New Partnership Solves Critical Need for High-Speed Connectivity

Timing is often everything. For residents in southern Oregon, outside investment in a local telecommunications company came at a time when rural connectivity was paramount. The result is home access to high-speed broadband for thousands.

Hunter Communications started as a local provider of commercial telecommunications services to schools, hospitals and small businesses. In April 2020, Hunter was acquired by Grain Management, which recognized an opportunity to invest in the company’s growth and better serve its population.

“Hunter Communications built a strong fiber network to serve commercial customers, but it passed by residential areas because of restrictions from our previous lender,” said Michael Wynschenk, Hunter’s CEO. “With the critical need for high-speed connection exacerbated by the pandemic, we shifted our business model to include delivering our business quality broadband to residential customers.”

Diversifying into residential service was made possible, in part, with financing from CoBank, which financed the acquisition of Hunter as well as Hunter’s December 2021 acquisition of another fixed wireless and fiber internet service provider, for a total commitment of $79 million. The latest acquisition expands Hunter’s service territory from northern California to northern Oregon. Since entering the residential market in 2020, Hunter’s revenues have tripled.

“Our plan is to continue growing, looking for new acquisitions and adjacent territory where we can offer our superior product at a superior price,” said Sam Pauley, Hunter’s CFO. “This is why having a financial partner like CoBank, who understands our industry and our strategy, is essential.”

In connecting its existing network to residential customers, Hunter has invested extensively in installing fiber-to-the-home, which it cites as “future-proof” technology for its customers, with fixed wireless as a supplemental solution in very remote areas. The company’s customer focus is evident in its offerings: in addition to the option of speeds up to 2.5 gig, which is rare anywhere in the country, the company offers no data caps, a free wi-fi router, and discounts for teachers and the military.

The company is equally focused on its employees, seeking exceptional individuals who align with Hunter’s values and goals. In the current tight labor market, this often means extensive training of technicians as well as hiring skilled remote professionals.

“Our mission is to enhance and enable connections, and having the right staff on board and the right technology in place leads to high customer satisfaction, which is essential for our continued growth,” said Wynschenk.

Hunter is certainly succeeding in its bid to deliver world-class connection and service: in 2022, just two years after it entered the residential space, PC Magazine named it the best network for gamers in the Pacific Northwest, rating it #1 for speed and reliability.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2022 Annual Report.