Connected homes, connected bodies

Consumers are embracing home automation and mobile, wearable devices

By Stephen V. Smith, Editor

For decades, society has imagined what the future will look like through movies, television, comic books and novels. These images almost always portray people interacting with technology to communicate with one another and control everyday tasks.

In the past five years, that future has moved much closer to reality, thanks to the convergence of several factors:

  1. Tech companies are creating devices that are more affordable and easier to use.
  2. Consumer demand for such technology is increasing (see infographic on right).
  3. Communications networks are delivering the bandwidth necessary to make these devices work.

Several recent news reports reveal just how fast we are moving toward a lifestyle similar to that of “The Jetsons.” The global market research and consulting company MarketsandMarkets published a report in November stating that the value of the home automation and controls market is expected to reach $48.02 billion by 2018. And in January, tech giant Google entered the home automation arena when it bought Nest Labs, the maker of advanced thermostats and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.

The Ivee,  a voice-activated assistant that controls home automated devices over your Wi-Fi network, was one of the many products that premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The Ivee, a voice-activated assistant that controls home automated devices over your Wi-Fi network, was one of the many products that premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The future was perhaps most evident at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in January in Las Vegas. Dominating the huge conference were new, wearable, connected devices that control, monitor, collect, communicate and share for a wide range of functions (see www.cesweb.org for highlights).

For any of this technology to work, however, consumers need access to a reliable broadband network. Whether the devices are connecting directly to the Internet, across a broadband-enabled Wi-Fi network in your home or via a cell tower, the network that our independent telecommunications providers are building is making all this functionality possible in rural America. 

 

Love throughout the years

Edsel and Mae Welch

This is a special time of year for Edsel and Mae Welch. Not only does February mean Valentine’s Day, but it is also the month they will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary.

Edsel and Mae Welch will celebrate 68 years of marriage in February. Their love is still strong after all these years.

Edsel and Mae Welch will celebrate 68 years of marriage in February. Their love is still strong after all these years.

They have known each other almost all their lives, and it is clear that even after all these years they are still very much in love.

They met in Sunday school when they were kids and basically grew up together in the same community, but Edsel had to travel halfway around the globe before he could make her his bride.

Mae was just 13 when Edsel, then 19, left for the Army. She waited patiently while he was in the Pacific during World War II.

“We wrote letters back and forth and put hugs and kisses on them,” she says.

They were eager to get married, and those letters gave Edsel comfort as he fought thousands of miles away in India, China and Burma.

During the three years Mae waited on the homefront, Edsel was with a 60mm mortar crew and bore ammunition for troops on the front. He recalls several harrowing incidents when he feared he might not make it to his wedding day.

“I had a gun shot out from under my arm,” he says of one such incident. “It split the barrel right in two.” Another time, his unit spent an entire harrowing day climbing a mountain in Burma.

Edsel and Mae Welch shortly after they married in February 1946.

Edsel and Mae Welch shortly after they married in February 1946.

But their prayers were answered, and Edsel returned to the States safe and sound in January 1946. He and Mae married a few weeks later.

Edsel began doing carpentry work, but got his first full-time job at PRTC, where he was a jack-of-all-trades. He was an installer, a troubleshooter, a lineman and a repairman. He retired after 26 years.

Through the years, the Welch’s learned the secrets of making a marriage work.

“I never drew a short pay day,” Edsel says.

“And he had hot biscuits every morning,” Mae adds.

After retiring from PRTC, Edsel returned to carpentry, building 13 Sunday school rooms in the McKee Baptist Church.

Edsel also built the house he and Mae still live in today. “It took me two years while I was working at the phone company,” he says. “When it was completed, I owed $500.”

It is the same house where family members have gathered during the holidays, sometimes hosting up to 65 people. That includes 8 daughters, 17 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren.

It’s a home that holds lots of memories — and lots of love.

“Now we just sit right here and fight and growl all the time,” Edsel says with a laugh.

Mae shakes her head and smiles. They remain best friends and the love of each other’s lives.

What kind of connection do I need?

Understanding Internet basics can help you select the right connection for your family

bigstock-Multiple-Cloud-Connection-42587485 [Converted]For a young couple without children, a two-door car usually meets their needs just fine.

But if they add three children, two dogs and a doting grandmother, they are going to need to upgrade to a bigger vehicle.

The same is true with your Internet connection from PRTC: a connection that worked fine for a single computer to check email and browse the Web needs an upgrade to handle two laptops, four smartphones, a tablet and a smart TV.

“With each additional device, we’re putting more and more demand on our Internet connection,” says Michael Stidham, operations manager at PRTC. “There comes a point where none of them are going to work as fast as we like without upgrading that connection.”

Understanding the Web

To understand how to meet your family’s Internet needs, it’s important to understand a little about how the Internet works. The Internet links millions of computers together through a large, expensive connection. PRTC provides members with a way to join that network. They pay for the lines, equipment and maintenance and charge members for a share of the connection.

The size of the share depends on which Internet package or bundle you select.

To use a different analogy, your connection is like a pipe carrying water. Let’s say you need to fill a large water barrel. The barrel will fill much more quickly if you use a garden hose than if you use a small sink sprayer, because the hose has a greater capacity to let the water through.

Your Internet connection works the same way, except it allows for the flow of information rather than water. A higher bandwidth connection — the hose — has a greater capacity to let data through to your computer and other devices so the files can “fill up” or download faster.

Splitting the signal

Just like the water line, multiple devices sharing a connection divide up that speed. In most houses, someone in the shower will notice less water pressure if someone else turns on a washer, sink or dishwasher.

Along the same lines, with a low-bandwidth connection, someone streaming a movie will probably notice jumpiness or a loss of picture quality if someone starts downloading music or playing an online game.

Luckily, PRTC’s new fiber network will give members the speed they need to handle all of their favorite gadgets today and in the future.

“Fiber connections give our members so much bandwidth that they are ready for whatever comes next,” Stidham says. “This will really be a game changer, especially for households with several connected devices.”

 

Stringbean Memorial Festival

Celebrating a life of music

www.stringbeanpark.com

www.stringbeanpark.com

David Akeman got his first banjo when he was 12 years old. He traded a pair of prized bantam roosters for it.

That was long before anyone ever called him Stringbean and long before he put Gray Hawk on the map with his role on the hit television show “Hee Haw” and as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

In mid-June, thousands of music lovers will descend on the otherwise sleepy Gray Hawk community to pay tribute to Stringbean and the music he loved. Phillip Akemon, Stringbean’s nephew and one of the founders and organizers of the Stringbean Memorial Festival, is in the process of planning this year’s event.

“We haven’t got all the performers worked out yet, but it will be a good bunch of pickers,” says Akemon, who will be performing with his band, Phillip Akemon and Flat Lick.

 Phillip Akemon,  Stringbean’s nephew and founder of the festival, looks at photos from some of the past events at Stringbean Memorial Park in Gray Hawk.

Phillip Akemon, Stringbean’s nephew and founder of the festival, looks at photos from some of the past events at Stringbean Memorial Park in Gray Hawk.

Akemon talks about the festival from his barbershop in Gray Hawk. He is surrounded by display cases full of memorabilia from years ago, including a Hee Haw clock and an artist’s sketch of Stringbean that hangs on the wall. Akemon is quick to produce stacks of photo albums that include pictures of Stringbean and many of the musicians that have played at the event since it began in 1996. Many of those — Grandpa Jones and his wife Ramona, Porter Wagner, Ralph Stanley, Mac Wiseman and others — helped Akemon organize the first festival.

“They told me it was going to be a lot of work, but I took that too lightly,” he says. “It was more work than I ever thought it would be.”

Triumph and Tragedy

After learning to play the banjo from his father, Stringbean began playing at local dances and acquired a reputation as a talented picker. But it wasn’t paying the bills. His road to fame didn’t come until several years later when he won a talent contest that was judged by singer-guitarist-musical saw player Asa Martin and was asked to join Martin’s band.

Porter Wagner, left, and Grandpa Jones dedicate a statue in memory of Stringbean Akeman at the first Stringbean Memorial Festival in 1996.

Porter Wagner, left, and Grandpa Jones dedicate a statue in memory of Stringbean Akeman at the first Stringbean Memorial Festival in 1996.

Martin was introducing the band members one night and couldn’t remember the new guy’s name, so he called him Stringbean because of his long, lanky frame. The name stuck.

Stringbean was also a talented athlete. He was playing semi-professional baseball when he met legendary bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, and the rest is history. Stringbean went on to the Grand Ole Opry and “Hee Haw,” where he began wearing the costume he is known for — a shirt with a very long tail tucked into short blue jeans cinched with a belt just above the knees.

Akemon says his uncle’s accomplishments are proof that you can make your dreams come true, even if you live in Gray Hawk, Ky.

“He is a good example for the young people,” Akemon says. “Just because you were raised in a rural county, it doesn’t mean that you can’t accomplish anything you want.”

Stringbean, right, and his wife, Estelle, were killed in a 1973 robbery, when two men ambushed them in their Ridgetop, Tenn., home.

Stringbean, right, and his wife, Estelle, were killed in a 1973 robbery, when two men ambushed them in their Ridgetop, Tenn., home.

Despite having a remarkable musical career, Stringbean’s life came to a sudden and violent end in 1973, when he and his wife, Estelle, returned to their home in Ridgetop, Tenn., to find two burglars waiting on them. Unable to find the large amount of cash Stringbean was rumored to keep on hand, the intruders shot and killed both Stringbean and his wife.

Cousins John A. Brown and Marvin Douglas Brown were ultimately convicted of the crime, after making off with only a chainsaw and some firearms.

In 1996, 23 years after the shooting, $20,000 in cash was discovered behind a chimney brick in Stringbean’s home. The money had deteriorated to such an extent that it was unusable and was ultimately destroyed by the bank.

Accomplishments Honored

More than 4,000 people attended the inaugural Stringbean Memorial Festival in 1996, when a larger-than-life statue of Stringbean was unveiled.

The statue still stands watch over Stringbean Memorial Park, where an annual festival is held honoring the bluegrass banjo legend.

Akemon says the event draws visitors from all over the country and sometimes beyond.

“It’s a big event,” he says. “And it’s an economic boost to the area as well.”

The festival is held the week of June 17, to coincide with Stringbean’s birthday. This year’s festival will take place June 19-21 at Stringbean Memorial Park on Oak Grove Road in Gray Hawk.

Phillip Akemon is a barber in Gray Hawk. He is also one of the founders of the Stringbean Memorial Festival.

Phillip Akemon is a barber in Gray Hawk. He is also one of the founders of the Stringbean Memorial Festival.

Akemon says the festival is more than a celebration of Stringbean and bluegrass music. It is also an educational opportunity for kids who are learning to play, as well as for those who may wish to learn. There will be classes and professional pickers who will hold workshops to encourage kids to develop their musical interests and talents.

“Some may even be invited up on stage to perform with the bands,” Akemon says. “It’s a real treat for them.”

Akemon takes pride in knowing that the festival keeps Stringbean’s memory and music alive. It is a celebration of his life and his contributions to the bluegrass music he loved.

“It’s not that we are worshipping him,” Akemon says. “We are just honoring him for all his accomplishments.”

For more information about Stringbean and the festival, visit www.stringbeanpark.com.

2014 Stringbean Memorial Festival

June 19-21
Stringbean Memorial Park
www.stringbeanpark.com

Students learn to lead with trip to capital

A group of 15 students traveled to the nation’s capital as part of Promise Neighborhood’s Youth Working Group, a federal program established to improve education in distressed areas.

A group of 15 students traveled to the nation’s capital as part of Promise Neighborhood’s Youth Working Group, a federal program established to improve education in distressed areas.

A group of 15 students from Jackson County High School are learning to make a difference in the world.

They, along with a group from Clay County High School, recently traveled to Washington D.C., as part of Berea College Promise Neighborhood’s Youth Working Group to hone their advocacy skills and meet with lawmakers.

“It was very inspiring,” says Terry Hosler, post-secondary academic specialist at JCHS. “They all got a sense that it didn’t matter that they are only high school students. They can make a difference.”

The Jackson County High School students included seniors Seth Cornett, Elisha Shepherd and Jake Young; juniors Bethany Carrier, Nicholas Gabbard and Aaron Raider; sophomores Christian Bond, Annika Bingham, Samantha Strong and Aaron Duncan; and freshmen Austin Brewer, Latisha Parker, Steven ‘Tre’ Lewis, Molly Marcum and April Morgan.

Hosler says the students were nominated by school faculty, voted on by students and underwent an extensive interview process to be on the leadership team.

Promise Neighborhood is a U.S. Department of Education program established to improve educational outcomes for students in distressed urban and rural neighborhoods. Hosler says the group has a three-pronged mission: to do service first within their school, next within their community and last in their region. The trip was 100 percent funded by Promise Neighborhood regional budgets.

During the group’s five-day visit to the nation’s capital, the students attended an advocacy workshop with a representative from the Harlem Children’s Zone and directors of Policy Link, a lobby and advocacy firm, where they learned about possible career paths in advocacy and public service.

They also spent time with staff from Rep. Harold Rogers’ office. They spoke at length with Aaron Jones, education liaison for Rep. Rogers, R-Somerset. They discussed challenges faced by students in rural school districts. Jones and other staffers in Rep. Roger’s office also spoke with students about the possibilities of summer internships in Kentucky Congressional offices in D.C.

The group toured the Capitol and the White House. Students watched a play at the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, where they had the opportunity to interact with the cast. They visited Arlington National Cemetery, witnessed the eternal flame at Pres. John F. Kennedy’s graveside and visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The group explored many of the nation’s national monuments and visited a number of museums, including the Smithsonian Native American Museum, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the American History Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum.

They also visited the National Archives, where they saw the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.

“Only a couple students had ever been to Washington, D.C., before,” Hosler says. “It was a great experience for everyone. I think they all learned a lot and have a greater appreciation for what they can accomplish.”

Building our future’s foundation

By Keith Gabbard
Chief Executive Officer

Can you imagine life without electricity? Of course not. It helps you take care of your home and family, earn a living, get your news, enjoy entertainment and experience a better quality of life. Wait … can’t the same be said for broadband?

Keith Gabbard

Keith Gabbard

I draw that parallel to drive home an important point — the broadband network we are building today is as foundational to modern society as the electricity distribution system that began powering rural America in the 1930s and 1940s.

Do you remember the first time you logged on to the Internet? Maybe it was through a PRTC Internet account. Perhaps you dialed a toll-free number, or even paid long-distance charges, to connect to EarthLink or AOL (how many CDs did you receive in the mail over the years offering 10 free hours of service to try AOL?). As you listened to the whistles and pops of your modem making a dial-up connection, you could not have imagined a day when such a network connection would impact practically every part of your life.

But that day is here. As dial-up access gave way to broadband connections, technology drove innovations that go far beyond simply browsing the Internet. And just like in the early days of electrification, rural America is benefiting greatly.

Consider these examples of how people are using their broadband connections:

  • Students are staying current with their studies when they miss class, and turning in their homework online.
  • Teachers and professors are bringing advanced studies into their classrooms through distance learning.
  • Clinics and hospitals are managing records and expediting test results in ways that help them control costs while improving patient care and convenience.
  • Businesses are selling products and services, buying supplies and communicating in ways that help them compete with companies in larger markets.
  • Local governments, fire departments, police forces, water providers and other agencies are saving money on training while offering greater access and improved services to citizens.

Our network is making stories like these possible. And it’s not just PRTC. Providers like us across rural America are creating real solutions as we lead the way for a more advanced telecommunications network in our country.

If these stories are not enough to convince you that we truly are building the foundation for our future, look at the story “Wireless Needs Wires” on Page 6. With so many people connected by cell phone these days and the use of traditional landlines on the decline, you might be tempted to think of your local telecommunications company as a provider whose most relevant days are behind them. But as you see from this article, even the cell phone service people are so attached to depends heavily on the wired network that we continue to improve. It wouldn’t work without us.

Broadband is indeed the infrastructure of the future – one we are building for you today.

Baked soup: a family staple

Soup cuts across cultures. Its popularity spans the nation in wintertime and becomes comfort food in every corner of America. This is especially true in the small town of Kirbyton, Ky., when Rebecca Spraggs makes her Baked Soup, a recipe handed down in her family for generations.

Rebecca_9597

Rebecca Spraggs

“I can remember my grandfather making it. Just the thought makes me happy,” she says. “He’d cook it in a great big iron kettle. And when we’d come inside from sledding, it would be ready.”

This soup, as well as others, is part of Spraggs’ repertoire of comfort foods that she brings to the table as a caterer. About a year ago, she and a friend launched Catering by Lorie and Rebecca.

“We both loved to cook, and often did for family and friends,” Spraggs says. “So we started catering out of our houses.” In less than a year’s time, they’ve built up a good client base.

Spraggs says clients often ask for soups when they call. “It’s just good comfort food. People love it. And it makes a hearty meal, too, when we add sandwiches or salads.”

Magic happens when Spraggs stirs the pot of her favorite baked potato soup. As the cheese melts, the flavors of bacon, garlic and onions come together, bringing the pot to a crescendo of comforting flavors. “It’s got just the right amount of texture to make your taste buds happy,” she says. “It’s just wonderful.”

Her lasagna soup is one that sends mouth-watering Italian aromas through the home as it simmers in the slow cooker for hours. And her baked soup cooks in a slow oven allowing the vegetables to absorb the flavors of fork-tender meat, creating a delicious gravy that you can sop up with bread, or use a spoon to get every last bite. There’s something about cooking it in the oven that gives it such good taste, Spraggs adds.

“Soup is just so good. And it’s so easy, you can just throw it together and let it cook all day and you have a full meal, getting all the vegetables and meat you need,” Spraggs says. “You can use leftovers and probably canned goods from your pantry.”

Are you in need of a little comfort? Try one of Spraggs’ recipes and see if it doesn’t bring some warmth to your soul.

Loaded Potato Soup

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Loaded Potato Soup

3 pounds potatoes, peeled, cooked and chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
8 cups of half-and-half
16 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
White pepper, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Green onions, chopped (tops only)
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream, optional

Melt butter in large pot, slowly add flour and half-and-half. Stir continually until flour is incorporated. Add Velveeta; continue stirring on medium heat until melted. Add potatoes, pepper, garlic, Tabasco, bacon and green onions. Once cheese is melted, turn heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve topped with cheese and sour cream, if desired.

Baked Soup

BakedSoup_9684

Baked Soup

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup water
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 teaspoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 celery ribs, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1 slice of bread, cubed

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, water, tapioca, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into greased 3-quart baking dish. Cover and bake at 375° for 2 hours or until meat and veggies are tender. Serve with cornbread or corn cakes.

Crock Pot Lasagna Soup

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 cups beef broth (or more, see note)
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup V8 juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
2 cups uncooked shell pasta
Shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Mix tomatoes and tomato paste in Crock pot. Add broth, beef, garlic, parsley, basil, onion, V8 juice, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low 7 to 8 hours or on high 4 to 5 hours. Thirty minutes before end of cooking time, add in 1 cup of water and pasta. Stir to combine, cover and continue cooking 30 minutes. Serve topped with cheese, if desired.

Note: If you need more liquid, add extra broth when you add pasta.

Tips for making a super bowl of soup:

  • To lighten up a cream-based soup, use fat-free milk or chicken or vegetable broth.
  • Simmer soup as long as you can. It will only make the flavor better.
  • Don’t saute the vegetables first.
  • Use the freshest ingredients you can find.
  • Do not add salt until the end. Taste as you go.
  • If the recipe calls for chicken broth, and if you have the time, make your own. Use the chicken in the soup or save it to make chicken salad for sandwiches to go with the soup.

Picking a favorite?

By Anne P. Braly
Food Editor

AnnwBraly031-small

Anne P. Braly

There’s no better way to ward off winter’s chill than holing up inside with a bowl of steaming soup. So lately, I’ve been experimenting and making many different soups. I can’t make up my mind which is best, but I know one thing for sure: using my mother’s old soup pot makes a difference. Not only does it make a good soup, but somewhere in the steam, I swear I can see Momma smiling.

So what’s your favorite soup? For me, it’s West African Peanut Soup. There are many different recipes for this soup, but my favorite is this one that I managed to get from a restaurant in Chattanooga that no longer exists.

West African Peanut Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, very finely diced
2 large green peppers, finely chopped
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice
8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 (18-ounce) jar creamy peanut butter
Chopped roasted peanuts (optional)

Heat olive oil in large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, bell pepper and garlic until lightly browned. Stir in tomatoes with juice, broth, pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add rice to soup; stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes, or until rice is tender. When rice is cooked, whisk in peanut butter, return to a simmer and serve. Garnish with chopped roasted peanuts. Makes about 8 servings.

Email Anne Braly at apbraly@gmail.com

A driving passion

Museums explore America’s love affair with the automobile

By Patrick Smith

Corvette_001

Corvettes come from all over the country to pose for the perfect picture.

Since the prehistoric age when the first wheel was chiseled from stone, mankind has been fascinated with motion. Forward motion. That connection between man and machine is embodied in the automobile, with its roaring engine giving humans the power to conquer distance and time. The power of man and machine, performing as one, gave birth to the wide-open road we love to traverse, along with a multitude of ways to work and play behind the wheel.

Long before NASCAR thrived as we know it today, the roar of the dirt track echoed through the South. The glory days of dirt tracks may have waned, but our interest in cars has not. In fact, the South is America’s new automotive corridor, with a number of automakers having located manufacturing plants in the region and thousands of workers earning a living on an automotive assembly line.

Scattered across the region are a number of unique museums that preserve our automotive history and help us to relive the milestones in our fascination with the car (and truck). Visit their websites, learn more, then plan a road trip to remind yourself of why the automobile just might be America’s greatest pastime.

Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum

The sleek lines and powerful facades of the ‘70s muscle cars are alive and well at Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tenn. Widely considered an expert on the era, Floyd Garrett showcases his $8 million collection of more than 90 cars, including a 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 and a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle LS6 (Detroit’s highest factory horsepower car).

Address: 320 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Sevierville, TN 37876

Phone: 865-908-0882 • Website: www.musclecarmuseum.com

International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum

The first tow truck was built in Chattanooga in 1916. Started in 1995, the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame & Museum is a walk through the history of the wrecker. In addition to the array of displays and exhibits, there’s a Hall of Fame presentation and a memorial to those who have fallen during their service as recovery operators.

Address: 3315 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408

Phone: 423-267-3132 • Website: www.internationaltowingmuseum.org

While in Chattanooga, visit the Volkswagen plant, home of the Passat sedan. For more information email: tours@vw.com.

National Corvette Museum

The father of the Corvette, Belgian-born Zora Arkus-Duntov would surely be proud to see his creation thriving at the General Motors Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky., and the accompanying National Corvette Museum. The museum draws enthusiasts from around the world to admire its collection spanning the 60-year history of the American classic.

Address:  350 Corvette Drive, Bowling Green, KY 42101

Phone: 270-781-7973 • Website: www.corvettemuseum.org

Public tours of the assembly plant are also available. For more information visit: www.corvettemuseum.org/plant_tours

Lane Motor Museum

Uncommon cars find a home at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville. Celebrating a decade of operation, the museum showcases vehicles like the 1919 Leyat Helico, a propellor-driven car meticulously developed by aircraft engineer Marcel Leyat. Leyat believed propellor-driven cars would be simpler because they wouldn’t require a transmission, rear axle or clutch. Lane also hosts several unique motorcycle and truck designs.

Address:  702 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37210

Phone: 615-742-7445 • Website: www.lanemotormuseum.org

Rusty’s TV & Movie Car Museum

The unmistakable creativity of Hollywood, combined with American style and ingenuity, are presented at Rusty’s TV & Movie Car Museum in Jackson, Tenn. Who wouldn’t want to solve a riddle with Scooby Doo in the Mystery Machine, or fight crime in the Batmobile? Rusty’s is the place to see more than 25 cars used in television shows and movies.

Address:  323 Hollywood Drive, Jackson, TN 38301

Phone: 731-267-5881 • Website: www.rustystvandmoviecars.com

International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum

Teaming man with machine, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum satisfies the need for speed. This institution celebrates the achievements of drivers breaking the limits and setting new heights. Spanning three buildings next to the Talladega Superspeedway, the facility is home to the memories of drivers, engineers and designers who shaped the motorsports community.

Address: 3366 Speedway Boulevard, Talladega, AL 35160

Phone: 256-362-5002 • Website: www.motorsportshalloffame.com

Wheels of Yesteryear Car Museum

Lifelong collector Paul Cummings showcases more than 50 vintage muscle cars and trucks at the Wheels of Yesteryear Car Museum in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Opened in 2009, the museum shows off the raw power of the 1965 Pontiac GTO and the elegant simplicity of the 1949 Dodge pickup truck. It has quickly become a landing place for tourists and car aficionados alike.

Address: 413 Hospitality Lane, Myrtle Beach, SC 29579

Phone: 843-903-4774 • Website: www.wheelsofyesteryearmb.com

BMW Zentrum Museum

BMW admirers flock to see the past and catch a glimpse of the future at the Zentrum Museum in Greer, S.C., the home of BMW’s only American production facility. Visitors flow through the history of exquisitely engineered German cars, SUVs and motorcycles while interacting with educational exhibits, galleries and interactive displays.

Address: 1400 Highway 101 South, Greer, SC 29651

Phone: 864-989-5300 • Website: www.bmwusfactory.com/zentrum

Visit www.bmwusfactory.com to inquire about the BMW Performance Center’s “Ultimate Driving Experience” and factory tour.

Swope Auto Museum

The horsepower of the ‘70s or the fuel efficiency of today’s cars can’t match the solid steel and molded aluminum of the time-honored transportation at the Swope Auto Museum in Elizabethtown, Ky. A collection that spans from the early 1900s to the 1960s, Swope is home to classics like the 1914 Model T Ford Touring and the 1925 Pierce Arrow. Swope also sells antiques to passionate collectors.

Address: 100 North Dixie Avenue, Elizabethtown, KY 42701

Phone: 270-765-2181 • Website: www.swopemuseum.com

 

The TV pricing drama

It’s no mystery, and it’s certainly not a comedy

Remember when watching TV meant having to choose between ABC, NBC and CBS (and sometimes the public television station, when it was clear enough)? As we walked across the room to switch channels on a TV set encased in a wood-grain cabinet, we could not imagine a world where hundreds of channels existed, catering to viewers interested in sports, movies, home decorating, cooking, science fiction, cartoons, politics and everything in between.

While we have gained tremendous choice in our television viewing options, we have also lost any pricing stability. In fact, the only thing predictable about programming rates is that they will continue to increase for the foreseeable future.bigstock-Row-of-widescreen-HD-displays--22657049

Why do TV programming prices keep climbing?

A portion of the fee you pay for your TV package each month covers the equipment and personnel costs associated with delivering you the service. But a majority of your bill goes to pay the providers of the programming you love to watch — and that you don’t watch. Because of the way these companies (from CNN and FOX News to Disney Channel and ESPN) structure their contracts, we must pay them according to the number of subscribers we have, not the number of people who actually watch each channel.

A 2013 article in the New York Times1 offered ESPN as a good example. Only 1.36 million of the sports network’s 100 million subscribers, the article states, were tuned in during prime time hours April-June of 2013. Nonetheless, all 100 million paid ESPN’s programming fees those months as part of their monthly bill from their service provider.

ESPN is an easy target for a discussion on why TV subscription costs keep climbing. According to a recent Planet Money article on npr.org2, ESPN is the most expensive channel, charging service providers $5.54 per month per subscriber. That same article lists TNT at $1.33 and Disney Channel at $1.15. Rounding out the bottom of the list as the least expensive channels were Hallmark Channel at 6 cents and CMT Pure Country at a nickel per subscriber.*

But ESPN is not the only channel that continues to raise its rates. In fact, some of the biggest increases have come from the broadcasters of “local stations,” who traditionally allowed service providers to carry their signal at no charge. Now, each time service providers have to negotiate the retransmission consent agreements with these networks, their monthly price per subscriber goes up.

Is there a solution on the horizon?

Currently, providers like us are required to buy a bundle of several channels (and often place them in certain packages) in order to get the two or three most popular channels a programmer offers. Congress has considered legislation that would change such requirements, making it possible for subscribers to have options for paying only for those channels they want to watch.

Judging by past attempts at such legislation, it appears to be a longshot that mandated unbundling will happen any time soon. It also remains unclear if picking your channels a la carte would have a significant impact on your bill anyway. A study released last year by Needham Insights suggested that the fees per member charged by ESPN, for example, would soar to $30 under such a structure, based on the assumption that their number of subscribers would drop from 100 million to  approximately 20 million die-hard sports fans.

This could also spell an end for the smaller specialty channels that would not attract a large enough audience to generate the ad sales to support them.

What is our role?

As your telecommunications company, we are committed to providing you with the channel selections you want while doing all we can to maintain package prices. This will not be easy, and you will continue to see price increases in the future as the cost we pay for these channels keeps going up.

However, we want you to know that our eyes are on the bigger picture. Whatever happens in the future regarding how you buy and watch your favorite channels, we know that the most important part of that equation is the network for delivering the signal. Whether it’s traditional TV, media websites or “over the top” services like Netflix and Hulu, you must have a robust, reliable network to enjoy these services. And we are committed to providing the broadband connectivity to deliver all you demand — in whatever form that might take — for many years to come.

 

(1) “To Protect Its Empire, ESPN Stays on Offense,” by Richard Sandomir, James Andrew Miller and Steve Eder – New York Times, Aug. 26, 2013

(2) “The Most (And Least) Expensive Basic Cable Channels, In 1 Graph,” by Quoctrung Bui – Plant Money, NPR.org, Sept. 27, 2013

*These estimates are based on a study by SNL Kagan of fees paid by the large, nationwide providers, and do not reflect the exact cost we pay for these channels.