company was founded in 1948 as Ganado Telephone Company to provide voice and data communications services to South Texas businesses and consumers in Ganado, Louise and Markham. The company was one of the first in Texas to establish direct-dial service and digital switching as well as mobile phone service with a 1988 agreement with GTE Mobilnet. In 1994, the company introduced DIRECTV to its customers. Ganado Telephone Company established a subsidiary – YK Communications – in 1995 and in 2014 the company began doing business under the YK Communications brand.
YK Communications – through its incumbent local exchange company and its competitive local exchange company – provides voice and data services, unified communications, fiber transport services, DIRECTV satellite entertainment services and broadband Internet services as well as residential and commercial security systems to consumers, schools, hospitals and businesses.
The company deployed fiber networks in Ganado before expanding into El Campo.
In 2016, YK Communications began construction of a fiber optic network in El Campo after identifying a need among its residents for quality broadband internet and related services.
As of the end of 2017, Kacer estimated that the company has invested about $10.3 million combined in its incumbent local exchange and competitive local exchange businesses in deploying fiber networks and new technologies.
“We are constantly making upgrades to our network and providing the latest and greatest technology. With the fiber deployment, YK Communications has a 100 percent underground network. We want to consider ourselves stormproof,” Kacer said. “
“When those storms hit – and they don’t hit that often – it’s pretty catastrophic.’’
It takes creativity and strategic thinking to serve a more rural area – particularly when it comes to maintaining copper networks and deploying new fiber networks. Fiber-to-the-home projects can be expensive with the cost of digging trenches and running networks to a smaller base of customers in remote locations.
To serve this demand, YK Communications launched “crowd fiber” projects for rural consumer customers. Much like crowd funding, with crowd fiber projects customers are encouraged to be early backers of projects to support fiber deployments.
With 26 employees, YK Communications remains involved in local communities. The Young Family Foundation has provided about $1 million in scholarships and grants to students in local communities.
Looking ahead, Kacer sees more challenges for telecommunications providers serving rural communities including competition from the local cable company and challenges in attracting and retaining key staff. At the same time, demand for high-speed Internet connectivity continues to grow – particularly as rural businesses continue to turn to online sales.
“The way technology is growing, our rural customers and rural communities not only expect that connectivity, it’s even more to survive. We become that economic development backbone for these rural communities that enable them to compete,’’ Kacer said. “Rural areas cannot be ignored. They are a vital piece of our state.’’