Natco's 3G Still Called To Connect In Flippin

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Jul. 29, 2013 12:00 am  

“We have a lot invested in the community,” he said. “We have a lot invested in the company. Really the success of it is [our] well-being: We’re not a publicly traded company trying to manipulate a stock price for a certain period. It’s us. It’s our family, our well-being. In that sense I think it’s extremely important to have as [much family] involved as we can.”

Now, the company has a service area of 658 square miles running along the south shore of Bull Shoals Lake. According to the report Natco submitted to the Arkansas Public Services Commission, its assessable in-state revenue for 2012 was $5.51 million divided between its technology and voice services divisions, down from $5.74 million in 2011. It peaked above $8 million in 2006.

Changing Market

One of Steven Jr.’s challenges is adapting Natco to the rapidly changing telecom market. Voice service was once the company’s backbone, but it’s now focused more on high-speed Internet.

“It’s only now starting to migrate where people are disconnecting landline services,” Steven Jr. said.

According to the 2012 report, the company had a total of 5,439 access lines, down from 7,022 in 2009, when Steven Jr. became president.

Foreseeing these issues, Natco began adding services in the mid-1990s.

“We started offering dial-up Internet service in 1996,” Steven Jr. said. “That was the beginning of our migration over to an Internet company, and really now, we consider ourselves more of a broadband company than we do a telephone company. Voice is now just an app that runs over the Internet.”

In early 2012, the company started offering Ethernet service directly to businesses. Also last year, it started offering both regular cable and streaming Internet television services.

It’s right at about the “tipping point,” Steven Jr. said, where Natco’s broadband customers outnumber its voice customers.

“A lot of people still do value the voice just for security reasons,” he said. “I guess that’s another place where the area we live in plays a role, where people are wanting to have that emergency land line.”

Now, just as Ray Sanders expanded phone lines, his grandson is expanding Internet lines.



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