Keeping up with new technology

Published 9:00 am Thursday, May 5, 2011

MANCHESTER — John Bokelmann, manager of the Manchester-Hartland Telephone Co., has been busier than usual lately.

The fiber-optics project is slated to wrap up next month, and lately Bokelmann has spent a good chunk of his time meeting and working with contractors to make sure the job’s done right for the people of Manchester and Hartland who depend on the local telephone company for their phone and Internet needs.

In the spring of 2010, the company began installing new fiber optic lines to the rural and town homes in the Manchester and Hartland area. Currently, contractors are taking the fiber to the homes.

Email newsletter signup

“The difference is that the phone still works the same; the Internet is high-speed,” said Bokelmann. “You can basically offer any kind of speed that the customer needs.”

He said their capacity was limited with copper lines, and users will see an increase in speeds. Another benefit to users is there will be no interference or noise when connecting to the Internet.

Once all of the fiber optics are completely installed and running, Bokelmann’s already got his eye on what may be the next project.

“We’re also looking at video,” he said. “It would be like cable TV — we’re just looking into it and haven’t committed to it. There’s a lot of information we have to get first.”

Staying up-to-date with the continually changing face of technology is just one way the local phone company continues to serve locals. Remaining like a family company after more than 100 years in business is perhaps an even bigger key to its success.

“Our advantage over a big company is that we do things more personal,” Bokelmann said. “There’s more of a family feel to our company. We do a lot more than a big company would do and make sure our customers are happy the best we can.”

This is one thing Bokelmann will work hard to retain as the company’s new manager. A former technician with the company, he took over the reigns from former manager Omer Emstad on March 1.

“Omer Emstad was the manager for more than 25 years,” Bokelmann said. “It’s hard to replace that.”

Bokelmann has been in the telephone business for 37 years altogether, working for Sprint and in the New Richland area for nearly 30 years. He joined the Manchester-Hartland Telephone Co. seven years ago.

During his 37 years in the business, he’s seen a lot of changes in the telephone industry, from party lines to private lines and the birth of the Internet.

“Electronics are advancing so fast, it just makes your head spin,” he said.

Fortunately, he has Cory Hoerler and Dave Steele by his side to help keep things current.

“They like to dig into new stuff, and really like computers, so that really helps,” he said.

He also credits Kim Lebeck, office manager and “our one and only savior,” with keeping things running smoothly.

And with only three employees, that’s important.

“We feel like we’re a family company, and treat our employees like they are family,” he said.