In the 1920's and 30's, Ascension Parish
was little more than a passing thought in the minds of the huge telecommunications companies of the day. Southern Bell and AT&T had little reason to invest in the region. Baton Rouge provided all the business they needed. Running telephone lines and building infrastructure for communities like Gonzales or French Settlement was too expensive and far too time consuming.
Fred Norris Banker and his wife, Anona Banker, moved to Ascension Parish in 1935 with their three children, Ruth, Fred Jr. and Buck. With a bit of "salvaging" discarded Southern Bell equipment, all the Bankers needed was a little iron wire and help from other notable families in the Gonzales area to get a phone company started. For only $1, Southern Bell sold the couple the "loop"—four simple crank telephones hooked up to a wire loop that traveled through Gonzales, French Settlement, Darrow and Geismar.
For the first 15 years, the Bankers operated a switchboard out of their home to make and receive calls under the name The Gonzales Telephone Exchange. The area's very first phone book was nothing more than a scratch piece of paper and phone numbers were only two digits.
Today, the company has earned a reputation as a communications pioneer, remaining always on the leading edge of technology. EATEL offered the area's first car phones in the 1980s (predecessors to cell phones), and began offering dial-up Internet access in 1995. In 2004, EATEL started building one of the first 100% fiber-to-the-home networks in the country and later began offering its FiberEdge services on that network. Often referred to as "future proof" technology, FiberEdge services deliver unprecedented quality and reliability.
As technology has evolved and the company has grown, EATEL has maintained a clear commitment to the community, establishing numerous scholarships, grants and educational programs working in collaboration with area schools. The company is also a generous sponsor of community events and organizations such as the Jambalaya Festival, Sheriff's Christmas Crusade for Children, St. Elizabeth Hospital, Ascension Public Schools, River Parishes Community College, and many more.
For four generations now, the Banker/Scanlan family (Ruth Banker married Arthur Scanlan in 1948) has overseen the growth of EATEL, from the little telephone company that started in their living room, to the cutting-edge competitor that is EATEL today.