• A little bit about HuronTel: Since 1911, Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Ltd. has provided telecommunications services to residents and businesses in Huron and Bruce Counties. HuronTel was one of the first "subscriber-owned" municipal telephone systems in the Province of Ontario. The only customer-owned telecommunications co-operative in Bruce County is headquartered in Ripley, Ontario with satellite offices in Goderich, Wingham and Kincardine. HuronTel offers landline Telephone, Cellular, Internet, Digital TV, Security and metro-ethernet services to approximately 8,000 homes, businesses, health care and educational institutions in Mid-Western Ontario. The company has 40 employees and over $14 million dollars in annual revenues.
The History of HuronTel
• 1911 - Present: Because rural residents could not obtain telephone service, on March 7, 1911, residents of the area met in the Huron Township hall in the Village of Ripley to discuss the founding of a local telephone system in accordance with the Ontario Local Municipal Telephone Act of 1908.
It was decided at the meeting that the most suitable type of organization for the purpose would be a municipal telephone system. A petition was then circulated and presented to the council of the Township of Huron, which passed a by-law on April 17, 1911, providing for the establishment of the Huron and Kinloss Municipal Telephone System. "H & K" as it was known, was one of the first "subscriber-owned" municipal telephone systems in the Province of Ontario.
C.C. Huffman, a telephone engineer, was employed for on year to supervise construction, and the plant was built by W.G. Lytle and Company, a firm of contractors from Peterborough. Telephone poles were imported from Michigan. The first exchange was located in a building known as the Town and Country Restaurant on Ripley's Queen Street.
A.M. Treleaven was the first contract operator and he and his family operated the switchboard until 1928. The system got off to a very good start and at the end of two years; it was reporting almost 600 phones in service.
The Department of Labour declared HuronTel employee's as "essential to win the war", and received a high labour priority rating. In this manner, HuronTel employee's were not able to be drafted.
In 1944, the company took over an area south of Kincardine containing approximately 20 phones from the Lake Shore Mutual Telephone Co. Ltd. At the time, Matthew Gemmel, who started to work for the company in 1917 as a lineman was the Manager. He served the system for over 30 years until his death in 1949.
Francis Gemmel, who went to work for the system in 1926 succeeded his father as Manager, and in 1952, bought a portion of the Lucknow and Kinloss Telephone Co. Ltd. He resigned in 1955 to join the staff of the Ontario Telephone Authority as an engineering officer.
Clayton Nicholson spent the next 31 years as General Manager. The system steadily expanded its operations, and the number of customers increased year by year. Most of the growth can be attributed to increased demand for telephone service within the systems originally franchised area of Huron and Kinloss, but it also acquired an additional 600 phones when it purchased the assets of the neighbouring Goderich Rural Telephone Co. Ltd. in 1957. The Goderich Company served an area northeast of Goderich from an exchange at the Village of Dungannon.
In 1959 a new dial exchange was installed at Bervie to improve service to subscribers in the northeast section of the Ripley exchange area. The next step was the conversion to dial of the Dungannon exchange in 1963 and the system became completely automated when the Ripley exchange was converted in 1967.
Ripley Operators 1960Back Row L to R: Marie MacKay, Wylda MacKay (Marie's Mother)
Front Row L to R: Mary Culbert, Norma MacKay (Ken), Pearl (Huston) MacDonald, Annamay (McLay) Morier (Jim), Muriel Macauley, Arvilla (Mead) Orr, Olive Young
Although finances were tight, Clayton Nicholson as Manager and Bob Johnston as Plant Foreman led the company during the difficult transition from magneto to dial and 8 party to semi-private use.
When Clayton Nicholson retired in 1986, Glenn Grubb became General Manager.
In 1989, the company converted it's electromechanical switches in Dungannon and Ripley to digital switching (DMS10). This move was designed to provide touch tone and expanded capacity needed for single party lines. The switch would be in use for the next 25 years.
At this time, the company operated out of two locations in Ripley, administration at 84 Huron Street and installation and repair in a small utility building on the other side of the village. In 1993, the company built a new Administration Centre at 60 Queen Street, former home of the CN rail station in the village of Ripley.
1990 Board of DirectorsL to R: Jim MacDonald – Director, Jack Campbell – Director, J.S. Robb – President, Glenn Grubb - General Manager
From its inception, the Independent telephone industry in Ontario was regulated by the Ontario Telephone Service Commission (OTSC). The OTSC was a quasi-judicial regulatory agency which reported to the provincial legislature through the minister of transportation and communications. It served as the regulator for the independent companies until April 26, 1994, when a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case Téléphone Guevremont Inc. v. Quebec (Régie des télécommunications),  1 S.C.R. 878 transferred Canada's provincially regulated telephone companies to federal jurisdiction, meaning that they would be regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
This decision cast a shadow on the Legislation on which Huron and Kinloss Municipal Telephone System was founded. In 1995, at the urging of Management, Commissioners and local residents, the assets of the company were formerly transferred to Huron Telecommunications Co-operative Limited (HuronTel) by the Township of Huron. This ensured both the financial independence of that the company and that it would remain in full control its owner/customers.
The company's Internet Service began in late 1995 and the company opened it's 284 Bayfield Road Goderich Office in June of 1999 to service the growing customer base. With the introduction of the Internet, legislation ending Bell’s stranglehold on local and long distance telephone service, and the introduction of HuronTel’s cellular service, the company would undergo an unparalleled transformation that continues to this day.
HuronTel first deployed fibre optics in its network in 1989. Once the technology matured to the point where it made sense to push fibre deeper into the network, the company deployed DSL, ADSL, VDSL and ultimately Fibre-to-the Home (FTTH). The first FTTH installations were in Ripley and Kitchigami (a small community south of Goderich) in 2006. . The first FTTH installations were in Ripley and Kitchigami (a small community south of Goderich) in 2006.
In 2008/2009 HuronTel made the decision to overbuild Goderich with FTTH. The project was met with overwhelming enthusiasm by Town Council, residents and business. This laid both the technical and financial foundations for further expansion.
Embolded by successes in Goderich, HuronTel completed Lucknow FTTH in 2010.
Largely due to a successful application for roughly $1,000,000 in Federal/Provincial funding under the Community Access Fund, HuronTel was able to bring Fibre to the Farm to its rural members in ACW and Huron-Kinloss who have been served by the company since it first began in 1911. Being one of the very few truly rural communities in Canada to enjoy the benefits of last mile fibre, HuronTel is very proud of this accomplishment.
The company celebrated its 100 Anniversary in 2011 and has received numerous awards throughout the years but is most proud of the Smart Rural Communities Award it received in 2014.
In 2013, HuronTel began the Wingham FTTH project in 2013 and completed the build in 2014.
When the Municipality of Kincardine announced to sale of Bruce Telecom in 2013 to HuronTel’s largest competitor in the region, steps were immediately taken by HuronTel to overbuild the town with fibre optics. Construction began in 2014 and was completed in 2015 and has been met once again, with overwhelming support of local residents and businesses alike.
The company now has offices in Ripley, Goderich, Wingham and Kincardine.
HuronTel continues to upgrade its services and facilities and its latest FTTH construction, along the shores of Lake Huron from the edge of Kincardine to Amberley Beach, is expected to be complete in 2020.
HuronTel is proud of its community support of local hospitals, events and causes.
On March 20, 2020, after 33 years as General Manager, Glenn Grubb retired. His farewell message can be found here.
Long-time employee of 22 years, Ryan McClinchey is now the 6th General Manager in the 109 year history of the company.
Today, the company services more than 8,000 customers from Goderich to Kincardine, Point Clark to Wingham and points in between. The company continues to build out its FTTH Internet, IPTV, Telephone and Security and Cellular services.
We look forward to serving our members for many years to come and look forward to the challenges of the next 100 years!