Bringing Congress to Rural America

By Jim Cook
General Manager

For the past few years, the Foundation for Rural Service has brought a busload of congressional staff members through rural America. This is a big opportunity.

This year’s tour, which wound through the hills of Eastern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, saw the biggest group of legislative aides yet go on the tour. The 2014 tour went through upstate New York, and the 2013 tour exposed the staffers to rural Montana.

FRS took these bright, young staffers — most of whom work for representatives and senators on key commerce, technology and communications committees — out of Washington, D.C., to see what rural broadband looks like firsthand.

The staffers came from across the country, representing places such as Salt Lake City, the Dallas suburbs, Central Florida and the Research Triangle in North Carolina. Before moving to the nation’s capital, many of them lived in big cities, such as Chicago. For some, this bus trip may have been the first time they’d ever spent in an area that could be considered rural.

It was good for them to hear rural business owners, hospital administrators and local officials talk about the importance of a broadband connection. It was good for them to see how vibrant rural communities are, and how important cooperatives like ours are to those residents.

And it’s important for them to understand the challenges rural telcos face in building a network that may cost tens of thousands of dollars each mile, with as few as five customers per mile.

Long term, Congress and Washington regulators play a significant role in the strength of our telco and our industry, through issues such as the Universal Service Fund. As you’ve read in this space before, the USF provides funding that allows rural, high-cost providers like us a way to recoup the investments we’ve made in our communities and still provide telephone and broadband service at a price local residents can afford.
Cooperatives like ours work closely with FRS and NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association to make sure rural voices are heard among elected officials and policymakers. We’re about to move into a busy election year in 2016, and their work will be more important than ever. You can read more about that in Shirley Bloomfield’s column on Page 2.

Rural telephone companies like ours have a great story to tell, and it’s a story that our country’s leaders need to hear. We are providing service in areas that for-profit companies will not serve, and local residents depend on our network to work, play, shop, learn and connect with friends and family.
I am proud of the work FRS, NTCA and our fellow telcos are doing to bring our voice to leaders in Washington. And I’m proud every day that you’ve trusted NHTC to connect you to the world.

Company News

Meet Amy

Amy DeenAmy Reavis Deen is the newest addition to the NHTC family, joining as an Accounts Payable Representative. She is a lifelong resident of New Hope and graduated from New Hope High School in 2000. She is the mother of four, including Zac, 22; Christopher, 17; Carson, 11 and Will, 6. She joins the NHTC team with 12 years of prior customer service experience at Citizens Bank & Trust.

Visit to the VMAs

VMA Nicole ReedNHTC congratulates New Hope resident Nicole Reed – winner of tickets for two to MTV’s Video Music Awards back in August. Nicole was selected from thousands of entrants nationwide. The tickets were courtesy of MTV and the National Cable Television
Cooperative.

Costs for TV programming continue to rise

As your local cooperative, NHTC strives to bring you the highest-quality service possible at the lowest rates possible. In an effort to bring you the best possible service, NHTC has created a robust lineup of channels offering something for most everyone. We now offer up to 260 channels on our fiber network and up to 170 channels on our cable network.

Unfortunately, the network providers that we get our programming from have increased their rates year after year to the point where we have once again been forced to pass a portion of those increases on to our subscribers.

We want our members to know that NHTC is not alone in the struggle against continually increasing content costs. In a recent survey, conducted by Vantage Point Solutions, over 54% of rural video providers saw an increase of 100% or more in the retransmission fees that must be paid to the Television Broadcast providers to carry the local broadcast stations. Over two-thirds of the survey respondents acknowledge their video offerings are unprofitable and said that if the trend continues they were not likely to offer video service five years from now.

NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association which represents rural providers like NHTC continues to lobby the Federal Communications Commission to review and reform retransmission consent regulations to ensure that small rural video providers have access to affordable broadcast programming content.

NHTC will continue to offer video services so that you may choose the convenience of bundling all of your services, including voice, video, internet and security on one bill and we will continue to lobby the Federal regulators on your behalf for fair and equitable access to affordable programming.
Thank you for your business and support.

Growth through grass-roots group

Economic development and expansion is occurring locally as (from left) Joseph Conwell and Larry Durham meet with builder J W Cobb at a home on Embassy Circle in the new Cobb’s Cove subdivision.

Economic development and expansion is occurring locally as (from left) Joseph Conwell and Larry Durham meet with builder J W Cobb at a home on Embassy Circle in the new Cobb’s Cove subdivision.


By Matt Ledger

Larry Durham, who grew up in southeast Madison County and now owns Durham Service Company, Inc., recognized local entrepreneurs could benefit from a dose of teamwork. “There was no vehicle here for businesses to come together to express concerns to the government, and there were no networking opportunities.”

So, Durham, along with some other business owners in the community, decided to form the Southeast Madison County Business Association (SEMCBA) one week after a conversation with Allen Paseur a retired teacher and football coach at New Hope High School, who owns Paseur Farms.

The 4-year-old SEMCBA has 50 members, including community leaders, educators and individuals. Membership fees are $125 for businesses and $25 for individuals.

Once the group formed, members contacted state Senator Clay Scofield for help. “He wants to work with this community because we are on the edge of his district,” Durham says. “He donated money to help get us off the ground.” Scofield provided TVA funds that are allocated to him to use in his district for business development projects.

Reaching out

The grass-roots organization sponsors outreach events in the community — most recently an open house. “In the last year, we’ve really tried to focus on how we can shine a light on our community,” SEMCBA President Joseph Conwell says. He’s served in that post for the past two years, after Durham held the post for the first two years. The group will be nominating and electing new officers in January.

The association emphasizes the improved graduation rates at New Hope High School, as well as other advances at Owens Cross Roads and New Hope Elementary Schools.

“Our area has gotten a bad rap over time because we’re rural, so sometimes people think our schools aren’t as good. The statistics don’t prove that. NHHS’ numbers are climbing, and we’ve seen dramatic improvements in recent years,” Conwell says.

Their group wanted to emphasize the statistics to realtors, who can boost growth in the area. “We sponsored an open house for all of the area realtors to come and see the schools. The principals even gave a presentation and discussed several topics with the realtors who came to the event,” Durham says.

SEMCBA is always looking for new opportunities to partner with local organizations. Meetings are the second Monday of each month, alternating between the Owens Cross Roads and New Hope town halls. At most meetings, mayors are present, as well as County Commissioner Eddie Sisk. Often, school principals attend.

“Where else can you go and have an open forum to discuss issues with that many elected leaders under one roof? I think it’s a good thing a lot of people don’t know about,” Conwell says.

While the organization hopes to emphasize the success of the schools, there is also a benefit for educators to understand the needs of businesses. “We wanted to work with local government to give business folks in this area a voice, and to let schools understand what the needs are of the business community,” Durham says.

Similarly, the association works to inform many of the area’s business owners about available resources. “I’m surprised how many people live here and don’t know what services are available to them,” Durham says.

The association firmly believes that growth is on its way and local businesses are helping pave the way. “At NHTC, we believe in investing in our communities through economic development,” says NHTC General Manager Jim Cook, also a member of SEMCBA. “We are currently doing a 100 percent buildout of replacing copper with fiber.”
This buildout allows businesses, along with residences, to take advantage of NHTC’s state-of-the-art fiber connectivity and as much bandwidth as they need. “The infrastructure is here to support whatever growth desires to come this way,” Cook says.

Communication for growth

The organization also has an open line of communication with state government. An original member of SEMCBA, Ritchie Whorton was elected as House District 22 State Representative.

Whorton is the owner of All Star Pools Inc, and was instrumental in marketing and growing the SEMCBA membership. “The community made a great decision in electing Ritchie; he’s doing a great job. He stepped out and became a leader of this freshman class,” Durham says. “Whorton’s presence in the state legislature places the entire community in a positive light.”

And, along with local lawmakers, several politicians have come up from Montgomery to meet with the group. “We’re starting to get collaboration. That’s what it takes. Business and government have to work together for a community to grow,” Durham says.

Back in the game: Local alumni defend their home turf

New Hope Alumni Team
The Friday night lights continued to shine bright for local high school alumni who strapped on the pads one more time to challenge their rivals. And they raised money for charity, too.

The second annual alumni football game fundraiser was Aug. 8 at Madison County High School in Gurley. This year, the New Hope Indians continued their winning ways by beating the Madison County Tigers 16-0. The Indians also won last year 18-12 in overtime.

The men, some more than two decades past their high school days, didn’t let the fact that they’ve been out of practice for a while curb their enthusiasm.

“Last year, I was the oldest person on the team,” 44-year-old David Whitaker says. He played defensive end and sacked the quarterback during the game.

This year he gave the honor of being the oldest player to another friend and former teammate, Harold Manley. “I had told him, ‘Harold, you’re going to wish you had played. It’s worth it to get under the lights one more time,’” Whitaker says.

So Manley, 45, not only played on the team this year, but his son, Zack, also joined the team. “It’s something you can’t explain,” he says. “I’m his dad, but in the huddle I’m his teammate.”

While Manley was the oldest on the team, the youngest player was Zack, a 2013 New Hope High School graduate and current student at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. It’s a sense of pride that can’t be explained, Manley says about wearing the same uniform as his son. Manley, a 1990 NHHS graduate, played wide receiver during the alumni game.

“I’ve got another son, and I’m trying to talk him into playing, too,” Manley says. “If that happens, I won’t play again.”

Each team exceeded their initial goal of raising $10,000. New Hope High School raised $10,300, and Madison County High School raised $12,500. As the home team, Madison received concession profits. All proceeds from the game are earmarked for each school’s football program.

The committee made a decision to rotate the location every year so each school has an opportunity to benefit from the parking and concession profits. Each team was allowed to use their respective school’s equipment, except for the uniforms.

Alumni cheerleaders cheered the men on, and the Madison County High School band also performed during halftime.
For competitors such as Manley and Whitaker, the game creates new sports memories.
“I love the game of football,” Whitaker says. “It was the experience of a lifetime. It had been 26 years since I strapped on pads and played football.”

It certainly won’t be the last time he steps foot on the field either. Whitaker says he plans to play in next year’s game.

Meet the 2016 NHTC Board members

The New Hope Telephone Cooperative’s Board of Directors following the annual meeting on May 19. (Front row, from left) Jeffrey Cantrell, secretary; Jim Duncan, president; Garland Elders, vice president; and Mike Whitaker, treasurer. (Back row, from left) Andrew Sieja, NHTC attorney; Jim Cook, general manager; Jeff Cooper; Barry Jones; Greg Glover; Randy Morrison; Calvin Bearden; and Mac Martinson, NHTC attorney.

The New Hope Telephone Cooperative’s Board of Directors following the annual meeting on May 19. (Front row, from left) Jeffrey Cantrell, secretary; Jim Duncan, president; Garland Elders, vice president; and Mike Whitaker, treasurer. (Back row, from left) Andrew Sieja, NHTC attorney; Jim Cook, general manager; Jeff Cooper; Barry Jones; Greg Glover; Randy Morrison; Calvin Bearden; and Mac Martinson, NHTC attorney.

Calvin Bearden has served on the Board since May and is a 49-year resident of Grant. Bearden graduated from Guntersville High School and has worked as a Tech 3 at Huntsville Hospital for six years. He and his wife, Cheryl, have been married 28 years and have three daughters: Victoria, Lindsey and Chloe.

Jeffrey Cantrell is in his fifth year on the Board and is a 38-year resident of Grant, where he graduated from DAR High School. He’s the facilities manager at Digium and has been there eight years. He has an associate degree from Snead State Community College, a bachelor’s from Athens State University and a Facility Management Professional credential. He and his wife, Christen, have been married 11 years. They have two children: Collin and Olivia.

Jeff Cooper has been on the Board for 26 years and is a 60-year resident of New Hope. He owns Cooper’s Small Engine, which has been in business for 42 years. He and his wife, Tammy, have been married 24 years, and they have four children: Kelli, Jenni, Morgan and Troup.

Jim Duncan has served on the Board for 15 years. He’s a lifetime resident of New Hope and owns D & D Greenhouse, established in 1977. He graduated from New Hope High School, served four years in the Alabama National Guard and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of West Alabama. He and his wife, Gina, have been married 15 years. He has four children: Clay, Lisa, Laura and Cole.

Garland Elders is a nine-year Board member, a lifetime resident of Owens Cross Roads and a realtor. He earned his associate degree in business. He and his wife, Jennifer, have been married nine years. Garland has two stepdaughters, Sydney and Brooke.

Greg Glover has served on the Board since 1998 and is a lifetime resident of Owens Cross Roads. Glover is a landscaper and turf farmer and raises cattle and quarter horses. He attended New Hope High School, Hiwassee College and Alabama A&M. He and his wife, Harriet, have been married 32 years and have one son, Shane.

Barry Jones has served on the Board for 11 years. He’s a 53-year resident of New Hope, graduating from New Hope High School. Jones served in the Army Reserve for six years, retired from the Madison County Water Department after 30 years and co-owns a lawn service. He and his wife, Sandy, have been married 27 years and have two daughters: Brittney and Megan.

Randy Morrison is in his second year on the Board. He grew up on Merrill Mountain and has resided in the Grassy Mountain community on Gunter Mountain for 28 years. He is an alumnus of KDS DAR and Snead State Community College. Randy serves as an elder for the Church of Christ at Owens Cross Roads. He and his wife, Penny, have two children, Dana and Todd, and three grandchildren, Kate, Madi and Averi.

Mike Whitaker has served 11 years on the Board and is a lifetime resident of New Hope, graduating from New Hope High School. He is a plant manager at NHES, where he’s been for 28 years. He and his wife, Melody, have been married seven months. Whitaker has two sons, Josh and Jeremy, and two step-daughters, Audrey and Sarah.

Broadband may be the greatest health care innovation for rural America

NTCA Logo

By Shirley Bloomfield, CEO
NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

When we talk about the impact of broadband Internet access, we often focus on its importance to economic development, business growth and such. While it is absolutely an economic driver, broadband may also be just what the doctor ordered for rural America.

You will sometimes hear it referred to as telemedicine; other times, telehealth. Whatever you call it, the use of broadband technology is changing the way health care is delivered. And I believe we are only seeing the beginning.

For example, electronic medical records are allowing doctors to streamline care, especially for patients in rural areas. A patient who normally visits a rural clinic can be confident that their health information is accurate and up-to-date when they visit a regional hospital.

I wrote in the previous issue of this magazine about aging in place, noting that technologies such as videoconferencing, remote health monitoring and X-ray transmission are helping rural seniors stay at home longer. But the aging population is just one segment that can benefit from broadband-enabled applications.

Recently, I attended a technology showcase that focused on the interconnection between technology providers, health care providers and innovation in telemedicine. It was a fascinating conference that left my mind spinning with the possibilities for rural health care delivery.

We heard from a rural telecommunications provider who said small telcos are often too small to get the main contracts from the base hospitals, but that they have an important role in providing the local infrastructure and having the construction team on the ground. This has helped build the case for having a role in the large clinic and university hospital contracts in the future.

Hugh Cathey of the innovative company HealthSpot provided a real glimpse into what broadband can mean to all segments of society. His company has kiosks in several Rite Aid drug stores in Ohio where patients can walk in and be face-to-face with a healthcare professional via a video screen. These stations come outfitted with everything you need to receive a wide variety of remote treatments. The HealthSpot network has seen thousands of patients since May, for ailments such as allergies, cold and flu, bronchitis, cough, rashes, sore throat and fever.

With applications such as these, it’s easy to get excited about what the future holds for telemedicine. And with the great work being done by your telco and others like it who are building world-class broadband networks, we can know that rural America will not be left behind in this evolution.

Easy steps to help stop telemarketing calls!

If you are like most consumers, you are tired of being disturbed by telemarketing calls. There is help.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have established a National Do Not Call Registry. Joining this registry can drastically reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive.

Here are some important facts about the list:

  • Once registered, telemarketers have 31 days to stop calling your number.
  • You can register up to three non-business telephone numbers. You can register cell phone numbers; there is not a separate registry for cell phones.
  • Your number will remain on the list permanently unless you disconnect the number or you choose to remove it.
  • Some businesses are exempt from the Do Not Call Registry and may still be able to call your number. These include political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors and businesses that you already have a relationship with.

Strict Federal Trade Commission rules for telemarketers make it illegal to do any of the following regardless of whether or not your number is listed on the National Do Not Call Registry:

  • Call before 8 a.m.
  • Call after 9 p.m.
  • Misrepresent what is being offered
  • Threaten, intimidate or harass you
  • Call again after you’ve asked them
    not to

Adding your number to the Do Not Call Registry is easy!
Register online at www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222
For TTY, call 866-290-4236
You must call from the telephone number you wish to register.

Attention local business owners: You can be penalized for not following these FCC rules

When people think of telemarketing phone calls, they usually imagine them coming from distant call centers. But local businesses that make phone calls to customers or potential customers should be aware that the same National Do Not Call Registry rules and regulations apply to them.
The Do Not Call initiative, regulated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), requires telephone service providers to notify customers of the National Do Not Call rules and regulations.

If you are a company, individual or organization that places telemarketing calls, it is very important that you familiarize yourself with the operations of the National Do Not Call Registry. Unless you fall under one of the established exceptions, such as telemarketing by charitable organizations or for prior business relationships, you may not make telemarketing calls to numbers included in the National Do Not Call Registry.

For information regarding National Do Not Call regulations, visit the National Do Not Call registry at www.telemarketing.donotcall.gov. You can find the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission rules governing telemarketing and telephone solicitation at 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200 and 16 C.F.R. Part 310, respectively.

Beware of sales calls disguised as surveys

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says they have received numerous complaints from individuals who report receiving deceptive sales calls. The callers identify themselves with Political Opinions of America and ask you to participate in a brief survey, usually consisting of about three questions. After answering the questions, the individual is transferred to someone offering them a bonus for participating in the survey — usually a sales pitch for a time-share disguised as a “free vacation.”

The FTC warns that if the purpose of the call is to try to sell something — even if it includes a survey — it is telemarketing and all Do Not Call Registry rules apply.

If you believe a call violates the FTC rules against telemarketing, you can file a complaint by calling 888-382-1222 or go to donotcall.gov.