Fiber-powered phones keep a business connected

A new MRTC phone system connects clients to the Ison Insurance Agency’s (left to right) Lisa Collins, Amanda Frazier, “Flo”, Kate Kemplin and Ashley Roseberry.

A new MRTC phone system connects clients to the Ison Insurance Agency’s (left to right) Lisa Collins, Amanda Frazier, “Flo”, Kate Kemplin and Ashley Roseberry.

Faced with news this winter that a storm was headed for Eastern Kentucky, John Ison’s six-member staff set the office telephone system to transfer calls to their mobile phones.

As inches and inches of snow closed roads, the team of the Ison Insurance Agency in West Liberty kept working.

“When the blizzard did come, we were basically trapped at home for three days,” Ison says. “But, we didn’t miss a beat.”

The flexible, business-class phone system was relatively new to the company, which turned to MRTC to modernize an existing communications setup.

Running on MRTC’s fiber network, the new system offered a range of key features: call forwarding, automated greetings, direct-dial extensions and “awesome” headsets, Ison says.

Most importantly, the system’s reliability allowed the business to function when insurance customers needed it most.

“We didn’t lose productivity on those days,” Ison says. “And, we were able to help our people. That’s the most important thing. The system worked as well as it possibly could.”

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.

MRTC’s future is now

Residents of Mountain Telephone’s service area have something many larger cities only dream of — access to fiber optic technology and the most advanced data network available.

Matt Daniel checks fiber optic connections in MRTC’s Central Office.

Matt Daniel checks fiber optic connections in MRTC’s Central Office.

The fiber-to-the-home project is a historic undertaking, and MRTC is now putting the finishing touches on the massive buildout to ensure residents of Eastern Kentucky have access to cutting-edge Internet speeds.

To date, the project involves the installation of more than 1,900 miles of fiber optic cable throughout Bath, Elliott, Menifee, Morgan and Wolfe counties.

“We have never done anything of this magnitude,” says Mountain General Manager Shayne Ison. “The fiber-to-the-home project is historic and will provide benefits to the community for many years to come.”

A fiber cable consists of strands of glass that carry digital information as pulses of light. Unlike traditional copper lines, fiber can transmit data at amazing speeds across great distances with minuscule signal degradation. Access to the network is expected to bring economic and educational opportunities to the region.

Construction crews have completed the main buildout, and many MRTC customers already have access to fiber. Crews continue cutting other members over to the advanced network as part of a plan to upgrade everyone to fiber in the service area.

“Basically, the outside plant construction is complete,” Ison says. “We have a few ‘clean-up’ items remaining, and are working toward finalizing the project.”

Ison says the project initially focused on customers that had dial-up or DSL Internet service, but crews are now cutting others over to fiber, particularly those that add advanced services such as broadband and video.

The possibilities with fiber are endless. Fiber means faster Internet speeds, more video channels, high-definition television, enhanced voice telephone services, increased property values and plentiful opportunities for education and economic growth.

But Mountain’s future doesn’t end with fiber. MRTC has launched local television programming that includes local political forums, community rebuilding efforts, community events and church services. MRTC hopes to include area sporting events once school resumes this fall. Ison says he hopes to continue adding local TV offerings to meet customers’ needs. “Our hope is to continue to see our TV subscriber base grow while evaluating channel packages and plans.”

One of the best things about fiber network, Ison says, is that it not only gives MRTC members incredible access today, but it can also handle whatever technology is coming next.

“Our hope is to continue providing broadband plans to ensure our customers can access the latest apps and gadgets,” he says.

Mountain nears end of historic fiber buildout

Mountain Telephone continues cutting residents over to their fiber network. Fiber is faster and more reliable than traditional copper broadband. To take full advantage of the new technology, call 606-743-3121.

Mountain Telephone continues cutting residents over to their fiber network. Fiber is faster and more reliable than traditional copper broadband. To take full advantage of the new technology, call 606-743-3121.

Mountain Telephone has completed all mainline construction in its fiber-to-the-home project and will now direct its focus to getting members cut over to the high-speed network.

Crews completed construction for the Sandy Hook Phase V contract as well as the Sandy Hook Phase IV contract, which was delayed due to a Department of Transportation road-widening project.

Crews will continue cutting residents over to fiber until customers in the service area has access to the fastest and most advanced data network available.

The harsh winter caused some construction delays, but crews still managed to complete construction work to the primary network. Crews finished the final construction contracts in March.

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as construction goes,” says Rick Pelfrey, plant manager at Mountain Telephone. “Cutover should wrap up in late spring or early summer.”

Pelfrey says some fiber customers may have lost service during some severe winter weather. “An ice storm caused a power outage for six days in some areas and affected fiber customers because their batteries ran down,” he says. Fiber-DSCN1567

The next time an outage like that happens, anyone with a generator can plug the ONT battery into it for a charge in order to maintain service.

Mountain Telephone members who have been cut over to the fiber network but have not yet signed up for the voice, broadband data and HD video services Mountain offers are not getting the full benefits of fiber technology. Members are encouraged to call Mountain’s business office at 606-743-3121 to learn more and place an order today.

 

 

Fiber project nears completion

Mountain Telephone is on track to complete its fiber-to-the-home project on time and under budget.

Rick Pelfrey, plant manager at Mountain Telephone, says crews are only a couple of months away from completing the project despite winter weather that delayed work to the main fiber network.

MRTC’s Jerry Hampton cuts residents over to the fiber network in the final step in Mountain’s fiber-to-the-home project.

MRTC’s Jerry Hampton cuts residents over to the fiber network in the final step in Mountain’s fiber-to-the-home project.

“We don’t allow our crews to do work on fiber when the temperature is below freezing,” Pelfrey says. “The fiber can become brittle, and it can be damaged.”

Despite delays, Pelfrey says the project’s estimated completion date has not changed. He expects it will be complete this spring.

“We hope to finish all cutover this spring,” he says. “We feel we can do this because our cutover crews are keeping up with construction crews.”

Construction is finished on the Sandy Hook Phase V contract, Pelfrey says. Crews are in the process of cutting residents over to the new network.

Fiber buildout continues for the Sandy Hook Phase IV project, which was delayed due to a Department of Transportation road-widening project. The DOT project is complete and fiber work is underway.

In the Frenchburg Phase V project, crews are about 80 percent complete.

Mountain’s fiber-to-the-home project appears to be on budget.

“We might have enough money left over to build some additional fiber,” Pelfrey says. “Our in-house crews continue building fiber, and any new customers, video (television) customers and DSL customers are all going to fiber.”

Mountain Telephone members who have been cut over to the fiber network but do not have all the voice, broadband data and HD video services Mountain offers are not getting the full benefits of fiber technology. Members are encouraged to call Mountain’s business office at 606 743-3121 to learn more and place an order today.

Wireless needs wires

Why your cell phone would not work without the wired landline network

When this company was formed decades ago, our mission was to provide reliable telephone service to our region. Telephone service was the single most important method of communicating quickly with family, businesses or emergency services — across town or across the country.

bigstock-Smartphone-application-concept-34815812Today there are more cell phones in America than there are people. Users talk trillions of minutes each year and send billions of text messages every month. With all this wireless connectivity, do we really need the wired network at all?

Absolutely. The copper and fiber lines that run overhead and underground through the networks of companies like ours play a critical role in moving signals between the more than 300,000 cell sites located across the country. When you use your cell phone to make a call or access the Internet, your connection spends part of its journey on the same network that makes landline calls and Internet connections possible.

“The wireline network is the backbone of our whole telecommunications system. We need wires.” Those were the words of U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who chairs the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, in an interview last fall on C-Span (www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Pryor). AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson expressed a similar sentiment last year in a Forbes magazine article when he said, “The more wireless we become, the more fixed-line dependent we become.”

According to a Foundation for Rural Service whitepaper*, the components of a wireless phone network are:

Cell phone: The device you use to make the call

Cell site: A radio transceiver that connects the caller to the network

Mobile switching center: The “brains” that control all elements of the wireless network

Interexchange switching and transport network: The equipment that connects the wireless network to other wireless or wireline networks

The transport network is where we come in. Without our network of wires, your wireless phone calls would never be connected. So the next time you reach for your cell phone to make a call or check your email, remember that it’s the wireline companies like ours that are helping make that connection possible.

 *The whitepaper “Wireless Needs Wires: The Vital Role of Rural Networks in Completing the Call” was produced by the Foundation for Rural Service and authored by GVNW. To order a complimentary copy of the full paper, visit www.frs.org.