The search for better broadband should start with existing local providers

NEW NTCA logo 4CRural connections

By Shirley Bloomfield, CEO
NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association

There is no question that broadband Internet service is the key to economic and community development, especially in rural America. However, there are differing opinions in Washington about the best way to continue building our nation’s connected infrastructure.

While I applaud President Obama’s recent attention on increasing every American’s access to robust and affordable broadband, it’s not clear that his focus on creating more government-run networks in marketplaces where private operators already exist is the best path toward bringing more jobs and opportunity to rural America.

If our leaders are looking for an excellent model for what can be accomplished, we believe they should turn to the experts who have decades of experience deploying and maintaining modern telecommunications infrastructure: community-based, independent telcos like yours.

Rural telecommunications providers are delivering advanced technology to their customers.

Rural telecommunications providers are delivering advanced technology to their customers.

Nationwide, there are over 1,000 technology providers like yours that serve over 4 million households in the most sparsely populated pockets of our country, deploying high-speed, high-quality broadband services. For decades, these providers have gone above and beyond to build the infrastructure that allows our country’s most rural markets to access the same technologies found in our largest cities — and they’ve done it all under the extremely difficult financial and physical conditions that come with deploying technologies in rural and remote communities.

Thanks to the hard work and commitment of companies such as your local provider, rural America now has access to affordable broadband in some of the most remote locations. But the sustainability of those networks is at risk, and other areas need broadband as well. Policymakers in search of answers to these communications challenges in rural America should turn first to those who have shown they can get the job done time and again, rather than casting about for the next new thing, creating regulatory uncertainty and putting at risk significant investments already made in existing networks through the prospect of redundant or wasteful overbuilding.

There’s already a great broadband success story out there in rural America, and it is being written by community-based telecom providers like yours. As our national broadband story progresses, we should strive to build upon proven initiatives and leverage existing efforts that are working, rather than pursue new uncharted pathways. As this debate plays out, you can be assured that you have a voice in Washington, as your provider joins with hundreds of others through NTCA as the unified voice of America’s rural broadband companies.

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.

Landline? You still need one in 2015

Today, mobility means everything. We want to check email, log onto Facebook, watch videos, get the news and generally stay connected no matter where we are. And that, of course, includes the ability to make phone calls. With mobile phones in practically everyone’s pocket, some people question the need for a traditional landline. But consider this:

  1. With a landline, you never have to worry about signal strength. Knowing you can get a call through, especially during an emergency, is more than a comfort.
  2. Speaking of emergencies, your landline sends your complete address information — including apartment number — when you dial 911. Cell phones use GPS-based information, which can be inaccurate.
  3. The clarity of a conversation on a landline (if you have a quality wired or cordless handset) is unmatched by any cell phone call.
  4. With the right plan, you’ll never run out of minutes with a landline.
  5. Your “home phone number” provides a way people can always reach you or leave a message. When everyone in the house has their own cell phone with separate numbers, the landline can serve as a central point of contact for the entire family.

Annville Christian Academy

Broadband technology is helping to enrich education at area schools

SRC Logo+url_liveEditor’s note: This story is the first in a series of articles that will highlight PRTC’s Smart Rural Community award from NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. 

The children begin each day with a devotion service in the chapel. They make prayer requests — sometimes for a sick family member or sometimes for a lost puppy.

Betty Madden, director at the Annville Christian Academy, says it is a great way to start the day, and it sets the tone for the school’s Bible-based curriculum.

Annville Christian Academy was established in 1985 on the historic campus of the Annville Institute at the request of parents who believed in the benefits of a faith-based education. The school offers students from any background a non-denominational Christian-based A Beka program.

Because of the low pupil-to-teacher ratio, students get ample one-on-one instruction.

Because of the low pupil-to-teacher ratio, students get ample one-on-one instruction.

“Our faculty and staff strive to share God’s love, exhibit his grace and teach his word daily, preparing students educationally, physically and spiritually to be Christian citizens wherever they go,” Madden says.

And with a broadband connection from PRTC, students at Annville Christian Academy are traveling across the globe through online streaming videos, they’re researching information online, and they’re exposed to new teaching styles through broadband.

Connecting educational institutions to the world through broadband is one reason the PRTC service area was designated a “Smart Rural Community” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA developed the Smart Rural Community award as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.

The academy serves children from preschool through the eighth grade. There are currently 33 students enrolled, but there is room for about 70. Madden says the enrollment fluctuates from year to year.

“A lot of the kids we get struggle in larger public schools,” she says. “They sometimes don’t do well in crowds, but they thrive here in our small environment. They get a lot of one-on-one, individualized attention.”

Recently, younger students were working on an art project, older students were in the computer lab researching a history project and others were studying math.

Students research the topics for their history projects in the computer lab.

Students research the topics for their history projects in the computer lab.

“They get everything here they get in public schools, plus some things they don’t get,” say Madden, who points out that many public schools no longer teach cursive writing or have devalued the importance of spelling. “It takes a lot of time and a lot of dedication, but it works.”

Madden says many of the teachers are retired from other school systems, which benefits the students because the teachers are more experienced and know the techniques that resonate with their students.

The school is privately funded, meaning it receives no government money. They operate with some grant money, but most of their operating cost is generated from fundraisers and donations from area churches. “Other than that, if we don’t raise the money, we don’t get it,” Madden says.

For more information about Annville Christian Academy or to learn how to donate to the school, visit annvilleinstitute.com/aca.shtml or look them up on Facebook

You’ve got mail

With so many new apps and services to help keep us connected, email is still king in the business world

TelcoBadgeProof2From instant messaging applications such as Skype to social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, the past few years have brought us many new options for connecting electronically. And yet, when it comes to communicating in business, email remains the method of choice.

In the report “Technology’s Impact on Workers,” released by Pew Research Center at the end of last year, 61 percent of workers who use the Internet say that email is very important to doing their job.

“The high value of email comes despite the challenges of the past generation,” the report states, “including threats like spam and phishing and competitors like social media and texting.”

Email’s continued reign as the communications tool of choice has its benefits. The study found that 39 percent of workers believe that email, along with the Internet and cell phones, allows them more flexibility in the hours they work.

The downside to that flexibility, however, is that 35 percent — almost the same amount — say these tools have increased the amount of time they spend working.

BBB chart

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.

Email overload? Manage your inbox with these simple tips

With so much importance placed on email in today’s business world, managing your messages can be overwhelming. You can benefit from this communications tool without letting it wreck your day by putting a few simple principles into action.

Set an email schedule. If you make yourself available for email all day long, you leave yourself open to constant distraction. Set a schedule of specific times during the day when you will check email. You may have to adjust it to find the schedule that’s right for you, but try starting with once before lunch and again early afternoon. You will feel more freedom than when you are drawn in by every email that lands in your inbox.

Turn off notifications. You can’t stay focused on any one task if your computer provides a pop-up notification every time an email comes in. Turn off that productivity-killing feature. In fact, shut down your email app altogether and only launch it when you are ready to focus on email.

Organize your inbox. Most email apps allow you to set up folders, filters and rules to bring order to your email madness. It may take a few weeks of adjusting to find the approach that best fits you, but the result will be a more organized workspace. Your mail will be in intuitive categories so that you’ll be able to deal with the most important messages first.

Keep it brief. When you send an exhaustive email with hundreds of words and multiple questions and points, you invite an equally exhaustive response that you’ll have to wade through.

Consider alternatives. Email is not for every conversation. In fact, it’s a terrible way to manage a project. Post messages pertaining to a specific project inside tools such as Basecamp or Trello. Having all related conversations in the same place with related notes and action items will help you track progress.

Is email an important part of your business? Do you have any tips for managing email to work more efficiently? Tell us your story at www.BroadbandBuildsBusiness.com.

Trail Town: Plan to connect McKee to Sheltowee Trace

By Brian Lazenby

Leaders in Jackson County are working to take advantage of the area’s most valuable resource — its natural beauty.

Bob Gabbard hikes along the Sheltowee Trace. Soon a connector will link the trail to downtown McKee to lure hikers.

Bob Gabbard hikes along the Sheltowee Trace. Soon a connector will link the trail to downtown McKee to lure hikers.

Tourism officials and outdoor enthusiasts are working to have McKee designated as an official “Trail Town” along the Sheltowee Trace, a long-distance trail that begins in Pickett State Park in Tennessee and runs north-northeast through Jackson County to Roan County, Kentucky, near Morehead. A spur trail would connect McKee to the main 307-mile trace so it could serve as a stop-off for long-distance hikers. Currently, hikers pass right by McKee without ever putting a hiking boot in local shops, restaurants or hotels.

“The trail is the one golden thread that we can build upon,” says Bob Gabbard, owner of the Town and Country Motel in McKee. He is spearheading the proposed trail connector. “It is not the answer by itself, but I think it can go a long way to helping us develop the area’s economy.”

The Jackson County Department of Tourism has already submitted its permit application for McKee to be designated an official Trail Town. Jackson County Tourism Chairman Demian Gover says the feedback from the U.S. Forest Service has been very positive.

“They seem to be very happy with our plan,” he says.

Both he and Gabbard are eager for the permit to be approved and are hopeful that it happens this spring, but they know it may take until summer before they get the go-ahead.

“It looks like this will be a banner year for us in the trail business,” Gabbard says.

Connected

Currently the Sheltowee Trace bypasses McKee by about a mile and a half, and a portion of that section travels along U.S. Highway 421. Gabbard says the proposed new section will eliminate the on-road section of the trail.

Officials have already built one new trailhead in the Hamilton Bottoms area near the McKee welcome sign. Another is planned at the other end of town across from the post office, where hikers could have mail and supplies shipped ahead of them.

Bob Gabbard is spearheading efforts to have McKee designated an official “Trail Town” and build two trailheads and a connector to the Sheltowee Trace.

Bob Gabbard is spearheading efforts to have McKee designated an official “Trail Town” and build two trailheads and a connector to the Sheltowee Trace.

Both trailheads will connect to one another by a trail running parallel to Main Street, but it will pass off the roadway behind businesses and houses.

Both trailheads will connect to the trace, which sees thousands of outdoor enthusiasts each year. Plans are underway to link the trace with other trails to form the Great Eastern Trail running from Alabama to New York, similar to the Appalachian Trail.

While the Sheltowee Trace is primarily used by hikers, it is a multi-use trail and allows horses, mountain bikes and all-terrain vehicles in some designated sections.

Gabbard and Gover want to bring those using the trail into McKee, where they will hopefully spend the night, eat dinner or replenish their equipment.

“We want to be there for the hikers to re-fuel and re-equip,” Gover says. “They are going to do that somewhere. Why would we not want to be there for them when they do?”

It isn’t clear what the economic impact will be if the plan is approved, but Gover says Livingston built a visitors center across from a Sheltowee trailhead in Rockcastle County, about 30 miles southeast of McKee, and is already seeing positive economic results.

“It is not the end-all, be-all for the economy in McKee and Jackson County, but it could be that stimulus and catalyst we need,” Gover says.

Down the road

People inhabited this region as early as the 10th century, says Gabbard, who is also a paleontologist. He says once the connector is approved and built, there are additional plans to capitalize on the “adventure tourism” crowd with a village to honor those early inhabitants.

Did you know? Sheltowee is a Shawnee term meaning “Big Turtle.” It is the name Shawnee Chief Blackfish gave to Daniel Boone because he moved slowly along the trail compared to the native tribesmen.

Did you know?
Sheltowee is a Shawnee term meaning “Big Turtle.” It is the name Shawnee Chief Blackfish gave to Daniel Boone because he moved slowly along the trail compared to the native tribesmen.

“If the plan goes through, in five years we want to have a replica native Appalachian village,” he says. “We have the beauty of our natural resources, and those assets need to be promoted.”

Officials are working closely with Native American groups, and a portion of the village will be dedicated to them.

Gabbard says the proposed trail will not only attract hikers to McKee, but it will also bring bird watchers, naturists and other outdoor enthusiasts to the area.

“This is an ancient land, and it is very fossiliferous,” he says. “There is a lot to see here if people will take the time to look for it.”

For more information about Jackson County and the area’s natural resources, visit www.visitjacksoncountyky.com or www.sheltoweetrace.com.

A nation divided: 150 years later

Relive history on a tour of these prominent Civil War battlefields

By Robert Thatcher

This year, the country will conclude its 150th anniversary remembrance of the Civil War. But don’t worry if you missed the reenactments and fanfare over the past four years. Take this trip on US Highway 41 from Kentucky through Middle Tennessee to find plenty of history while tracing pivotal battles in America’s most costly war.

Stop #1 – Fort Donelson National Battlefield
Where Ulysses Grant became a household name

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, on the banks of the Cumberland River just south of the Kentucky border, is a natural starting point for a drive through Middle Tennessee. It’s also a good beginning militarily.

Dover Hotel

Dover Hotel

“Almost everything that happened in the state is a sequel to what happened here,” says Doug Richardson, Fort Donelson’s chief of interpretation.

Rivers were arteries of commerce for the South, and the Confederates built Fort Donelson to protect the Cumberland and upstream cities like Clarksville and Nashville

But on Feb. 12, 1862, a little-known Union brigadier general named Ulysses S. Grant set his sights on Fort Donelson. He was confident of victory after his gunboats easily took nearby Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

Donelson was not so easy. Well-positioned Confederate guns brought victory, setting up a successful “break out” through Union lines. But the victory was short-lived, as the Confederates unwittingly helped Grant by pulling troops back to their original positions. Grant retook the lost ground, and the 12,000-man garrison surrendered unconditionally. The battle made Grant a star and was a catastrophe for the South.

Touring Fort Donelson

The park preserves more than 20 percent of the original battlefield, with several square miles of earthwork fortifications. Don’t miss these highlights:

  • Stand at the gun batteries where Confederate gunners battered Grant’s gunboats.
  • Visit the Dover Hotel where Ulysses S. Grant demanded “unconditional surrender” from his old West Point friend, Confederate Simon Buckner.
  • Pause at Fort Donelson National Cemetery for a reminder of the sacrifices that Americans have made from the Civil War to the present day.
  • While absorbing the history, you may also encounter two notable park residents. “We’ve got two resident bald eagles who live down at the river,” Richardson says. “Our eagles are about as famous as our generals.”

Stop #2 – Stones River National Battlefield
The Fight for the Confederate Heartland

We could follow General Grant to the Mississippi line and Shiloh, where his Army of the Tennessee headed after Donelson, but there’s good reason to drive to Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro.

“When Fort Donelson falls, the Confederates have to give up Nashville,” explains Park Ranger Jim Lewis. “And Nashville becomes the base for the Union Army to launch the campaigns which will lead to Stones River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga.”

For many, Stones River is a quiet retreat from bustling Murfreesboro. But the 6,100 gravestones across from the visitor center are a sober reminder of what took place there. Of the 81,000 who fought here, 23,000 were killed, wounded or went missing in action — the highest percentage of casualties of any Civil War battle.

Early success, then retreat

Cemetery at Stones River

Cemetery at Stones River

On New Year’s Eve 1862, the Southern army under Braxton Bragg attacked first, catching William Rosecrans’ Union troops at breakfast and driving them north. Then on Jan. 2, the Confederates launched another attack along the east bank of the Stones River to drive Union troops off of a high hill.

“In the process of pursuing, those Confederates will come under the fire of 57 Union cannons along the other side of the river and will lose about 1,800 men in 45 minutes,” Lewis says. “That’s a pretty bloody exclamation point.”

The Confederates then retreated.

Touring Stones River

Stones River offers a 12-stop auto tour, including these sights:

  • Walk around The Slaughter Pen, a rock outcropping where Union troops made a stubborn stand.
  • Pay respect at the Hazen Brigade Monument, one of the oldest war monuments in the country.
  • Be awed by Fort Rosecrans, the largest earthworks fortification in North America.

Stop #3 – Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
The Death Knell of the Confederacy

We’ve followed the Union push to Nashville and Murfreesboro. The next stop is Chattanooga. Actually, we’ll go south of the city to Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Driving to the park, you’ll cross the mountains that convinced General Rosecrans not to advance directly on Chattanooga. He moved southwest of the city to block supply lines, forcing Confederate troops into Georgia as well. But Chattanooga was the Union goal.

“Chattanooga is a doorway through the southern barrier of the Appalachians,” says Park Historian Jim Ogden.

Driving through the dense woods of the 5,300-acre park, you can see why confusion reigned in the war’s second-bloodiest battle. About 35,000 men were killed, wounded, missing or captured in fighting from Sept. 19-20, 1863. Strategic mistakes led to a Union retreat. The Union troops retreated to Chattanooga, where they withstood a two-month siege before ultimately breaking through in the battle of Chattanooga.

“This allowed the Union drive across Georgia in 1864, from Chattanooga to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Savannah,” Ogden notes.

Touring Chickamauga

Start at the visitor center on Lafayette Road. After touring the park, drive 17 miles to Lookout Mountain Battlefield for views from 1,500 feet above Chattanooga. Other key sites:

  • Stand on Snodgrass Hill where George Thomas became “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
  • Get a general’s view from Orchard Knob, Grant’s command post, and the Bragg Reservation, Confederate headquarters on Missionary Ridge.
  • Watch the conflict electronically at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum on Lookout Mountain.

Chattanooga was a major blow for the Confederacy. But there’s much more to see on the campaign South – Tunnel Hill, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain all the way to Savannah and then into South Carolina. The war continued on and your trip can too. Visit nps.gov/civilwar for more sites from the War Between the States.

Tech-Savvy Traveler: Charting your course

Point Park Cannon

Point Park Cannon

Robert E. Lee is regarded by many as the most clever battle tactician of the Civil War. Imagine what he could have done with a GPS! Nowadays, it’s easy to come up with a battle plan and map out the route for you and your troops on your next vacation. Apps like Google Earth provide directions for tourists with aerial or street views of those historic sites from Gettysburg to Charleston. For those battling interstate traffic, Road Ninja is an app that will help you find fuel, food and shelter for the evening, keeping your small army on the move.

Perfectly Imperfect

For the everyday home

A Q&A with Shaunna West, a blogger from Troy, Alabama, who writes about everything from painting furniture to decorating to homeschooling. 

Shaunna West

Shaunna West

What will readers find at your blog?
Shaunna West: Perfectly Imperfect is a window into our lives. You’ll find DIY projects, furniture makeovers, before-and-after room makeovers, shop talk, topics on running a creative business and even a few family posts.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SW: I have been writing since I was a little girl, and in 2009, I needed to write. I began sharing my furniture-painting techniques and the process of our attic renovation, and soon, the blog became a business and a place for people to seek inspiration for their everyday homes. The community and readers at Perfectly Imperfect took me completely by surprise. There is a world of people interested in the same things you are, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even develop relationships with these incredible people. The Internet can be used for such good, and its reach is incredible. I’m grateful for PI, for my readers and for their willingness to listen to what I have to say.

What are some big trends in decorating this spring and summer?
SW: Any time you gear into spring and summer, people are going to be looking to brighten and lighten their homes. There are lots of beautiful metallics out there and lots of blues and golds and greens as far as colors. Anything you can do to try and make your home feel fresh and clean. Spring is the time when we all begin to organize and begin to purge and pare down and only have what’s necessary in the home. Homes should be functional and efficient as well as beautiful.

Check out her blog: www.PerfectlyImperfectBlog.com

Shaunna’s tips for changing your home on a budget

living roomKeep in mind that your home is your sanctuary away from the busyness of the world. Take the time to create spaces you enjoy and that create rest for you and your family.

If you’re feeling like your home has become dark and dreary, give the walls a fresh coat of paint in lighter neutrals. It will instantly brighten your space. My favorites are Benjamin Moore White Diamond, Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice and Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray.

Save and invest in key pieces like your sofa and armchairs, and shop flea markets and antique malls for small end tables and dressers. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll save when you allow time for your space to come together.
Paint everything in sight. Seriously, paint is the cheapest and fastest way to transform your home. Have a coffee table you love, but hate how beaten up it is? Paint it, and you will have a new piece of furniture in a few hours.

Whatever your interest, there is likely an online community of people who share that interest with you. Our “Featured Blogger” series introduces you to people who write websites about a variety of topics. In the May/June issue, we’ll focus on marriage and relationships.

Other home/DIY blogs you might like:

www.TheLetteredCottage.net
Layla shares her love of cottage style with readers.

www.BeneathMyHeart.net
Tracey describes herself striving to create beauty in her heart and in her home.

www.thistlewoodfarms.com
KariAnne shares her transition from the big city to a slower-paced, happier life.