A group of hard working farmers and rural residents banded together in 1951 to improve the nearly non-existent telephone options in their remote areas. On December 14, 1951 after getting commitments from many potential subscribers, they formally created The Harper County Rural Telephone Cooperative. Later called Harper County Rural Telephone Association, the main office was located in Anthony, Kansas and served 824 customers by the end of 1954. It continued to grow as exchanges were acquired through the years:
- 1954 - Corbin, Freeport, Perth, South Haven, and Waldron (all Kansas)
- 1955 - Hunnewell, Ks
- 1956 - Braman, Ok
- 1957 - Bluff City, Ks
- 1959 - Geuda Springs and Mayfield, Ks
- 1960 - Danville and Hardtner, Ks
- 1961 - Capron and Manchester, Ok
- 1967 - Jet, Ok
- 1969 - Goltry, Ok
- 1984 - Caldwell, Ks and Renfrow, Ok
- 2017 - Shidler, Wynona, Webb City, Grainola, Foraker (all Oklahoma)
When the company expanded into Oklahoma, the name was changed to KanOkla Telephone Association in 1957. Leading the way as one of the first rural telephone companies in the U.S. to upgrade all subscribers one party service by 1978, KanOkla's commitment to connect rural customers was our forefront. Fiber optic cable was buried to connect all central offices in 1986, and Caldwell was made the central point for long distance. Trailblazing the path again, we were one of the first in the nation to convert the entire system to digital in 1990 and began offering long distance and internet services to members in 1996.
KanOkla partnered with Pioneer Telephone , SCTelcom, and Hinton Telephone to create the Cellular Network Partnership in 1989, offering nationwide cellular coverage in many Oklahoma areas. Marketed under the name Pioneer Cellular, it expanded in 2006 with towers covering southern Kansas, making it available to most KanOkla members and became the premier carrier in the area.
In 1991, KanOkla's board relocated the headquarters to the largest community in its own service area, now residing at 100 KanOkla Avenue in Caldwell, Kansas. The KanOkla Technology Store was opened on Main Street in Caldwell in 1998, growing our IT and computer business. We began to expand our internet reach outside of the original exchange areas with a fixed wireless product in 2001 to Medford, Ok and Harper, Ks. Now serving over 35 communities with our fixed wireless internet connection, our wireless customers outnumber the member areas.
A scholarship program for area students was established in 1993, furthering our commitment to education as a pathway to success for our communities. We expanded the program in 2008 to include adult students (beyond high school). Quality of life in rural areas depends on emergency first responders and community amenities that provide improvements to the area for the common good. In 2001, a Community Development & Assistance Program began to assist community projects that will sustain, enhance, or improve the quality of life, safety, and growth within the cooperative areas. In 2011, this program was expanded to include the KanOkla School Assistance Program.
Our decision to bury fiber to every home, farm, and business in 2010 - 2015 connected all member areas with a fiber backbone, connecting our rural members to the world. On May 31, 2017, KanOkla acquired a neighboring telephone company in the beautiful Flint Hills region of Osage County, Ok. The rich history of Shidler Telephone Company began in 1922 with the White Family who continually provided connectivity to the communities of Wynona, Shidler, Webb City, Grainola, and Foraker. We are enjoying getting acquainted with our new areas and planning a new fiber build for higher bandwidth connectivity to these areas.