Telephone Services (Part 1)
After Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, it
didn't take long for people everywhere to see the benefits of
communicating by phone. And as historian Don Wetherell points out,
Albertans were just as keen to leap into the telephone age.
There were some telephone lines in Alberta by the 1880's but it was
very limited service. Short lines were problems with transmitting
telephone messages over long distances.
Then in 1907 the Alberta government began building lines and it formed
Alberta government telephones, and that network expanded very rapidly
between 1908 and 1914. And by the 1920's telephones were relatively common
They were especially popular on farms, and, during this expansionary
phase, in the teens, advertisements for telephone equipment were commonly
run in the farm press.
Prairie farmers saw telephone service as a means of breaking out of the
isolation and vulnerability that came with living on the farm. But it was
obvious after three decades since the invention of the telephone, the only
way Albertas farmers would get hooked up is if the government took on the
Well the private companies wont provide service to farms and to
farms areas because it wasnt profitable enough for them to do it.
Some of the big telephone companies like Bell were in parts of Alberta,
but rural areas, they wouldnt extend service to rural areas because the
population was too thin and the installation costs were too high.
And we see the same pattern in Saskatchewan where the government also
takes over the telephones and operates them as a public service.
But of course the idea also behind that "Public Service" was that rates
would be lower and would be more affordable because there wouldnt be
profit that would have to be earned out of the operation of the telephone
No one would have to pay taxes because it would be a Crown Corporation, so
these, this valuable service could be provided at a lower cost, because
the profit motive wasnt present in it.
Alberta Government Telephones survived until it was privatized in the
1990s under the company name of Telus.
On the heritage trail, Im Cheryl Croucher.