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!

Each year, an independent committee typically selects four students from Wolfe, Morgan, Menifee and Elliott counties and one student from Bath County to receive a $3,000 four-year scholarship to offset the cost of tuition and books. The scholarships are awarded based on grade point average and a written essay.

Mountain Telephone has awarded scholarships since 1988, when it first partnered with Morehead State University. Through the partnership, students receiving scholarships must attend MSU. Mountain will pay half of the scholarship funds, and MSU will cover the remainder. Over the past 25 years, Mountain has awarded scholarships to more than 400 students.

Application forms are mailed to every high school senior in all our served counties. If anyone has not received an application, they can print one at, or they can get one from their school guidance counselor. For more information call 606-743-3121.

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.

Space: The next frontier for students at MSU

By Brian Lazenby

Will Barrette, a senior in MSU’s space program, displays a satellite he built and launched last year in the Black Rock Desert.

Will Barrette, a senior in MSU’s space program, displays a satellite he built and launched last year in the Black Rock Desert.

Will Barrette launched a satellite in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, last year that outperformed technology giants such as Google and Intel.

The launch of Barrette’s “CanSat,” a satellite roughly the size of a soft drink can, was part of an annual competition to successfully design and launch a satellite from a rocket at about 10,000 feet. Barrette’s plan was to launch his satellite and broadcast Wi-Fi from that altitude, which would then transmit a live video signal from a camera in the satellite to the ground.

He says it was about 95 percent successful.

“I didn’t have much faith in it,” says Barrette, 19, of the satellite he built for less than $200. “I was prepared for it to fail, but it exceeded expectations.”

The only fault in the test was that the satellite shook violently during the launch, which caused the camera to reboot. Barrette didn’t get all the camera footage he had hoped for, but the attempt to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal at 10,000 feet was a success.

Google and Intel also launched satellites attempting the same thing, but their tests were not as successful as Barrette’s. Both companies have since contacted the senior at Morehead State University, and now Intel wants him to use their Edison 3 processor in his next launch.

Barrette, who attended Menifee County High School and the elite Gatton Academy, declined to say whether he will take them up on their offer, but he is now working on a new “pocket cube” satellite project that he says he can’t talk about yet.

Bluegrass rocket science

When you think about NASA, outer space and satellites, you probably think of Houston, Texas, or Cape Canaveral, Florida. But the space science program at MSU is giving students like Barrette hands-on experience with meaningful astrophysics research.

The Space Science Center at MSU is a division of the Department of Earth and Space Science in the College of Science and Technology. It houses MSU’s space science program of distinction and has become an important center for research in micro- and nano-satellite technologies, which involves the study of small, inexpensive but highly capable satellites that are now being used by NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, aerospace companies and universities around the globe.

Dr. Robert Kroll, a professor at MSU’s Space Science Center, operates the 21-meter satellite dish on campus.

Dr. Robert Kroll, a professor at MSU’s Space Science Center, operates the 21-meter satellite dish on campus.

Dr. Robert Kroll, a professor and researcher at MSU’s Space Center, says most people in Eastern Kentucky have no idea the facility is here.

“We are known internationally, but not locally,” he says. “It is the best-kept secret in Kentucky.”

The program was founded by Dr. Ben Malphrus in a small closet, but after moving into multiple locations — each a little bigger than the one before — a modern Space Science Center was built in 2009. NASA now contracts with the program to build and test satellites prior to launch.

The program is also home to one of the only 21-meter satellite dishes in the country. The large dish can be seen sitting on a hill overlooking the campus and is used to track satellites as they pass in orbit high overhead the Kentucky sky.

“We do a lot of different things with NASA,” Kroll says. “We can do everything here but launch the satellites.”

A space future

Professors at the Space and Science Center call Barrette one of the program’s “shining stars.”

Will Barrette talks about the satellite he built and successfully launched.

Will Barrette talks about the satellite he built and successfully launched.

But Barrette, who now has the attention of both Intel and Google, humbly shrugged at the notion that either company might want him on their staff. He has no immediate plans to join forces with a tech company, NASA or a space engineering firm. He is preparing to graduate soon with a Bachelor of Science in space systems engineering. He plans to spend the summer conducting research in Brazil before continuing his education at MSU in graduate school.

“I could have gone to UK or WKU, but this has everything that I want,” he says. “It is the community here that allowed me to go to the desert and do those things. That’s why I came to Morehead State. I knew I couldn’t get that anywhere else.”

In addition to being part of a program that is conducting meaningful space research, Barrette says he was attracted to the program because of the open access he has to the professors, equipment and some of the best minds in the field.

MSU has a 21-meter dish that tracks satellites across the sky.

MSU has a 21-meter dish that tracks satellites across the sky.

“We can do almost anything here,” he says.

Because most kids in rural Kentucky never consider a career in space engineering, Kroll says it is not enough to simply inspire the students within the program at MSU. It is vital to get the younger generation interested in science and space technology.

“We want to teach our kids not to be dependent on technology, but to master it,” he says.

For more information about the program, visit or

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

Preserving the past, embracing the future

Lynn Nickell always loved history. He always enjoyed talking to people and hearing their stories, and he especially loved old, black-and-white photographs.

Lynn Nickell sits at his desk, where he now uses Mountain’s high-speed Internet to research for his history pictorials.

Lynn Nickell sits at his desk, where he now uses Mountain’s high-speed Internet to research for his history pictorials.

Nickell put that passion to work and has written 22 books about Morgan County and its people. They are pictorials mostly, each with about 700 photos over 250 pages with captions identifying the people and describing the circumstances of the image.

“I’ve accumulated thousands of pictures over the years,” he says. “I just love those old photographs.”

Special delivery

Nickell grew up in a slower time, when people talked to one another and sent handwritten letters through the U.S. Postal Service. Both of those things served him well.

It was 1951 when Nickell became the first rural letter carrier in Morgan County. It was a job that allowed him to do what he truly enjoyed — talk with the people along his route, many of whom couldn’t read or write. He would often read their letters to them or write a reply. But mostly he loved hearing their stories.

But times have changed. The most common things delivered by mail today are bills and advertisements. And most people would rather send an electronic message than have a conversation.

Nickell’s process of researching the subjects of his photos and compiling the information for his books has changed, too. He used to spend countless hours researching and gathering information, poring through old books and records to identify people in photographs or looking up old pictures on microfiche. But the Internet and broadband technology from Mountain Telephone has made that task much easier.

“It used to take a lot of research for the caption for a single photograph,” Nickell says. “Now I am on the Internet five to six hours a day, and I love it.”

Researching the photos was always Nickell’s favorite part of putting his books together. Now that task is quick and easy — thanks to Mountain’s fiber optic technology.

Once the research is done, it’s easier to protect than paper documents and printed photos. Nickell learned the hard way in 2012 when he lost his office and many of his photographs during the March 2 tornado. He now has them all stored digitally. A high-speed connection allows photographers like Nickell to back up photos and other data off-site to ensure they don’t lose any files in the event of a disaster like the tornadoes.

“A computer is a wonderful thing — you’ve got the world at your fingertips,” he says. “And I never could spell, so Spell Check is a wonderful tool.”

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

Sarah’s Place

Meeting needs and empowering moms

Sister Sarah “Sally” Neale wasn’t satisfied as a nurse. She wanted to help the people of Elliott County, but her work in health care wasn’t enough.

“I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t the answer to many of the problems I was seeing,” says Sister Sally, a Catholic nun.

After talking to many women in the community, she learned that the biggest needs were job training and child care services. With this in mind, Sister Sally and Sister Maritia Smith opened Sarah’s Place in 1999 to begin filling those gaps.

“Our mission is to empower people with the tools they need to succeed,” Sister Sally says. “We focus on women and their children because it is really hard for moms to improve their situation.”

Two of the most popular services at Sarah’s Place are the nurse’s aide health care certification program and the child development program, which is the only state-approved child care facility in Elliott County.

Chief Executive Officer Ashley Traylor helps procure grant funds for the program.

Chief Executive Officer Ashley Traylor helps procure grant funds for the program.

The grant-funded, not-for-profit program expanded to include surrounding counties and has helped thousands of people improve their lives. Last year alone, Sarah’s Place provided more than 27,000 services to almost 5,000 families, triaged more than 3,400 phone calls for help, provided more than 16,500 hours of services to clients and taught nine classes.

“We really are a resource center,” Sister Sally says. “We get questions about everything. We may not be able to do anything about it, but we can refer them to someone who can.”

Aside from providing valuable job skills, one of the best things about the nurse’s aide program is the way it embraces technology to teach much of the coursework online. This is valuable for single moms who can participate in the class without worrying about what they will do with their children.

The program is primarily an online course, but students are required to come in to demonstrate their proficiency.

The program is primarily an online course, but students are required to come in to demonstrate their proficiency.

Nurse’s aide students will still have to come to the Sarah’s Place facility in Sandy Hook to demonstrate the skills they have learned, but the Child Development Center at Sarah’s Place allows them to drop off their children there during class and once they get jobs.

Ashley Traylor, chief executive officer at Sarah’s Place, says the facility also offers CPR and first-aid training, family caregiver classes to help families understand about caring for a sick or elderly family member and parenting classes. It also houses an income-based food pantry program that provides monthly groceries to those in need.

“We want to do the most good that we can,” Traylor says. “Sister Sally and Sister Maritia have a real love for this community, and they are willing to do anything they can to help people.”

Students in the nurse’s aide program at Sarah’s Place demonstrate the skills they have learned in the program.

Students in the nurse’s aide program at Sarah’s Place demonstrate the skills they have learned in the program.

In the future, the facility hopes to provide classes in Morgan and Carter counties for people with limited transportation as well as provide basic computer classes.

“Technology is the way of the future; there is no doubt about it,” Sister Sally says. “Many people have very basic computer skills, and we hope to provide computer training in the future.”

For more information about Sarah’s Place, visit or search for them on Facebook. You can also call them at 606-738-4270.

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 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:

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:
Layla shares her love of cottage style with readers.
Tracey describes herself striving to create beauty in her heart and in her home.
KariAnne shares her transition from the big city to a slower-paced, happier life.