About Us

Agri-Valley Communications, Inc. (AVCI) is the parent company of Pigeon Telephone, Thumb Cellular, Agri-Valley Services and the AVS Tech Team. Headquartered in Pigeon, Michigan, the family-owned corporation is focused on providing communication and technology services to rural Michigan communities, including those in the Thumb and Northern regions of the state.

Through its subsidiaries, the company offers landline telephone, cellular voice and data, and broadband internet services. Additionally, it provides computer and networking support throughout Michigan’s Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties via the AVS Tech Team.

AVCI is a supporter of community betterment, providing grants, scholarships, volunteered time and charitable donations to local non-profit organizations.

The timeline below details our 110+ years of providing big-city services to our rural community.

 

Our History

Preloader
  • Preface


    The telephone is patented by Alexander Graham Bell and the first successful voice transmission by telephone is made.

  • A Rural Community is Born


    The Village of Pigeon, Michigan is incorporated. Local farmers have been stringing telephone wires on fence posts to bring telephone service to their rural farmlands.

  • Establishing Pigeon Telephone


    Pigeon Telephone established by John J. Campbell as part of the Valley Telephone Exchange. Manual switchboards and operators are housed in Campbell’s general store in downtown Pigeon.

  • The Spence Family Era


    Pigeon Telephone is sold by Campbell to oil and sugar beet salesman James Spence. At that time, the utility had 275 subscribers.

  • Unified Improvements


    A severe sleet storm damages most of the wired network. Local farmers begin turning over ownership of their privately-strung telephone wires to Spence in exchange for repairs and significant upgrades.

  • Passing the Baton


    Pigeon Telephone is acquired by Crawford “Ham” Spence and Robert Spence upon the death of their father James.

  • The Last Holdout


    The last independently owned telephone line within the Pigeon exchange, the “McKinley Farmers’ Line” just north of Pigeon in McKinley Township, is acquired by Pigeon Telephone.

  • The End of an Era


    Pigeon Telephone is upgraded to a totally automated “cross-bar relay system”, making manual switchboards obsolete.

  • A New Direction


    Pigeon Telephone is sold by the Spence family to Pigeon businessmen John E. Eichler and Willis “Bill” Hengy. By now the company has surpassed 1,200 subscribers.

  • Expanded Horizons, Part 1


    Twining Telephone Company, serving the communities of Twining and Turner in Michigan’s Arenac County, is purchased from Emory and Rose Curriston. The purchase adds approximately 400 subscribers. The company is fully merged into Pigeon Telephone by 1986.

  • Expanded Horizons, Part 2


    Alba Telephone Company, serving the Michigan’s Antrim County’s Alba and Lakes of the North telephone exchanges, is acquired from Ron and Hazel McGregor. The company serves approximately 500 subscribers. It is merged into Pigeon Telephone in early 1982.

  • State-of-the-Art Upgrades


    Pigeon Telephone cuts over to an all-new network of buried weather-safe cable and state-of-the-art switching equipment housed at a newly constructed central office near downtown Pigeon.

  • A Solid Footing

    John E. Eichler and local farmer James J. Christner become the sole proprietors of Pigeon Telephone. Christner continues to serve on on the present-day AVCI Board of Directors.

  • Restructuring for Tomorrow


    Agri-Valley Communications, Inc. (AVCI) is founded as a subsidiary of Pigeon Telephone to handle non-regulated communications services.

     

    AVCI later becomes the parent company of Pigeon Telephone and all other subsidiaries in 1994.

  • Laying the Groundwork


    Pigeon Telephone is upgraded to digital switching equipment to pave the way for emerging technologies including dial-up internet access.

     

    John Eichler’s sons are appointed key leadership positions within the company. Edwin H. Eichler is appointed as President and CEO, and Neal B. Eichler is named Vice President.

  • Building a Legacy


    Pigeon Telephone begins offering Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS), which is the predecessor of modern cellular mobile phone service. Due to its superior transmission distance, many ships navigating Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay use IMTS until the early 2000s.

     

    On December 13, the FCC awards Pigeon Telephone with a license to provide cellular phone service in Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac Counties. The license is awarded on John Eichler’s birthday, just months after his passing.

  • Going Wireless


    Continuing John Eichler’s vision for the future of Pigeon Telephone, Thumb Cellular is founded as a separate entity to provide cellular mobile phone service to Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties.

  • The Age of the Internet


    Agri-Valley Services, then known as ‘AVCI.net’, is formed as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and begins providing dial-up services across the Thumb and northern Michigan.

  • Ahead of the Curve


    Agri-Valley Services solidifies its presence as a rural broadband provider by introducing fixed-wireless broadband internet services in 2004. DSL broadband services available to Pigeon Telephone customers followed soon after. AVS is among the first high-speed internet service providers to serve homes, farms and businesses in the Upper Thumb community.

  • Continued Growth


    Pigeon Telephone expands to serve the communities of Sand Point and Mud Creek. It reaches a peak of 3,500 subscribers.

  • Serving a Need


    The AVS Tech Team is created as the computer repair and networking branch of Agri-Valley Services.

  • Losing Our Matriarch


    AVCI matriarch Pauline Eicher passes away. Following the death of her husband John in 1988, Pauline became the primary shareholder in the company. She began her career as a Pigeon Telephone operator for the Spence family and later managed administration duties in the corporate office with her husband, John, and into retirement with her sons, Edwin and Neal.

  • The New Generation

    A new generation joins the family business. Peter Eichler, son of Edwin, and Hans Eichler, son of Neal, are appointed to the AVCI Board of Directors.

  • A Future of Potential


    Continuing the legacy of John J. Eichler, today’s leaders of Agri-Valley Communications, Inc. are constantly evaluating bleeding-edge communications technologies and how to best serve our communities.


Timeline

1876
1876

Preface


The telephone is patented by Alexander Graham Bell and the first successful voice transmission by telephone is made.

1903
1903

A Rural Community is Born


The Village of Pigeon, Michigan is incorporated. Local farmers have been stringing telephone wires on fence posts to bring telephone service to their rural farmlands.

1908
1908

Establishing Pigeon Telephone


Pigeon Telephone established by John J. Campbell as part of the Valley Telephone Exchange. Manual switchboards and operators are housed in Campbell’s general store in downtown Pigeon.

1921
1921

The Spence Family Era


Pigeon Telephone is sold by Campbell to oil and sugar beet salesman James Spence. At that time, the utility had 275 subscribers.

1922
1922

Unified Improvements


A severe sleet storm damages most of the wired network. Local farmers begin turning over ownership of their privately-strung telephone wires to Spence in exchange for repairs and significant upgrades.

1933
1933

Passing the Baton


Pigeon Telephone is acquired by Crawford “Ham” Spence and Robert Spence upon the death of their father James.

1953
1953

The Last Holdout


The last independently owned telephone line within the Pigeon exchange, the “McKinley Farmers’ Line” just north of Pigeon in McKinley Township, is acquired by Pigeon Telephone.

1960
1960

The End of an Era


Pigeon Telephone is upgraded to a totally automated “cross-bar relay system”, making manual switchboards obsolete.

1972
1972

A New Direction


Pigeon Telephone is sold by the Spence family to Pigeon businessmen John E. Eichler and Willis “Bill” Hengy. By now the company has surpassed 1,200 subscribers.

1973
1973

Expanded Horizons, Part 1


Twining Telephone Company, serving the communities of Twining and Turner in Michigan’s Arenac County, is purchased from Emory and Rose Curriston. The purchase adds approximately 400 subscribers. The company is fully merged into Pigeon Telephone by 1986.

1976
1976

Expanded Horizons, Part 2


Alba Telephone Company, serving the Michigan’s Antrim County’s Alba and Lakes of the North telephone exchanges, is acquired from Ron and Hazel McGregor. The company serves approximately 500 subscribers. It is merged into Pigeon Telephone in early 1982.

1977
1977

State-of-the-Art Upgrades


Pigeon Telephone cuts over to an all-new network of buried weather-safe cable and state-of-the-art switching equipment housed at a newly constructed central office near downtown Pigeon.

1981
1981

A Solid Footing

John E. Eichler and local farmer James J. Christner become the sole proprietors of Pigeon Telephone. Christner continues to serve on on the present-day AVCI Board of Directors.

1982
1982

Restructuring for Tomorrow


Agri-Valley Communications, Inc. (AVCI) is founded as a subsidiary of Pigeon Telephone to handle non-regulated communications services.

 

AVCI later becomes the parent company of Pigeon Telephone and all other subsidiaries in 1994.

1986
1986

Laying the Groundwork


Pigeon Telephone is upgraded to digital switching equipment to pave the way for emerging technologies including dial-up internet access.

 

John Eichler’s sons are appointed key leadership positions within the company. Edwin H. Eichler is appointed as President and CEO, and Neal B. Eichler is named Vice President.

1988
1988

Building a Legacy


Pigeon Telephone begins offering Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS), which is the predecessor of modern cellular mobile phone service. Due to its superior transmission distance, many ships navigating Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay use IMTS until the early 2000s.

 

On December 13, the FCC awards Pigeon Telephone with a license to provide cellular phone service in Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac Counties. The license is awarded on John Eichler’s birthday, just months after his passing.

1991
1991

Going Wireless


Continuing John Eichler’s vision for the future of Pigeon Telephone, Thumb Cellular is founded as a separate entity to provide cellular mobile phone service to Huron, Tuscola and Sanilac counties.

1996
1996

The Age of the Internet


Agri-Valley Services, then known as ‘AVCI.net’, is formed as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and begins providing dial-up services across the Thumb and northern Michigan.

2004
2004

Ahead of the Curve


Agri-Valley Services solidifies its presence as a rural broadband provider by introducing fixed-wireless broadband internet services in 2004. DSL broadband services available to Pigeon Telephone customers followed soon after. AVS is among the first high-speed internet service providers to serve homes, farms and businesses in the Upper Thumb community.

2005
2005

Continued Growth


Pigeon Telephone expands to serve the communities of Sand Point and Mud Creek. It reaches a peak of 3,500 subscribers.

2008
2008

Serving a Need


The AVS Tech Team is created as the computer repair and networking branch of Agri-Valley Services.

2013
2013

Losing Our Matriarch


AVCI matriarch Pauline Eicher passes away. Following the death of her husband John in 1988, Pauline became the primary shareholder in the company. She began her career as a Pigeon Telephone operator for the Spence family and later managed administration duties in the corporate office with her husband, John, and into retirement with her sons, Edwin and Neal.

2020
2020

The New Generation

A new generation joins the family business. Peter Eichler, son of Edwin, and Hans Eichler, son of Neal, are appointed to the AVCI Board of Directors.

2021
2021

A Future of Potential


Continuing the legacy of John J. Eichler, today’s leaders of Agri-Valley Communications, Inc. are constantly evaluating bleeding-edge communications technologies and how to best serve our communities.