Gig-Certified

GIG_Seal

PRTC reaches for the future, now

By Noble Sprayberry

Twenty-five seconds. With PRTC’s gigabit-speed Internet connection, that’s all it takes to download a two-hour, high-definition movie.

That task in most communities might require an hour — or hours. And that’s just one example of the possibilities gigabit broadband offers.

Simply put, gigabit Internet is a foundation for today, and for the future: Real-time video conferencing. Cloud-based backups. Workers miles — or continents — apart collaborating as if they’re steps away. And that’s the infrastructure PRTC members have right now.

NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association has named PRTC as one of the first Certified Gig-Capable Providers, out of the association’s nearly 900 member telecommunications companies.

The certification is an acknowledgement of the power of high-speed Internet. And the power of that network — more so than the designation — means good things for community growth, says Keith Gabbard, PRTC’s chief executive officer.

For example, Teleworks USA in Jackson County trains people for jobs that allow them to work for national companies outside the region without ever leaving home. Other employers have also shown interest in locating call centers in the area served by PRTC, Gabbard says.

“In discussions with these companies, one of the first things they ask is if we’re capable of high-speed broadband,” Gabbard says. “And we can say that we are, and prove it to them.”

Keith Gabbard, PRTC’s chief executive officer, discusses the importance of rural broadband.

Keith Gabbard, PRTC’s chief executive officer, discusses the importance of rural broadband.

Necessary for growth

Sooner than many people might expect, gigabit Internet access will become a necessity for communities. “The world is begging for gigabit fiber right now,” Gabbard says.

The NTCA distinction is part of a national program highlighting independent telecommunications providers delivering gigabit broadband speeds.

“I applaud each one of these companies for their commitment to delivering the Internet’s fastest speeds — an accomplishment worthy of much praise considering the unique and challenging circumstances small, community-based telecommunications providers operate under every day in serving some of our country’s most rural and remote communities,” says NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield.

Industry giant Google recently announced it might bring its gigabit fiber Internet service to Louisville. And it’s already brought the gig to select cities such as Kansas City, Missouri, and Austin, Texas. However, Google fiber — as well as offerings from other companies — does not cover every household in a city. The initial rollouts are limited. “But, PRTC committed to extending fiber optic broadband Internet to every home and business in Jackson and Owsley counties,” Gabbard says. “We have it right here.”

And employers are going to notice. “We’re proving to them what we can do here, and hopefully they will tell other people,” Gabbard says. “We’re happy to be gig-certified, and we’re even more proud to provide our community access to the future that broadband Internet provides.”

PRTC joins an elite group, including NineStar Connect, Greenfield, Indiana; Wilkes Communications, Wilkesboro, North Carolina; Polar Communications, Park River, North Dakota; SkyLine Membership Corporation, West Jefferson, North Carolina; Omnitel Communications, Nora Springs, Iowa; Premier Communications, Sioux Center, Iowa; West Wisconsin Telcom Cooperative, Downsville, Wisconsin; and Dickey Rural Networks, Ellendale, North Dakota.

Your bill, simplified

At PRTC, we’re a community — a community that believes in helping our customers every way we can. We are converting to a new, more efficient billing system. And we are making sure your monthly bill is as easy to read as possible with a format change beginning June 1. We put important information at the top of the bill to help make handling and filing simpler for you. To be certain you always know what everything you see means, we’ve broken it down in detail, section by section below.

New Bill

 

Feeding the community

PRTC Chief Executive Officer Keith Gabbard, right, delivers donations totaling almost $35,000 to area food banks to assist their efforts feeding the hungry.

PRTC Chief Executive Officer Keith Gabbard, right, delivers donations totaling almost $35,000 to area food banks to assist their efforts feeding the hungry.

PRTC teamed up with cooperative members to raise nearly $35,000 for local food pantries. PRTC pledged to match any donations made at any of the cooperative’s offices during the holiday season. In all, PRTC and its members gave $20,165 to the Jackson County Food Bank, $11,604 to the Sand Gap Food Pantry and $3,510 to the Owsley County Food Bank.

Thank you to all members who helped PRTC support these much-need organizations!

Calling all scholars!

PRTC is accepting applications from high school seniors for 2015 scholarships to offset the ever-increasing cost of college tuition.

The scholarships are awarded based on a variety of criteria, including academic achievement, community involvement and an essay detailing the student’s plans for the future. Applications must also include one personal reference and one academic reference.

The deadline to apply is April 15. For more information and to get an application, visit www.prtc.org.

Disclaimer: Recipients must be an immediate family member of an active member of Peoples Telephone Cooperative, Inc. An active member is defined as a subscriber receiving local service from a Peoples Telephone exchange as of Jan. 1 of the year of application. High school seniors and non-traditional students are allowed to apply. The scholarship can be used for any institution of higher learning.

Get local with PRTC Channel 9

Are you a high school sports fan? Do you want to keep track of the issues going before the city council? Or maybe you are interested in learning more about the local region.

Mark Sulfridge films a play at an area school for PRTC Channel 9. PRTC continues to expand its coverage of events in the community.

Mark Sulfridge films a play at an area school for PRTC Channel 9. PRTC continues to expand its coverage of events in the community.

Whatever your interests, PRTC Channel 9 is your source for what is happening in Jackson and Owsley counties.

Local programming from PRTC brings you all the high school sports action, local election coverage, area church services and much more right to your living room.

“PRTC is enriching the community in so many ways and letting you know what is going on,” says Brian Murray, who hosts several of the segments on Channel 9. “With this wide variety of programming, PRTC is making a huge investment in the community.”

Murray, who got his play-by-play start in radio, is the voice of high school sports on Channel 9. The local channel brings all the high school action a diehard fan could want. Basketball, baseball, softball and football — Murray stays busy bringing all the fast-paced action to you.

Highlights

After 5 years of covering local sports, PRTC expanded its programming to include coverage of local elections and government, as well as a program that would quickly become one of the more popular segments, “Local Treasures.”

“Local Treasures” highlights some of the interesting sites around the region. In the past, they have aired shows about Flat Lick Falls, Hooten Old Town and natural historian and caver Jake Lainhart, among others.

Murray interviews those associated with the sites and highlights the many fascinating stories and facts about all the treasures this region has to offer.

“PRTC is always on the lookout for new topics and ways to bring interesting local stories to our members like no one else can,” he says.

In any given span of 90 days, Murray says Channel 9 usually broadcasts 40-50 events, including local school plays, holiday parades and just about anything going on in the region.

“I’m not aware of a local cooperative anywhere that is dedicated to bringing viewers this much local content,” he says.

For more information about the programming available on Channel 9, visit www.prtcnet.org and click “Channel 9 Video Schedule.” Advertising opportunities are also available. Call 606-287-7101.

Recycle your old PRTC phone books!

Collect old directories and earn money for local schools!

New phone directories will be in your mailbox soon. When you receive it, don’t just throw away your old one. Recycle it and help area schools earn money.

PRTC sponsors a directory recycling program that helps keep thousands of old phone books from making their way into landfills. Instead, they are recycled into products such as roofing material, packing material, insulation and even new phone books. What’s more, PRTC pays participating schools 25 cents for each 2014 or older phone directory. Other phone books are accepted, but only PRTC directories earn cash for your school. The schools can use this money toward anything they need.

Everyone can pitch in to help. Gather old PRTC directories from your home and business and give them to a student or take them to the school of your choice. Let’s make this the largest phone book recycling effort ever!

Hurry, the last day to turn in phone books to your school is April 30!

For more information call 606-287-7101 or 606-593-5000.

Welcome to your Smart Rural Community

Focus on building a fiber network earns PRTC a national award and an invitation to the White House

By Brian Lazenby

PRTC CEO Keith Gabbard recently visited the White House as part of PRTC being honored as a Smart Rural Community.

PRTC CEO Keith Gabbard recently visited the White House as part of PRTC being honored as a Smart Rural Community.

At its core, the most important value PRTC provides is community service. PRTC is comprised of a team of individuals who work each day to make the entire region a better place to live, work and raise a family.

The cooperative was recently honored at the national level for its work. PRTC was awarded the Smart Rural Community award by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. The Smart Rural Community program was created as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.

“It’s quite an honor to be named a Smart Rural Community,” says Keith Gabbard, PRTC’s CEO. “This award not only acknowledges our work to build this modern infrastructure, but it also shines a spotlight on how leaders in this region are using that technology to foster economic growth, improve health care and advance opportunities in education.”

The communities served by PRTC are rich with hardworking residents and pristine natural beauty. However, the region is also plagued with poverty stemming from a lack of industry and jobs. That was a driving factor behind PRTC’s decision to build  a state-of-the-art fiber to the home network.

As a result, all the homes and businesses in PRTC’s Jackson and Owsley service area will have access to fiber technology. This network allows PRTC to offer broadband Internet, television, phone service and more across a network that provides speeds rivaling (and even exceeding) what much larger telecommunications companies are able to provide in metro areas.

PRTC’s work to build its fiber network was only part of what earned the cooperative the Smart Rural Community designation. An important component to the award was PRTC’s efforts to foster partnerships throughout the communities it serves to help citizens benefit from the technology.

“Building the network is just half the battle,” says Gabbard. “Fiber technology only starts to change lives when people understand how to use it. Through our relationships with schools, health care providers, businesses and local governments, we are creating a powerful coalition of leaders who can help put the power of broadband to work here in Eastern Kentucky — and improve the quality of life for our citizens.”

Gabbard speaks to a panel of communications officials while in Washington, D.C., about PRTC’s technology.

Gabbard speaks to a panel of communications officials while in Washington, D.C., about PRTC’s technology.

Following the announcement that PRTC was one of only 13 companies nationwide to receive the Smart Rural Community designation, Gabbard and Operations Manager Michael Stidham were invited to Washington, D.C., to a meeting of the White House Rural Council.

“It was a great experience to visit the White House and talk about the impact this cooperative is having in Eastern Kentucky,” says Gabbard. “Several NTCA staff members were there, including CEO Shirley Bloomfield, along with the CEOs of other rural telecommunications companies like ours. Being able to visit the White House and tell our story was a great opportunity for PRTC and all our members.”

Being a Smart Rural Community is about more than simply building a fiber network. The following stories show how broadband technology is making a difference in this region; these examples were part of the reason NTCA selected PRTC for this honor.

Business

Business_3922Phoenix Products, a federal contractor in Annville that manufactures aeronautical parts, relies on broadband every day to conduct business.

“We have large amounts of data to transmit to vendors and customers,” says Tom Wilson, president of Phoenix. “Our broadband service has made a significant difference and has clearly given us an advantage over our competitors.”

“PRTC’s broadband allowed us to play with the big boys,” he adds.

Teleworks USA is a company that helps find jobs for its clients, most of which require the employee to work from home. The company located here because of PRTC’s high-capacity broadband.

“The backbone that this service provides allows Teleworks to serve up to 20 teleworkers simultaneously in both training and live call modes,” says Teleworks President Tom Higgins. “The speed at which our Annville hub operates is scary fast.”

Health care

White House Clinic, a private, not-for-profit health care corporation with a branch in McKee, credits PRTC’s high-speed network with making it possible to offer new services at branches throughout the region. WH_0778

“During the past decade, our reliance on a reliable broadband network has increased exponentially as we continue to develop our Electronic Medical Records system,” says White House CEO Stephanie Courtright Moore.

White House has expanded to eight locations in five counties and uses broadband to keep the branches connected.

“Connectivity between these sites is essential for communication and day-to-day business processes,” Moore says.

Cumberland River Comprehensive Care, a local behavioral health care provider, has added telemedicine to the services it offers. Specifically, psychiatrists from Louisville and Mount Vernon are available via telemedicine to offer treatment.

Education

JCHS_0564PRTC provided a fiber broadband connection to the new Jackson County High School. The school has a computer lab in the library, and the entire campus is connected by a Wi-Fi network. Teachers are using interactive boards  that provide instant feedback from students.

Jackson County High School Principal Keith Hays says the new technology means a better learning environment. “This is about 21st-century learning,” he says. “If you don’t have the Internet, you are going to get left behind.”

Schools in Owsley County are using broadband to allow students to learn from home, which helps them make up for missed days due to illness or inclement weather. The Snow Bound Program allows them to connect to their classroom from home, when they can’t get to the school due to icy roads. They are also benefiting from distance learning, which gives students access to courses and subjects not available at the school.

Economic impact

Booneville Water and Sewage System and Jackson County Water Association are using PRTC’s broadband to operate more efficiently and with fewer employees, which is vital for rural water companies trying to stretch their dollars and keep rates low. The presence of a reliable, affordable water source is not only a matter of public health, but it is also vital to attracting businesses to an area. Booneville_0952

PRTC’s fiber network is already positively impacting the community, and cooperative leaders believe more companies like Phoenix Industries and Teleworks will locate here to take advantage of the Internet speed — and bring much-needed jobs with them.

“The Smart Rural Community designation will help our community continue to differentiate itself and attract new residents and businesses to strengthen our region,” Gabbard says.

PRTC congratulates winning shutterbugs

PRTC would like to congratulate the winners of its 2014 photo contest: The Beauty that Surrounds our Country Homes.

Angela Byrd of Waneta took both first and second places with two entries. Her first place entry is a photo of a horse that she has titled, “What’s for Dinner?” Her second-place photo is of a Kentucky sunrise that she calls “Good Morning.”

Hannah Turner of Annville took the third-place prize with a photo of a snow-covered road winding through a wooded Kentucky hillside.

The rules for the contest mandated that the photos be in color, and they must be taken in either Jackson or Owsley County. Winners will also be announced on the PRTC website, social media sites and any other form of PRTC media.

Stay tuned for more information about the 2015 contest when it becomes available.

PRTC awards scholarships

PRTC awarded eight high school seniors from Jackson and Owsley counties with $2,000 scholarships each to help offset the cost of their college tuition.

PRTC Chief Executive Officer Keith Gabbard said each of the students are well deserving of the award.

“These students have worked exceptionally hard,” he says. “PRTC is proud to help them in the next phase of their educational career and wishes them luck in the future.”

The winning scholars were selected based on a number of criteria including student achievement, community involvement and an essay that was judged by an impartial panel of judges.

In the past nine years, PRTC has awarded scholarships totaling $150,000. This year’s winners are as follows:

  • Kayla Broadus
  • Olivia Bryant
  • Tyra Clem
  • Destiny Duff
  • Austin Estridge
  • Austin McQueen
  • Cheyenne Nolan
  • Arikka Standifer

PRTC awarded for ‘Smart’ solutions

PRTC was one of 13 community-based telecommunication companies awarded for their efforts to “make rural hometowns vibrant places in which to live and do business.”

NTCA — Rural Broadband Association, the premier national association representing about 900 independent telecommunications companies in the U.S. and Canada, named PRTC as one of its Smart Rural Community Showcase Award winners.

SRC Logo+url_liveNTCA Smart Rural Community award recipients were recognized at a gathering in San Francisco of more than 1,000 rural telecom leaders. In addition to receiving international and local recognition for their extraordinary efforts, the selected Smart Rural Communities will join past recipients of awards to formulate “best practices” and assist other rural communities in the implementation of innovative broadband-enabled solutions to drive economic and community strength in rural areas throughout the nation.

“This is truly an honor for PRTC and the entire community we serve,” says Keith Gabbard, chief executive officer at PRTC. “This award is a testament to the vision and hard work our employees exhibit every day to bring the very best service to our community.”

The goal of the NTCA Smart Rural Community initiative is to foster the development of smart communities throughout rural America and Canada by recognizing innovators, highlighting innovative implementation of broadband solutions and identifying resources to assist other broadband providers and connected industries.

NTCA recognized and awarded communities served by its members that embody the title Smart Rural Community. Award winners are recognized for promoting access to next-generation applications and platforms such as distance learning, telehealth services, public safety and security.

For more information about the initiative, visit www.ntca.org/smart.

 

Other broadband providers awarded include:

  • Copper Valley Telecom — Valdez, Alaska
  • Consolidated Telecommunications — Brainerd, Minn.
  • FTC — Kingstree, S.C.
  • HuronTel — Ripley, Ontario
  • North Central Telephone Cooperative — Lafayette, Tenn.
  • Premier Communications — Sioux Center, Iowa
  • Solarus — Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
  • Triangle Communications — Havre, Mont.
  • Tri-County Communications Cooperative — Strum, Wis.
  • Twin Valley Telephone Co. — Miltonvale, Kan.
  • Vernon Telephone Cooperative — Westby, Wis.
  • Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom — Waitsfield, Vt.