Advancing the community, one connection at a time

WK&T’s fiber project will be complete by the end of June

By Patrick Smith

Michael Allen, left, goes over the details of his WK&T bundle with sales representative Tim Allred.

Michael Allen, left, goes over the details of his WK&T bundle with sales representative Tim Allred.

When West Kentucky Rural Telephone Cooperative started in 1951, locals banded together to bring telephone service to rural communities that were not profitable enough for large corporations trying to make big earnings for stockholders. Passionate locals went door to door, explaining the benefits of a telephone network and recruiting new members.
One after another, poles were erected and telephone lines were strung throughout the community. Soon, more and more members joined, and over the course of time, a vast telecommunications network was built.

But as time goes on, technology and consumer demands change.

WK&T saw the future potential of bringing fiber to the area, and in 2009, the cooperative was awarded a $123.8 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While the new network would transform the community, it also meant the old network, which had previously taken decades to create, would have to be completely rebuilt in just six short years.
WK&T accepted the challenge.

“It’s been a massive undertaking to build the stimulus portion of the new broadband network in such a short amount of time,” says Trevor Bonnstetter, WK&T CEO. “But it’s been incredibly fulfilling to see the changes that broadband has already created for our community.”

The new network is being constructed using fiber optic technology. It works by sending pulses of light along strands of glass the thickness of a human hair. The network is delivering blazing-fast Internet speeds throughout the area, in addition to crystal-clear television and phone service.

In June, when WK&T will complete the project, each customer’s service will be operating on fiber, allowing the cooperative to discontinue its maintenance of the copper system.
Many companies integrate fiber as part of their network. Some use it alongside copper, and others use one strand for multiple members who share the bandwidth.

WK&T’s fiber-to-the-home network is different, giving members a true fiber connection from the switch at the central office all the way to a member’s home or business.
And, there’s no sharing. Each home or business has its own dedicated line of fiber so they can experience all the connected world has to offer — now, and years into the future.

“I feel like fiber gives WK&T members a product that is truly future-proof,” says Stacey Riley, operations manager for WK&T. “There’s been a lot of work involved in this project by our employees and the community. It’s a big accomplishment for us to have the new network built in just a few years.”

Since the work began, thousands of local businesses and residents have seen the impact of fiber — a technology that’s not yet available in many larger cities like Nashville and St. Louis.

The efforts of the cooperative’s first patrons have paid off time and again. Over the past 64 years, people have depended on WK&T to bring first-class service to the area. WK&T’s services have helped recruit businesses, big and small, and the cooperative has helped locals live and work in their hometown. Today, broadband is continuing the tradition and helping to bring new innovations to the area.

“The infrastructure WK&T is building will continue to change the whole community,” says Bonnstetter. “It’s exciting to think about how fiber will change these communities and the advancements we’ll see in 10 or 15 years.”

 

Device of the month: NETGEAR EX2700 Range Extender

Netgear-EX2700

Need a boost? The closer your device is to the wireless router, the stronger the signal. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, the signal can weaken between your router and the device you’re using. It could be the distance between the devices, or even the construction materials used in your home or office. Luckily, the NETGEAR EX2700 Range Extender can give your wireless signal the boost it needs. The EX2700 plugs directly into a wall outlet and provides an unobtrusive, simple solution. It’s easy to install and simple to use. The WK&T Technology Store has them on hand now.

Tech tips: Is your home connected?

How to set up a Wi-Fi network to share your broadband Internet connection among your devices

Hi, I’m Matt Garrett. I work at the WK&T Technology Store in Mayfield. In this column, in each issue, you’ll learn about technology and read simple tips to get the most out of your electronics. For more tips or help with your devices, please come see me at the store. I’m always happy to help!

A wireless network provides the easiest, most efficient way for you to get the most out of all your devices. With the power of the Internet, the latest tablets, smartphones, gaming systems, computers and smart televisions are transformed into more robust devices that can make your life easier.

By following a few simple tips, you can set up your own Wi-Fi network and get the most out of your new gadgets and your WK&T Internet connection.

WHY WI-FI?
Wireless networks have always been convenient for laptop users, but now more and more products are designed to access the Internet through Wi-Fi. Once you set up your home network, you can enjoy the full functionality of all your Wi-Fi-enabled devices — along with whatever new gadgets are coming next.

A wireless network, coupled with the power of a WK&T broadband connection, will expand the possibilities for using the Internet throughout your home — all from the comfort of your couch.

BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Wi-Fi networks essentially have two pieces: the modem and the router. The modem is the gateway to the Internet, and the router is where your devices connect to access that gateway.

Most of the newer modems WK&T sells or rents to customers have Wi-Fi routers built in. But even if your router and modem are separate devices, the installation is fairly easy. Routers usually come with an installation CD that you will need to open on your main computer. Follow the prompts in the software to get the network up and running.

LOCK IT UP
The next step is setting up security to prevent unwanted users from logging onto your network. These freeloaders can slow down your connection speed by using up bandwidth, or — worse — they can use your network for illegal purposes.

Follow the instructions with your router’s software to enable security features like password protection and encryption. Make sure to store your passwords in a safe place so you can easily connect to the network.

As an extra precaution, be sure the firewalls are activated on any computer you plan to connect to your Wi-Fi network.

CONNECT YOUR DEVICES
Once the network is up and secure, try connecting your devices. You will need to enter your security password on each device you want to connect. Most computers and smartphones have an easily accessed network settings menu where the password can be entered.

Televisions, Blu-ray players and game systems have similar menus, but you will also need to open programs like Pandora or Netflix and follow a few more steps to link the apps with your account.

TROUBLESHOOTING
If things just don’t seem to be working out, try restarting the process. But this time, set your device to choose the wireless network you’re trying to connect with and tell the devices to “forget this network.” This will clear out any stored information that may be disrupting the process. It’s a clean slate to work from, and it usually solves the problem.

A wireless network can greatly enhance the benefit you receive from your WK&T broadband Internet connection. Don’t fret! More times than not, there’s no issue setting up your network and getting your devices connected — and once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Don’t let time run out!

WK&T is nearing the completion of its fiber project. Call to schedule your free fiber conversion before it’s too late!

What will YOU do with Internet speeds of 50 Mbps or more?

  • Work from home
  • Discover new music, books, movies & games
  • Learn a new skill
  • Earn a degree online
  • Connect with your doctor
  • Share family photos and video

Winning is easy when you like WK&T’s Facebook page!

You can win big when you like WK&T on Facebook! The cooperative will hold a Facebook contest each month in 2015, with each winner receiving fabulous prizes from WK&T.

Mayfield resident Kristen Hendon won WK&T’s Valentine’s Day contest in February. She won a $25 gift card to Applebee’s; a dozen roses from King’s Flowers, Gifts & Antiques; two movie tickets to Princess Theatres of Mayfield; and a large heart-shaped box of assorted chocolates!

Thanks to everyone who entered, and check back often to keep up with the latest WK&T news and your next chance to win!

Happy retirement, Craig!

CraigSullivan1

After more than 35 years of working for WK&T, Craig Sullivan retired from his position as operations manager. Sullivan was among the dozens of employees who played a vital role in the creation of WK&T’s new fiber network. Sullivan waited to retire until the project was only four months away from completion and the main line fiber portion of the project was completed. “I’m very proud of the network and the work WK&T has done to build it,” says Sullivan. “When you look at the rural areas that we serve, it’s wonderful to know that these residents have access to this incredible technology.” WK&T would like to wish him the best of luck in his retirement!

Empowering members to be advocates for rural telecommunications

By Trevor Bonnstetter
Chief Executive Officer

The results are in. Almost 200 readers responded to The WK&T Connection readership survey in our January/February issue. Your responses gave us good insight into what we’re doing right and how we can serve you better.

I appreciate those who took the time to share this valuable feedback with us.

Not surprisingly, the stories about local people in our community and the articles about food are the most popular pages among respondents. But I was pleased to see readers also enjoy the articles with information about your cooperative.

Perhaps that readership is why 85 percent of respondents said this magazine gave them a better understanding of technology, and 90 percent said they have a better understanding of the role this cooperative plays in economic and community development because of The WK&T Connection. It’s very gratifying to know our efforts are working.

I shared this data not to boast about how proud we are of this magazine, but to explain the reason why I’m proud of it. I believe having informed and educated members is a key factor to the long-term health of this cooperative.

In fact, educating our members is one of the seven core principles that lay the foundation for a cooperative. The National Cooperative Business Association says members should be informed about company and industry news “so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative.”

Informed and engaged members make our cooperative better.

Broadband has been in the news quite a bit lately, from net neutrality to the president discussing high-speed network expansion. It’s important for our members to know how federal regulations, state policies and shifts in the industry can affect their broadband and telephone services.

Educating you on issues that matter to rural telecommunications and your community empowers you to become advocates for rural America. Big corporations and urban residents certainly find ways to make their voices heard, and it’s up to cooperatives like us and members like you to let legislators and policymakers know that rural America matters and decisions that affect telecommunications cooperatives matter to rural America.

I hope you enjoy the stories and photos in this magazine. I always do. But I also hope you come away with a little better understanding of your cooperative, the role we play in this community and the role you can play in making rural America better.