Camellia Communications brings fiber to Butler County homes

Published 6:00 am Sunday, June 23, 2024

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In 1946, Howard and Jesse Powell acquired Hayneville Telephone Company (HTC) with the purchase of a home on East Tuskeena Street, which came with the operation’s switchboard and 50 customers. The couple retained the business, and the family later expanded services to Fort Deposit and Greenville, continuing the 57-year legacy by expanding to form Camellia Communications in 2004.

Evelyn Causey, the Powells’ granddaughter, is Camellia Communications President and COO, overseeing operations which include the fiber projects which began within the first decade of the provider’s service to Butler County customers.

“We originally built this area with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant through the Rural Utilities Services (RUS) loan, so that got the infrastructure down,” Causey said. “Fabric technology was not developed enough, so a lot of the areas we built were not with fiber. We are now in the process of overbuilding with fiber, but it is a slow process for us.”

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In some rural areas of the county, Camellia Communications serves roughly three customers per mile. The distance creates a challenge, making improvements costly and labor intensive. 

Grant funding awarded by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) has helped the utility bring fiber to unserved areas of the county, Causey explained.

“We received three ADECA grants and completed fiber in areas that would never have had fiber if we had not been there,” Causey said. The Poorhouse Road area off U.S. Highway 31 has fiber to homes, as do Ebenezer Road, Georgiana and Chapman, she added.

“We continue to make progress,” Causey said. “We have fiber to every school in Butler County. We have served their internet needs for a while and have added every major health facility in the county.”

General Manager Mason Halaker said Camellia Communications boasts Regional Medical Center of Central Alabama as an internet customer and serves every governmental entity within its footprint.

Causey said the company is proud to supply local customers with internet solutions, something her family never could have foreseen when they first launched into business providing telephone services.

“I can remember my grandfather saying, ‘You know, this new thing is coming out called the internet. It’s a digital subscriber line (DSL).’” Causey said. “I can remember telling him we didn’t need to spend a lot of money on it because I was not really sure people in the rural areas would be all that interested. He said, ‘Well, just try it and see what happens.’ We started with five customers on dialup and have come a long way since then.”

To keep customers and potential customers informed, Camellia Communications will be sending out regular updates through an email campaign. Coordinating that effort is Kayleigh Broderway, who encourages the community to connect with her office, update mailing addresses and provide an email address for update distribution.

“Trust with our customers and potential customers is very important to us, and we want to maintain open and transparent communications,” Broderway said. “Due to the difficulty of mailing updates to customers without a return address, we plan to have an email campaign with customers who would like to receive consistent updates regarding our milestones and even our challenges. 

“We would love to update customers via email, bill inserts and social media on a regular basis. Working in phases will allow us to do weekly, if not daily, updates on Facebook. We will be providing updates about where our crews will be working as well as pictures.”

For more information or to update contact information, call (334) 371-3000.