Looking for a good outdoor project this spring? Plant a tree!

bigstock-Tree-in-hands-55696661As spring arrives, homeowners start thinking about outdoor do-it-yourself projects that will add to the enjoyment of their homes while increasing its value.

One of the best investments a homeowner can make isn’t a swimming pool or a deck. Planting trees, when done correctly, will deliver pleasure — and financial rewards — for years to come.

The secret to tree-planting success, however, is two-fold: planting the right tree in the right location.

The Right Tree

There are many factors to consider when selecting a tree to plant on your property:

  • How tall will it grow?
  • How fast will it grow?
  • How much sun does it need?
  • What shape will it be at maturity?
  • What temperature extremes can it withstand?

Visit www.arborday.org/states and click on your state to learn what hardiness zone you live in and what trees grow well in your area.

The Right Location

If you select the perfect tree but plant it in the wrong spot, you could cause problems for yourself, your neighbors and even utility workers in the future.

bigstock-Isolated-Chickadee-On-A-Stump-47425411The illustration below shows what could be the most important tip in adding trees to your property. Never plant trees near a utility pole if those trees will grow more than 25 feet in height. Limbs growing into telecommunications or electricity lines can interrupt service for you and your neighbors, as well as cause additional work (sometimes dangerous work) for those who maintain the utility lines.

A pick and a shovel will be helpful, but the most important tool when planting trees is information. Your local nursery is often a great place to learn more about the varieties that grow well in your community. Every state has a forestry commission or department. And the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org) is one of the best-known resources to help homeowners make good tree-planting decisions.

Why plant a tree?*

  • Trees can add value to your home — as much as 15% by some estimates.
  • Trees can lower your heating bills by 10-20%.
  • Trees can lower your cooling bills by 15-35%.
  • Trees can provide shelter and food for songbirds and other wildlife.

*Source: www.arborday.org



Before you plant a tree:

  • Look up to make sure the tree you are planting is far enough away from utility lines.
  • Call “811” to have underground utilities located, to ensure you don’t dig into lines. You could interrupt power, broadband, phone, gas or water for you and your neighbors! 

Scam Alert

The National Do Not Call Registry will never call you

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry, hang up immediately.

The National Do Not Call Registry website, found at www.donotcall.gov, allows visitors to register a phone number, verify a registration and submit a complaint against a telemarketer.

The National Do Not Call Registry website, found at www.donotcall.gov, allows visitors to register a phone number, verify a registration and submit a complaint against a telemarketer.

The Federal Trade Commission has posted the following warning on the registry website:

“Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls.”

The website, www.donotcall.gov, allows citizens to register their phone numbers, thereby limiting the telemarketing calls they receive. Telemarketers covered by the National Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date a phone number is registered to stop calling.

Tip: To protect themselves and their assets, citizens should never provide information to a caller asking for sensitive data such as date of birth, Social Security number and account numbers.



Rural telcos and electric cooperatives host joint Emergency Preparedness Summit

Utility leaders come together to focus on preparing for disasters

When disaster strikes, the quick restoration of telecommunications networks is vital to a community's recovery efforts.

When disaster strikes, the quick restoration of telecommunications networks is vital to a community’s recovery efforts.

When a region is struck by a natural disaster, quickly restoring power and lines of communication is a critical first step in rebuilding neighborhoods, communities and lives. Leaders among U.S. telecommunications companies and electric cooperatives recently gathered in the nation’s capital to learn how to better prepare for potential disasters such as ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

The Emergency Preparedness Summit, held in November in Washington, D.C., was co-hosted by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). The summit focused on emergency preparedness issues for rural utilities, covering such topics as emergency planning; federal, state and local policy issues; recovery after an event; best practices; mitigation and the mutual assistance network. Utilities also learned ways that social media is becoming an important tool for disseminating news to communities.

Retired Army Lt. General Russel L. Honoré was the keynote speaker for the event. As Commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, he led the U.S. Department of Defense response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

“General Honoré had the crowd on its feet by the end of his talk,” says Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer of NTCA.  “He preached the importance of ‘getting to the left side of disaster’ by being prepared.

“He also highlighted the incremental costs that will be spared,” she adds, “by working to prepare in advance, instead of cleaning up the aftermath of any disaster — natural, man-made or cyber.”

Utility leaders also heard from Tim Bryan, chief executive officer of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, who talked about plans for the nation’s first interoperable, public-safety broadband network known as the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

—From NTCA reports



Are you a cyberbully?

Digital Citizenship

By Carissa Swenson


Childhood bullying has always been a concern. It is one of the unfortunate parts of growing up. I saw it as I grew up, my parents saw it and my kids see it today.

However, something has changed. The traditional bully has an even more evil twin — the cyberbully. Cyberbullies may never physically touch their victims, but through technology they can inflict much more damage on those they aim to hurt.

Today, a cyberbully can access their victims almost any time. They use multiple platforms to cause damage. From cell phones to social media to email, they stay connected to taunt their victims.

Some quick facts about cyberbullying:

  • Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims — and perpetrators — of cyberbullying.
  • Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
  • 1 in 6 parents know their child has been bullied online.

In the next “Digital Citizenship” article, I will provide tips and advice on how to identify and respond to cyberbullying.

To find more information about cyberbullying, along with some great resources for teachers, parents and teens, visit these sites: www.stopbullying.gov and cyberbullying.us

Carissa Swenson is the owner and technology specialist of TechTECS, a technology training, education, consulting and support company.


The IP Evolution

Regulations need to change to support consumer demand for standalone broadband

Basic telephone service provides a reliable connection with family members, emergency services and business opportunities. Many people today, however, use other methods for their daily conversations. Even in rural areas like ours, there is growing demand for standalone broadband Internet service that comes without the requirement of a landline phone.

America is undergoing an IP Evolution as technology makes it possible to connect and communicate via Internet Protocol, the standardized method used to transmit information between devices across the Internet.

America is undergoing an IP Evolution as technology makes it possible to connect and communicate via Internet Protocol, the standardized method used to transmit information between devices across the Internet.

While rural telecommunications companies across the nation understand and acknowledge this trend, their hands are tied when it comes to offering a true standalone broadband service. This is one of the areas telcos are addressing as a group through NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.

NTCA has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider changes to rules that punish consumers who would prefer standalone broadband. “The Universal Service system needs to be designed to accommodate those consumers who are looking for broadband but may not want telephone service,” says Mike Romano, senior vice president of policy for NTCA.

Currently, telcos such as ours receive Universal Service support based upon whether a consumer chooses to take telephone service. Universal Service is a fee that is paid within the industry to ensure we achieve maximum value from the nation’s interconnected networks. Telecommunications companies pay into the fund, then draw from the fund based on the cost of serving consumers in their area.

“If a consumer only wants broadband, Universal Service support is lost for that consumer’s line — and their broadband rates skyrocket as a result,” explains Romano. “That is an unsustainable and, frankly, somewhat questionable public policy result of a system that is supposedly being repositioned to support broadband.

“We’ve urged the FCC to fix that,” Romano continues. “We have been in very productive conversations with them, but there are still many details to be ironed out.”

As your telecommunications provider, we will continue to work on this issue with our fellow companies through our national association. We will make sure rural consumers have a voice at the table as Washington develops regulations to guide us through the IP Evolution.

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. 


Local headend operation improves TV service

Are you enjoying television programming from Mountain Telephone TV in high definition?

If not, there are almost twice as many reasons to start. If you are, your enjoyment just doubled.

For more information about Mountain’s television services, visit www.mrtc.com or call 607-743-3121.

For more information about Mountain’s television services, visit www.mrtc.com or call 607-743-3121.

Because MTTV is relocating its video headend — the point where a television service’s signals originate — members will see an increase in channels in crystal clear HD.

Under a previous contract, MTTV’s headend was at a remote site run by a separate company in California. When that contract ended, MTTV was able to set up similar equipment locally, giving managers more control over the programming and channel lineup.

“This gives us the ability to offer more HD channels right away,” says Travis Keaton, network engineer at MTTV. “We can offer channels now that we couldn’t offer before because our previous provider didn’t carry them.”

The locally controlled headend will allow MTTV to offer a more robust lineup of high-definition channels and a better signal.

“It gives us the control to repair something without having to wait on someone in California to fix it,” Keaton says.

And in the long run, the new operation will cost less.

“It is expensive right up front, but in the long run it will save us money,” Keaton says. “We built it with what we feel is enough capacity to add channels in the future without adding more equipment.”

In touch with business

Businesses have special needs. Of course, they often have special Internet and broadband requirements, but they also have special telephone needs. Mountain Telephone is meeting those needs and making sure businesses are operating as efficiently as possible.


Ollie Riggsby, left, and Steven Gullett are dedicated to finding the right communication system for your business.

Ollie Riggsby and Steven Gullett are dedicated to making sure Mountain Telephone’s business customers have the telephone system that is best for them and ensuring that it is working as it should.

Riggsby says they talk to the business managers to determine what system best meets their needs. “We try to stay as current as possible with the latest technology,” he says.

Almost all businesses need voice mail. But the newest thing businesses want is a voice over Internet protocol system, commonly referred to as voice over IP.

Voice over IP is technology that allows telephone systems to operate over a broadband Internet connection like the one MRTC provides. The advanced telephone system operates more efficiently.

The IP phone system allows office staff to transfer calls more seamlessly between offices or branch locations, immediately tell if someone is on another line and use an interoffice one-button calling system. It also allows technicians to access the system remotely to make any needed repairs without being on site.

Other features of the system allow employees to stay connected no matter where they are. For instance, users can set their phone to automatically forward calls to their mobile phone or they can take a phone set home and plug it into a broadband connection; the phone will then work remotely just as if it is in the office.

To find out if a voice over IP phone system is right for your business, call MRTC at 606-743-3121 or 800-939-3121 and ask for Ollie or Steven.

Understanding your bill

Mountain Telephone tries to make your bill clear and easy to understand, but questions still arise. Mountain Telephone is required by law to include a number of taxes and fees, and the terminology for some of them can be confusing. Maria Motley, a Mountain Telephone customer service representative, explains some of the frequently misunderstood terms.

Maria Motley, a customer service representative at Mountain Telephone, fields numerous questions from members about the terminology in their telephone bills.

Maria Motley, a customer service representative at Mountain Telephone, fields numerous questions from members about the terminology in their telephone bills.

Regulated charges – Services that are regulated by the government. Fees for regulated services are set by state or federal agencies. Typical regulated services include connection to the Central Office and local usage fees, service features such as call waiting or caller ID, 911 service fees, and associated state and federal taxes.

Unregulated charges – Unregulated charges are price schedules and fees applied to services not regulated by the government. Fees for unregulated services are set by the local service provider. Unregulated services typically include inside wiring, telephone rental, equipment maintenance fees and associated state and federal taxes.

Proration – Mountain Telephone bills customers for basic services a month in advance. Therefore, a customer’s initial bill is often higher because customers are billed from the day the service is installed up to the bill date, plus one month in advance. Bills for subsequent months will include only fees for the current month.

Subscriber line charge – A regulated charge that allows a local telephone service provider to collect a portion of the costs for operating and maintaining the facilities necessary to provide dial tone for all customers.

Access line charge – A regulated fee charged to access a telephone provider’s local telecommunications network

Payments the way you want it

Mountain Telephone understands that everyone is busy in this hectic and fast-paced world. That is why we want to make our services as easy and convenient for you as possible. To do this, Mountain Telephone offers multiple ways to pay, so you can choose the best option to fit your lifestyle.

Auto Debit

The most convenient method of payment is our Auto Debit method, which automatically deducts your payment from your checking account. You can still receive a bill, but your payment will be automatically deducted on the 10th of every month.


You can pay your bill online through our eBill service on our website. Visit www.mrtc.com and click “Pay Your Bill.” You will be directed to a login screen that will walk you through how to securely pay your bill without having to leave your home. You will be given a confirmation number to show that your payment has been received.

Mail, phone or in person

If you prefer to mail your payment to Mountain Telephone, we can accommodate that, too. You can also make your payment on the phone by calling 606-743-3121, and we will gladly accept payments in person at our West Liberty office. Payments can also be made through the 10th of each month at Citizens Bank in West Liberty, First National Bank and Kentucky Bank in Sandy Hook and all Bank of the Mountains locations.