From technology to the company’s name, a lot has changed since Buckeye Telesystem began operations in 1994. But over the last 20 years the communications company has grown into an area leader in a wide range of business services ranging from telephone coverage to protected data backup.
“The Internet barely existed in ’94 and certainly no one understood high speed data connection,” said Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications Inc., which owns Telesystem.
Back then, BCI had been considering going into the long-distance access business, but wasn’t convinced it was right to take the plunge. However, in August, 1994, officials got word that a competitor was planning to come into the Toledo market. Mr. Block and others thought an announcement that BCI was planning to enter that business might hold them off. It didn’t, but when that competitor forced BCI’s hand, it ended up being a godsend for the company.
“I’m so proud of this I can’t even adequately describe it to you,” Mr. Block said. “This was not our expertise, but not only did we start this business, we grew it, we became the dominant player for the area we serve, we took it to solid profitability; the growth continues on a good curve, and we beat all the national players that came into Toledo and northwest Ohio.”
Telesystem has an array of business services, including networking, high-speed Internet, email, and data storage, protection, and recovery. When the company started, it had just private data transport, connecting one location to another, said Telesystem President John Martin.
Mr. Martin said those early data lines were comparatively low-tech.
“We may have one or two of those left, but that’s ancient,” he said. “Our Internet access is all ethernet-based. There’s so many variations today compared to probably three or four when we started. The voice service has significantly changed.”
Internet service and phone were added next, and the company’s offerings grew as technology improved and telecommunications laws changed.
Mr. Martin said those early customers were taking a bit of a chance on Telesystem, which was then known as Toledo Area Telecommunications Services. The name changed in 1998. However, as time wore on the company emerged as a local leader.
“We’ve been able year-over-year to continue to grow incrementally, irrespective of barriers. We’ve been pretty innovative in the services we’ve offered. We have about an 18-month cycle of offering new services,” Mr. Martin said Friday at a company picnic to recognize the firm’s 20th anniversary.
Telesystem has more than 9,000 customers and employs just over 100 people. It shares additional employees with sister company Buckeye CableSystem. Block Communications also owns The Blade.