The smiling staff at Eastern Oregon Telecom are waiting to bring both residential and business customers local and long distance telephone, wireless and DSL Internet services. A grand opening ceremony will be held on Saturday from 10 - 3.

By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski

Staff writer

HERMISTON — For the past five years, Eastern Oregon Telecom has been giving the other guys a run for their money.

The Hermiston telecommunications company provides the same type of services as the national company — local telephone service, long distance, caller services such as voice mail, Caller ID, call waiting and forwarding, high-speed Internet service, plus existing Qwest customers can keep their old phone number. What separates EOT from the competition, says Paul Larsen, EOT's CEO, is local customer service.

"We are a facilities-based provider," Larsen said. "Any service we have, we have control over. When a customer call in, they get a live body."

The city of Hermiston, Good Shepherd Medical Center, and Blue Mountain Community College have all made the switch to EOT.

"We serve BMCC's entire data needs, video conferencing, etc.," Larsen said. "It all goes over our network."

Hermiston has 12,000 access lines and EOT has earned 35 percent of those lines in just five years. Larsen says any feature that a customer can receive from Qwest, EOT is able to provide it as well.

Currently, EOT offers phone and DSL services in Hermiston and Pendleton and provides wireless Internet service in Umatilla, Irrigon and Boardman. EOT plans to unveil new services at their Grand Opening on Aug. 5 at their new location at 1475 Highway 395 in Hermiston.

"You won't get the service from anyone else," Larsen said. "There are cities like Portland and Seattle who don't have what we're going to be unveiling."

Basic phone service is $11.50 per month, not including taxes and surcharges. Feature packages (additional services to the basic charge) range from $4.50 to $12.50.

There are three bundle packages available for residential customers. For $67.99 a month, EOT residential customers have unlimited long distance calling, DSL Internet service or wireless Internet service, three free calling features, and of course, local telephone service.

Business customers are able to hook up with local phone service as well as broadband services. Larsen feels there is no reason why EOT cannot meet the needs of business and residential customers.

"We will save customers money and provide them with better service and more functionality," Larsen said. "We listen to what the customer wants. That's what we pride ourselves on."

Larsen says listening to customers and customer service are important to him and the people who work for him. Responding to the needs of customers is one of the keys to EOT's success.

"If there's an application you're interested in, we'll look into adding it," Larsen said. "We listen to what the people want and gear our marketing and sales towards that."

Larsen does not do all this alone.

As customers walk into EOT's new office, they are greeted by Shera Ritzer, Katie Rettkowski, Jesica Rodriguez, and Ken Wanus. Cindy Thompson handles the sales end of the business. Brian Franke, Roy Conner, Danny Johaneson, Kyle Fetterhoff, Edgar Gonzales, Jeremiah Gard and Jim Arntz assist customers with installation for local, wireless and network services.

The Greater Hermiston Chamber of Commerce will host an Alive After Five at EOT's office on Aug. 2 with a grand opening on Aug. 5. Alive After Five begins at 5 and the grand opening will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Larsen promises to be in the dunk tank to help the Hermiston High School cheerleaders raise money for their program. The grand opening will feature door prizes, Coca Cola Cash, drawings for gift certificates, aforementioned dunk tank, and, Larsen says, "the unveiling of new products and features."

"This is state-of-the-art, cutting edge products and features," Larsen said.

For more information about EOT, call 289-7000 or visit their office on Highway 395 next door to Desert Lanes Bowling Alley in Hermiston.

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