Cape-based telecommunications company purchased

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Big River Telephone acquires LDD

By Jim Obert

Business Today

A local telecommunications company that reaches into Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky from its base in Cape Girardeau was sold in late December to Big River Telephone Co.

LDD, which was started in 1983, was sold by Ed Eagleton to a group of businessmen with extensive telecommunications experience in the St. Louis area.

Jerry Howe, chief executive officer of Big River Telephone, Kevin Cantwell, president, and Phil Abbenhaus, vice president and chief financial officer, organized a company last June and began looking for an investment opportunity.

"We bought a business with very good assets that will provide a platform to offer some enhanced telecommunications services," said Howe, who worked 18 years for Southwestern Bell and has been involved in three start-up telecommunications companies - one in England and two in St. Louis.

Cantwell, the president, worked 16 years for AT&T and has been involved in two start-ups during the past five years.

"We'll be bringing some new services and rate plans to local and long-distance phone service, and we'll also roll out some innovative data networking capabilities," said Howe.

Howe said the name of their company - Big River Telephone - was chosen because its old-fashioned lure. It bucks the current trend of new companies choosing dramatic one-word names.

"We're just real people, near a big river and we wanted a name that has real words in it," he said.

From its inception, LDD provided long-distance services. About four years ago it successfully ventured into Internet services, and two years ago it began offering local telephone service.

Howe said Big River Telephone will continue these services and expand on them. The company currently has 35 employees and there are plans to grow the sales force and eventually add more customer service people.

Innovation is a key to improving telecommunications services at the company. Howe said there are plans to expand local calling scopes to help customers eliminate some of the more expensive intrastate calls.

"We have some ways to provide lower costs in intrastate and include that in a calling plan that will be much more affordable," said Howe.

Howe said the management team at Big River Telephone has extensive experience in Internet and data networking. The company will provide a virtual private network that will allow businesses that have multiple physical sites to connect those sites.

He said this would be an improvement over businesses using a local area network where computers would be linked only at headquarters.

"We find that companies that have remote sites, which are staffed by maybe three or four people, benefit when the remote sites can access the local area network in the headquarters," said Howe, adding that one benefit is being able to order supplies directly.

The virtual private network will have high-speed connections. Howe said it's a new innovative data networking capability that is in big demand for businesses with multiple locations.

The six towers in its fixed wireless network connect Cape, Sikeston and Paducah. There are no immediate plans to expand that network. The major plan, said Howe, is to enhance all areas of service the company provides.

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