The Beginnings with Best (1897-1935)
In 1897, a group of local businessmen in Middleburgh, NY banded together and realized that their town needed an efficient way to communicate. On September 6, 1897, Dr. Christopher S. Best, D.D. Frisbie, J.E. Young, Alonzo Almy, J.B. Badgely, A.E. ReQua, Dow Beekman, Charles W. Vroman, Jacob L. Engle, John H. Cornell, and W.E. Bassler met to discuss how to accomplish this. On October 25, 1897, The Middleburgh Telephone Company was officially formed. Shortly after, the company leased an office space on the second story of what is now the Watson building on Main St. in Middleburgh for only $84 a year. The company also acquired a magneto switchboard, 5 miles of copper wire, and 30 locust wood poles.
From its humble beginnings, the company started to see growth within the telecommunications industry and the size of area it serviced. In 1919, The Middleburgh Telephone Company, along with The New York Telephone Company, and Middleburgh-Schoharie Electric, Light, Heat and Power agreed to build joint utility poles along River St. in Middleburgh. This marked the first of many collaborations with local utility businesses for the company.
Meanwhile, E. Scott Rose, future President of the company, moved to Middleburgh and joined Middleburgh Telephone in 1922 after working at his family’s company, The Rose Telephone Company, located in Hobart, NY. His family’s telephone company was sold to the Otsego and Delaware Telephone Company which prompted him to move to Middleburgh to continue working in the business.
With the business growing fast, the company purchased with the Fulton Valley Telephone Company in 1922, Pierce and Peasely Rural Telephone Company in 1923, the Oak Hill Telephone Company in 1926, and the Schoharie Valley Telephone Company in 1932.
Dr. Christopher S. Best captained the company for 38 years until his passing in 1935 when Baird L. Elsbree and then Lewis Coons would take over for about a year.
The Rise with Rose (1936-1972)
After the exemplary leadership of Dr. Best, E. Scott Rose had big shoes to fill. Starting in 1939, The Middleburgh Telephone Company purchased Coons Telephone System located in Huntersland, NY which was a farmer’s line system. These systems usually had a telephone wire strung from a home to a barn nearby and would have a receiver on each end. These systems were commonly built by The Rose Telephone Company, so this was familiar territory for E. Scott.
Things took a turn after the United States began to become directly involved in World War II starting in 1941. Because of the fight overseas, materials such as wire and even telephone switch equipment were considered essentials and were needed for the war effort. The Middleburgh Telephone Company had to scrape by with what materials they already owned to maintain their business throughout the remaining 4 years of the war. Times were tough, but the company was committed to work and push through this difficult time. E. Scott’s daughter, Marjorie “Marge” Rose helped the business whenever she could, even running wire on the day before her wedding with Randall Becker in 1946.
After the war ended in 1948, E. Scott Rose’s son-in-law, Randall “Randy” Becker, began working at the company in both the outside plant and the central office. He quickly learned all the facets of the family-run telephone company and rose through the ranks, becoming the company’s General Manager in 1953.
During this post-war era, Middleburgh Telephone was able to transition from magneto telephone service to dial service, which was a revolutionary technological innovation within the telecommunications industry. Dial service made for a faster, more efficient way to connect two callers, which was first introduced in Middleburgh in 1952. Franklinton, NY was the first area Middleburgh Telephone provided dial service and it was one of the first areas in New York State to have dial telephone service in general!
Another groundbreaking change in the company, overseen by E. Scott Rose, was a new location for the company’s headquarters. In 1952, a new office was built on the corner of Wells Ave. and Cliff St. in Middleburgh, NY. The building has been expanded many times, but it remains as the company’s current headquarters. The company’s last acquisition under Rose was the Bramanville Telephone Exchange in 1954. By 1959, the company had completely transitioned successfully from magneto service to dial service for their customers.
E. Scott Rose handed off the presidency of the company to Randy Becker after a long career. He lived for 97 years and was still climbing telephone poles until he was 75 and drove his car until he was 90. He didn’t believe in being confined in an office and he made that very clear through his never-ending love of working in the outside plant.
Booming with The Beckers (1972-2006)
Randy Becker was E. Scott’s successor at President starting in 1972. In his first year, he acquired the Summit Telephone Exchange, which was known for being the last telephone company operated by the magneto switchboard in New York. A notable change in the industry during Randy’s leadership was the breakup of The Bell System, otherwise known as AT&T, in 1984. Anti-trust laws broke up the telephone monopoly into 7 regional holding companies. This would have no direct impact on Middleburgh Telephone, but later down the road, long-distance procedures and policies would be changed.
The next year in 1985, the company started installing fiber optic cable. A much better alternative to traditional copper wiring, fiber optic would pave the way for the future of the company and its capabilities. Fiber optic cable is produced from glass and transmits light, whereas copper wiring transmits electricity. Fiber cabling is continuing to be installed today in replacement of legacy copper. Between 1986 and 1990, Middleburgh Telephone would make another technological transition by implementing a digitally switched telephone network rather than dial service. With this type of telephone service, features such as speed dialing, call forwarding, call waiting, and three-way calling all became possible.
Into the 1990s, The Middleburgh Telephone Company rebranded and shortened their company name to MIDTEL. The six letters have the same meaning as the old name, but it was an appropriate transition to a modern brand. MIDTEL also formed two subsidiaries which would change the company forever. In 1994, MIDTEL Cable TV was formed and ever since, the company has been providing cable television to its customers. In 1995, MIDTEL formed Middleburgh Telephone Long Distance (MTLD) to provide long distance telephone services, instead of just providing local dial tone services. In 1996, after the Federal Deregulation of Telecom, MIDTEL began to provide internet services under MIDTEL Cable TV. Adding these three services became a huge turning point for the company and would prove to be decisive in the company’s growth by recognizing the demand of its customers and adapting to a new digital age.
In 2000, INOC Datacenters, LLC was formed by MIDTEL and three other rural telephone companies and entered the burgeoning datacenter industry. James “Jim” Becker became, and still is, INOC’s President while also serving as the head of MIDTEL Cable TV at the time. With the help of MIDTEL, another company was born four years later in 2004. Independent Optical Network (ION) was founded by MIDTEL and twelve other rural telecommunications companies for the purpose of establishing a statewide fiber optic network that is diverse and affordable to connect its founding companies together and to the “outside world.” This network connected cities such as Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, New York, Syracuse, Rochester, and many points in between. Jim Becker was the President of ION for 7 years, during which time ION received a $50M ARRA grant to expand its network another 1000 miles within the state. ION’s project was named a “Top 100 Project Changing America” by President Obama in 2011.
Modern Times with Marge (2006-2022)
Randy Becker passed away in 2006 at the age of 84 and thus ending his amazing 58 years leading MIDTEL. His wife Marge Becker, daughter of E. Scott Rose, became MIDTEL’s president for the next fifteen years. During her leadership, MIDTEL embarked on a trial Fiber To The Home (FTTH) project in the village of Middleburgh and was a national test site for an international wireless broadband equipment provider. In 2011, Schoharie County was hit hard by both Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. These storms devasted the area and left many residents uncertain of their future in the community. The people in the county dug deep, stayed united, and managed to collectively rebuild what was destroyed. MIDTEL spent over $2 million, and their employees worked 14+ hour days for over 45 days straight, tirelessly working to help restore multiple major damage areas.
In 2014, MIDTEL secured a deal and relationship with the National Baseball Hall of Fame by providing fiber and wireless connectivity for visitors, security, vendors, the press, and the Major League Baseball Network during their annual Hall of Fame Induction. This partnership has been maintained and MIDTEL has been providing for that special event every year it has been held since. In December 2016, MIDTEL acquired the Newport Telephone Company located in Newport, NY. In 2016, 2017, and 2018, MIDTEL was awarded with three phases of grants from the NY State Broadband Program to invest nearly $20 million and construct over 800 miles of roads with fiber broadband connectivity. Now, MIDTEL serves a large portion of Schoharie County and portions of Albany County as well with state-of-the-art fiber connectivity.
In 2021, after spending her entire life with the company in some capacity, Marge Becker passed away at the age of 98. Many in the community were touched by her loss. Her dedication and service to the Middleburgh community and surrounding areas will always be remembered by many, and appropriately honored with lined sidewalks in the village of Middleburgh while she was moved from the church to the cemetery. Three of Randy and Marge’s grandsons are now the President, Executive Vice President/General Manager, and Vice President of Operations. The family leadership of Jim Becker, Jason Becker, and Keith Becker is currently what captains the company to this day.
In 2022, MIDTEL is continuing to learn and adapt from events like the COVID-19 pandemic where people desperately relied on connectivity to work and keep in touch with loved ones. Now, a 4th generation family-owned business, MIDTEL is a company that is committed to providing its customers excellent telecommunication services, equipment, and customer service and giving back to the community where the company’s journey began.