In order to get phone service in the early part of the century, rural farmers and businesses often resorted to building their own individual, very small telephone systems.
In the late 1940's and the early 1950's, through the cooperation of various area residents consisting of farmers, businessmen, and citizens of the community, Albany Mutual Telephone Association was established due to the emerging importance of telephones to the growth and vitality of the community. The intent of the organization was to consolidate the surrounding farmer-owned switcher lines and to purchase and improve the telephone system in existence, which was Albany Telephone Company.
The group of concerned citizens of the area promoted the idea of operating one telephone company with the business model of a cooperative. The formal incorporation of Albany Mutual Telephone Association was completed on March 2nd, 1951.
Today, the cooperative is participating in several consortiums and joint ventures to provide a number of advanced services. These services consist of local and long distance telephone service, ultra-high-speed Internet, cellular, business services, interactive TV to schools throughout Central Minnesota, Cooperative Network Services, directory services, Digital TV, and investments in telecommunications ventures to provide further funding to the cooperative in the interests of members.
Albany Mutual Telephone currently operates the three exchanges of Albany (845), Freeport (836), and New Munich (837), which include the communities of St. Anthony, St. Rosa, and the surrounding areas. The cooperative serves approximately 3,450 access lines. All three exchanges are tied together via a fiber-optic ring to assure continued operation, as well as a 250 mile toll network.
Being a cooperative provides many benefits not offered from other communication providers. Members have voting rights that allow them to elect a representative to serve them. In addition members get money back just for being a customer, since dividends are given to members, they get money back based on what is spent on cooperative services.