Bringing Congress to Rural America

Trevor Bonnstetter
Chief Executive Officer

It’s not often that rural telcos like ours get a chance to share our stories, struggles and successes with a busload of congressional staff members.

So when the Foundation for Rural Service recently brought a group of legislative advisors on a bus tour through East Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, we at WK&T made the best of the opportunity.

These bright, young staffers — most of whom work for representatives and senators on key commerce, technology and communications committees — left Washington, D.C., to visit our part of the country and see what rural broadband looks like firsthand.

The staffers came from across the country, representing places such as Salt Lake City, the Dallas suburbs, Central Florida and the Research Triangle in North Carolina. Before moving to the nation’s capital, many of them lived in big cities, such as Chicago. For some, this bus trip may have been the first time they’d ever spent in an area that could be considered rural.

While on the trip they observed a crew plowing fiber in Middle Tennessee, toured the facilities of a number of small rural communication companies like ours and talked with local officials.

At one stop on the tour, I, along with other nearby rural broadband providers, made sure to catch the ear of a few of the staffers and explain how important our mission is to our local residents. It was important for them see how vibrant our communities are and to meet the great people in our region.

It was important for them to hear rural Tennessee and Kentucky business owners, hospital administrators and local officials talk about the importance of a broadband connection.

And it’s important for them to understand the challenges cooperatives like ours face in building a network that may cost tens of thousands of dollars each mile, with as few as five customers per mile.

Long term, Congress and Washington regulators play a significant role in the strength of our telco and our industry, through issues such as the Universal Service Fund. As you’ve read in this space before, the USF provides funding that allows rural, high-cost providers like us a way to recoup the investments we’ve made in our communities and still provide telephone and broadband service at a price local residents can afford.

It was a great chance to tell them our cooperative’s story: We are providing service in areas that for-profit companies will not serve, and local residents depend on our network to work, play, shop, learn and connect with friends and family.
I am proud WK&T could play a role in bringing the congressional delegation to rural Tennessee and Kentucky. And I’m proud every day that you’ve trusted WK&T to connect you to the world.

Company News

Congressional staff members tour Kentucky and Tennessee

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WK&T CEO Trevor Bonnstetter visited with congressional staff members as part of a tour organized by the Foundation for Rural Service. Many of the staff members on the trip have the privilege of advising members of congress on telecommunications issues. The trip throughout East Kentucky and Middle Tennessee gave them a firsthand look at the challenges and triumphs rural telcos face while providing high-speed broadband.

The Foundation for Rural Service is the nonprofit organization which functions in collaboration with NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA represents nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies and their interests in national government affairs.

“It was insightful to meet the staff members advising congressional members,” says Bonnstetter. “Being able to show them the difficulties of the areas we serve directly and showcase the high-quality services we provide to our members was invaluable.”

Congratulations, Susan!

IMG_2452During her time with the cooperative, Susan Young has seen WK&T transition from a telephone provider to a company that also offers high-speed fiber Internet and high-definition television service. After initially working in customer service for three years, Young has spent the last 23 years in the IT department. While she’s processed more WK&T statements than she could ever count, it’s the family environment and co-workers that will always put a smile on her face.

“The industry has changed so much, but it’s been a fantastic job. I’ve loved it,” says Young. “I’m going to miss it, but I’m ready for a new chapter.”

Young hopes to spend her retirement doing volunteer work, traveling and, mainly, playing with her grandchildren.
From everyone at WK&T, thank you for all your work, Susan. Enjoy your retirement!

Please don’t cut down extra telephone poles

WK&T’s new fiber buildout helped the cooperative streamline its network and function with greater efficiencies. It also allowed WK&T to run its fiber lines throughout the service area using fewer telephone poles.

WK&T is currently working to eliminate the extra poles left behind. If there is an extra pole on or near your property, please do not cut it down. Please call 1-877-954-8748, and WK&T will work to remove it as soon as possible. Thank you!

WK&T upgrades technology for a more efficient dispatch service

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Upon upgrading the technology used by WK&T dispatcher Kevin Wiggins, fellow employees now joke that it looks like he’s at the helm of a space station control room. His responsibilities aren’t quite that life or death, but Wiggins is continually glancing at several computer screens throughout the day as he stays busy directing WK&T crews to new installations and service calls. With the help of a fiber network, smartphones and GPS technology, Wiggins makes sure WK&T provides the most efficient and effective customer service for cooperative members. It’s one more way WK&T is providing big-city service in the rural communities it serves.

Tech tips: Shop the blue light special this holiday season

A Bluetooth device can be perfect for the techie on your list

Every year there are new technologies and devices that appear. Some don’t seem to last, while others become standard. One such technology that’s become popular is Bluetooth. If you’ve ever seen someone walking around and talking, but without a phone up to their ear, Bluetooth is likely the answer.

It’s not hard to be fooled by the tiny earpiece they are using to talk on the phone. The earpiece uses Bluetooth to wirelessly and securely link to a person’s phone so they can talk hands-free. Bluetooth is similar to the wireless technology used to broadcast an Internet connection throughout a home, but it operates on a much smaller range, usually 30 feet or less.

While the earpieces used to talk on the phone are the original and most common use for Bluetooth, the technology goes way beyond that.

In a nutshell, Bluetooth is a technology that allows you to transmit data over short ranges between devices like cell phones and computers. Bluetooth can be used in many different ways in conjunction with your high-speed Wi-Fi connection. It’s the technology of choice for devices like headphones, speakers, in-dash GPS programs and even some cameras. Certain vehicles are also equipped with Bluetooth capabilities to project a phone call over a car’s speakers. It’s a safe option to make and receive phone calls during your drive, allowing you to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.

There are also many personal computers on the market with Bluetooth capabilities. The great thing about those computers is the ease of connecting wirelessly with your cell phone, printer, mouse or keyboard. Basically, Bluetooth technology gives you all the benefits of being “hard-wired” without any actual wires. On top of that, all Bluetooth devices work with each other, meaning replacing your computer or phone doesn’t mean having to change out your Bluetooth accessories.
For tablet users, it’s easy to connect a keyboard or mouse to maximize productivity. As long as you’ve got a Bluetooth connection, you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in wires, saving space in your work area.

In the last two years, Bluetooth has really opened doors for music lovers. If you enjoy listening to music, there are Bluetooth speakers that can sync with your smartphone to play music anywhere. Imagine if you’re out on the lake and want to listen to music, but you don’t want to use your phone’s subpar speakers. As long as your device is connected to the speakers via Bluetooth, you can enjoy music anywhere. If stationary speakers aren’t your style, there are even sunglasses — yes, sunglasses — with speakers that use Bluetooth to connect.

Don’t miss out on making the most of your devices. A Bluetooth connection can take your technology to the next level — and make a great gift for any tech-friendly person on your holiday shopping list.

We give back!

WK&T is proud to support our community

WK&T is more than a utility provider. We’re a cooperative — meaning we’re owned and operated by member-owners. And beyond being a local small business, we’re proud to be a member of the community, working to make our area a better place.

As part of WK&T’s commitment to improving our community, the cooperative donates to dozens of different causes, not just during the holidays, but throughout the year as well.

WK&T helps support local Kentucky and Tennessee schools, providing both academic- and athletic-based help. WK&T also supports many local organizations, such as Kentucky Special Olympics, the Kentucky State Police “Shop with a Trooper” Christmas program and the local food pantry.

WK&T employees are also personally involved in the community, donating time and money to charities like the March of Dimes, Relay For Life and Operation Christmas Child. They contribute to church-based ministries and missions that do good all over the world, too.

At WK&T we’re incredibly proud to not only be a provider of local Internet, television and telephone services, but also to support local jobs, local charities and the goal of making our community a better place to live, work and play.

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As a member of the community, WK&T is proud to support dozens of local causes and charities, including the Kentucky State Police “Shop with a Trooper” program each year during the Christmas season.

WK&T has been endorsed as a “Gig-Capable Provider” by NTCA

GIG Seal final WK&T is receiving national recognition for the quality of services the cooperative provides to local residents. WK&T was awarded the designation of being a “Gig-Capable Provider” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. Being “Gig Certified” denotes that speeds of up to 1 Gbps, or 1,000 Mbps, are available from WK&T.

NTCA is an organization representing nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies and their interests in national government affairs. WK&T is one of only 23 cooperatives to be initially “Gig-Certified” by NTCA.
“I’m incredibly proud of our employees for all the hard work they’ve done to improve our community and equip our entire service area with a 100 percent, fiber-to-the-home network,” says WK&T CEO Trevor Bonnstetter. “For WK&T to be recognized as a ‘Gig-Capable Provider’ by NTCA is a huge accomplishment, and it helps validate the world-class network that’s available to our members.”

Honoring Veterans

Local resident James Mills, board member Bobbie Barnett and five WK&T employees worked to make America a better place

There are themes repeated among many veterans: the sense of camaraderie they found in the military, the sense of pride they found serving their country, and the sense of loss they feel for their fallen comrades. James Mills is no different.
The Melber, Kentucky, resident and veteran is among many around the region who nobly served their country and fostered a life of service to protect the ideals of the United States.

Between his time in the National Guard and U.S. Army and his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mills dedicated more than 45 years of his life to serving his country. Mills retired as a lieutenant colonel.
“I really enjoyed my military life,” Mills says. “I don’t know that I’d change anything.”

James Mills

James Mills

A life of service

After signing up with the Tennessee National Guard while still in high school in 1964, Mills operated heavy equipment to help build roads near Fort Stewart, Georgia. A few years later, in 1968, Mills found himself on the streets of Memphis after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. Mills helped to quell the chaos on the streets and repair a city damaged by civil unrest.

“In the military, you learn about dealing with people,” says Mills. “You learn about teamwork and you learn to take care of people.”

While maintaining his civilian job as an electrician for the Illinois Central Railroad, Mills and his wife, Delene, raised two children: Tim and Paulette. Mills eventually enlisted full time in the U.S. Army. The family packed up and embarked for Germany, where Mills commanded a company in Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“My favorite time was Germany,” says Mills. “Since everything is so close over there, we were able to visit a lot of Europe.”

Returning stateside in 1984, Mills was stationed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he worked in military intelligence. He spent time constructing buildings on base to house sensitive information, computer systems and intelligence gathering tools. He eventually became the leader of intelligence for the 35th Infantry Division. While stationed in Kansas, Mills had the privilege of swearing in his son, Tim, into the National Guard. Tim went on to serve 25 years and retired from full-time active duty in the U.S. Army in 2010.

After Mills retired from the U.S. Army in 1999, he went to work full time for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He managed the maintenance crews at Barkley Lock before retiring from that job in 2011.

Today, Mills often fills his time reading military history and spending time with his wife and family. Even with more than 45 years of service, Mills has trouble recalling anything bad about his time in the military.
“I always wanted to be a solider, and that dream came true for me,” says Mills.

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Rick Turnbow, WK&T installer
Served six years in the U.S. Marines, primarily as a mechanic for Douglas A-4 Skyhawk jets. Earned the rank of sergeant before leaving the military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“The military will teach you to actually see something through and be thorough. You’ll leave the service with a no-quit attitude.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“It means the world to me. A lot people served our country, and a lot of people died for our country. That’s something we can never forget.”

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Eric Kennemore, works in the WK&T warehouse
Served four years in air command and control for the U.S. Marines. Earned the rank of sergeant before leaving military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“The military teaches you a strong work ethic and to take pride in what you do.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“It means a lot to me. I’m glad they recognize those who served, and especially those who are still serving now. They sacrifice a lot, and it means something to me that people take pride in giving veterans a day to honor their service.”

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Jonathan Whisman, works in construction for WK&T
Served four years in the U.S. Army, working in communications. Earned the rank of sergeant before leaving military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“Honestly, I wasn’t really the college type, so I probably wouldn’t have this job if it wasn’t for the military. The experience was invaluable for me. The job and life training is something you can’t get anywhere else. They help build your character — at the time, it was tough, but it really was awesome. I loved being a solider.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“Everyone has a job to do, and for those in the military, it doesn’t matter what job it is. They’re going to get it done. It’s not an easy job, and it’s not for everybody. You put everything else before yourself. So for me, Veterans Day is about doing something to honor those who served and all those who sacrificed so much.”

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Terry Allmon, WK&T Yorkville central office technician
Served four years in the U.S. Army, working in communications. Earned the rank of Specialist 4th Class before leaving military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“It kind of put me back on track from where I could have been if I hadn’t joined the military. It taught me about teamwork. It’s a tight-knit group, and everyone had each other’s back. You learn to look out for the other guy.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“It means showing your respect to all the veterans out there, especially the ones killed in the line of duty.”

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Bob Werling, WK&T outside plant engineer
Served 21 years in the U.S. Navy, primarily as a construction electrician. Earned the rank of chief petty officer before leaving military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“I’ve been in 27 countries and all 50 states. I got to see the world in the military, and what I do now is because of the military. I’ve basically been doing this about 50 years. I just picked up working with fiber and everything else along the way.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“It’s hard to say, because you think of all the guys who didn’t come home.”

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Bobbie Barnett, WK&T board member for 15 years
Served four years as an electrician in the U.S. Air Force. Earned the rank of airman first class before leaving the military.

Q1: What did you learn in the military that’s helped in your life?
“I really enjoyed it, and I met a lot of nice people. It was an experience that was well worth it. I played basketball on the base team and got to travel all over Europe. The military gave me the ability to get along with all different people in all the different phases of my life.”

Q2: What does Veterans Day mean to you?
“For me, it’s about honoring those who have served, especially those that gave their all. There are so many that fought and never came back to their families. In a way, it’s a sad day. And in a way, it’s a good day. You feel honored to have served your country.”

Broadband may be the greatest health care innovation for rural America

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By Shirley Bloomfield, CEO
NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

When we talk about the impact of broadband Internet access, we often focus on its importance to economic development, business growth and such. While it is absolutely an economic driver, broadband may also be just what the doctor ordered for rural America.

You will sometimes hear it referred to as telemedicine; other times, telehealth. Whatever you call it, the use of broadband technology is changing the way health care is delivered. And I believe we are only seeing the beginning.

For example, electronic medical records are allowing doctors to streamline care, especially for patients in rural areas. A patient who normally visits a rural clinic can be confident that their health information is accurate and up-to-date when they visit a regional hospital.

I wrote in the previous issue of this magazine about aging in place, noting that technologies such as videoconferencing, remote health monitoring and X-ray transmission are helping rural seniors stay at home longer. But the aging population is just one segment that can benefit from broadband-enabled applications.

Recently, I attended a technology showcase that focused on the interconnection between technology providers, health care providers and innovation in telemedicine. It was a fascinating conference that left my mind spinning with the possibilities for rural health care delivery.

We heard from a rural telecommunications provider who said small telcos are often too small to get the main contracts from the base hospitals, but that they have an important role in providing the local infrastructure and having the construction team on the ground. This has helped build the case for having a role in the large clinic and university hospital contracts in the future.

Hugh Cathey of the innovative company HealthSpot provided a real glimpse into what broadband can mean to all segments of society. His company has kiosks in several Rite Aid drug stores in Ohio where patients can walk in and be face-to-face with a healthcare professional via a video screen. These stations come outfitted with everything you need to receive a wide variety of remote treatments. The HealthSpot network has seen thousands of patients since May, for ailments such as allergies, cold and flu, bronchitis, cough, rashes, sore throat and fever.

With applications such as these, it’s easy to get excited about what the future holds for telemedicine. And with the great work being done by your telco and others like it who are building world-class broadband networks, we can know that rural America will not be left behind in this evolution.

Easy steps to help stop telemarketing calls!

If you are like most consumers, you are tired of being disturbed by telemarketing calls. There is help.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have established a National Do Not Call Registry. Joining this registry can drastically reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive.

Here are some important facts about the list:

  • Once registered, telemarketers have 31 days to stop calling your number.
  • You can register up to three non-business telephone numbers. You can register cell phone numbers; there is not a separate registry for cell phones.
  • Your number will remain on the list permanently unless you disconnect the number or you choose to remove it.
  • Some businesses are exempt from the Do Not Call Registry and may still be able to call your number. These include political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors and businesses that you already have a relationship with.

Strict Federal Trade Commission rules for telemarketers make it illegal to do any of the following regardless of whether or not your number is listed on the National Do Not Call Registry:

  • Call before 8 a.m.
  • Call after 9 p.m.
  • Misrepresent what is being offered
  • Threaten, intimidate or harass you
  • Call again after you’ve asked them
    not to

Adding your number to the Do Not Call Registry is easy!
Register online at www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222
For TTY, call 866-290-4236
You must call from the telephone number you wish to register.

Attention local business owners: You can be penalized for not following these FCC rules

When people think of telemarketing phone calls, they usually imagine them coming from distant call centers. But local businesses that make phone calls to customers or potential customers should be aware that the same National Do Not Call Registry rules and regulations apply to them.
The Do Not Call initiative, regulated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), requires telephone service providers to notify customers of the National Do Not Call rules and regulations.

If you are a company, individual or organization that places telemarketing calls, it is very important that you familiarize yourself with the operations of the National Do Not Call Registry. Unless you fall under one of the established exceptions, such as telemarketing by charitable organizations or for prior business relationships, you may not make telemarketing calls to numbers included in the National Do Not Call Registry.

For information regarding National Do Not Call regulations, visit the National Do Not Call registry at www.telemarketing.donotcall.gov. You can find the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission rules governing telemarketing and telephone solicitation at 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200 and 16 C.F.R. Part 310, respectively.

Beware of sales calls disguised as surveys

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says they have received numerous complaints from individuals who report receiving deceptive sales calls. The callers identify themselves with Political Opinions of America and ask you to participate in a brief survey, usually consisting of about three questions. After answering the questions, the individual is transferred to someone offering them a bonus for participating in the survey — usually a sales pitch for a time-share disguised as a “free vacation.”

The FTC warns that if the purpose of the call is to try to sell something — even if it includes a survey — it is telemarketing and all Do Not Call Registry rules apply.

If you believe a call violates the FTC rules against telemarketing, you can file a complaint by calling 888-382-1222 or go to donotcall.gov.