Bringing Congress to Rural America

By Jason Dandridge
Chief Executive Officer

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 PRTC to connect you to the world.

Tech tips: Start backing up your hard drive now!

With the holiday season upon us, think about all of the photos you’re going to take. Think of all of the photos you took last year. Now, imagine all of them disappearing forever in the blink of an eye when your hard drive fails.

How many other irreplaceable photos of Halloween, school plays and other events would you lose if your computer died? It’s not fun to think about, but a little forethought can keep it from happening to you.

Every year at the tech store, we inevitably meet a customer with tears in their eyes because their computer’s hard drive unexpectedly crashed and they lost those priceless memories. You never know when your hard drive might crash. People often think they might see symptoms of a crash coming, but typically this isn’t true. Sometimes a minor power surge or lightning strike can cause a loss of some, or all, of your information. Sometimes, the entire collection of images is gone as quickly as it takes for a burglar to steal your computer.

Don’t let this happen to you — back up your photos and other important digital files at least twice a month!
If you regularly save your files to a backup drive, you can usually restore the last file you saved, no matter if it was lost, stolen, deleted or corrupted. It’s much easier to restore two weeks of data rather than start from the beginning.
There are several options available to back up your information.

An external hard drive that doesn’t require a dedicated power source is a great backup option. External hard drives require no Internet connection to save your files. And since many models are powered by your computer, it provides a truly portable solution. Be aware that these devices are also prone to lightning strikes and power surges, so treat the device with the same care as you would your computer.

Much like the external hard drive, a USB jump drive gives you a portable storage solution. Since these devices are so small, a jump drive is limited in the amount of storage it provides.

There are several cloud storage options, such as Dropbox, iCloud, Amazon Cloud and Google Drive. These options give you great flexibility, allowing you to access your information anywhere you have an Internet connection, and there’s no worry about the device breaking or becoming corrupt or outdated. But, be aware that some services offer a certain amount of storage for free, while others require a monthly fee.

Even with that in mind, a small monthly fee may be worth the peace of mind to know your photos and home movies are safe in the cloud.

Each situation is unique, and while finding the right storage option that fits you is important, the decision to start backing up your information is most important.
The experts at our Retail Center will be happy to discuss your options and see which one might be the best for you.

RECOMMENDED BACKUP OPTIONS

  • External hard drive
  • Amazon Cloud
  • Dropbox
  • iCloud
  • Google Drive

Homegrown bows

Coral McCaskey says selling her bows online has worked so well, she doesn’t need a storefront.

Coral McCaskey says selling her bows online has worked so well, she doesn’t need a storefront.

Mom takes boutique online, leaves day job behind

By Shelly Bradbury

After three years running a homemade custom bow shop, Coral McCaskey is used to strange requests from customers. But even she had to pause when a mother asked for a singing, light-up, “Frozen”-themed hair bow late last year.

“I was like, ‘Are you serious?’” McCaskey remembers, and laughs. “I get amazed at what they want. But I never turn them down — I’m excited to make it.”

Besides, her ‘over-the-top’ bows are a big part of what sets her online shop, Little Lady Boutique, apart from the competition. From her apartment in Walterboro, McCaskey uses Facebook, Etsy and social media to market and sell her bows across the United States.

“It’s all online,” she says. “To be honest, my online business does so well that I don’t need a storefront.”

A family business

She works from home with her 3-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, squeezing in bow making after they go to bed or when her husband gets home from work.

McCaskey fell into the business almost by accident; she started making bows for her daughter while she was pregnant in 2012. She got so many requests from family and friends that she decided to start selling her creations. Most bows sell for between $5 and $12 (though the “Frozen” bow goes for $25.99.)

She started with a Facebook page, but soon realized she needed a better way to manage invoices, shipping and payments. So, she launched a shop on Etsy to automate those processes.

Once her pages were up and running, the next challenge was figuring out how to attract customers to her online shops. She tried buying promotions to push her products but found the real key is to interact with customers online.

The inspiration for McCaskey’s bows can come from anywhere, she says.

The inspiration for McCaskey’s bows can come from anywhere, she says.

Creating engagement

Talking to people, playing games and adding informative tags to product descriptions all help, she says. “You have to be as descriptive as possible in the tags. Because people will search for [bows] but they don’t know the phrase ‘over-the-top bow.’”

She also uses the Internet to connect with models for her sites. After finding models online, McCaskey mails bows to them, and the models — often a mom-and-daughter pair — send back photos.

“That helps me sell as well,” she says. “Would you rather see a bow on a table or on a girl?”

Looking back at the last three years, McCaskey is thrilled and thankful that she’s able to be both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom. She gave birth to her son when she was 19. And for years, she worked late, long and hard as a waitress.
Now, she makes more money, can work side-by-side with her daughter and sets her own schedule.

“I don’t have a day job,” she says. “And that’s what is amazing.”

McCaskey’s work is available at facebook.com/littleladybowboutique or etsy.com/shop/SouthernLittleLady.

Getting off the ground

Plant Manager Jason Gruener inspects his antique plane at the Palmetto Aero hangar.

Plant Manager Jason Gruener inspects his antique plane at the Palmetto Aero hangar.

New parts manufacturer takes advantage of its location

By Andy Johns

According to Dennis Dent, Colleton County is a pretty great place to make aircraft components.

Dent, the CEO of Palmetto Aero, should know — he’s been in the business for 36 years.

Walterboro, he says, has a rare mix of everything he and his partners were looking for.

“The work ethic of the people in Colleton County is good,” Dent says. “The cost of doing business is good. The cost of real estate is good. Colleton County has a lot to offer.”

On top of that it has an excellent airport, high-speed broadband, Interstate access and is a quick drive — or an even quicker flight — from major aircraft builders in Charleston and Savannah.

“Colleton County is one of the best kept secrets in South Carolina,” Dent says. “The airport and that fiber connection made the deal happen. It’s unbelievable.”

In 2014, Palmetto Aero announced plans to invest $2.5 million in a plant that would make fasteners, filters, hardware and other components for planes and helicopters. So far, Palmetto Aero is up and running in two buildings at the Lowcountry Regional Airport, and working to move into a new 77,000-square-foot hangar in 2016. Once the new building is open, Dent expects the company will employ 44 workers.

At the time of the announcement, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said Palmetto Aero is part of the “booming” aerospace industry in the state. Since 2011, the state has seen more than $1.1 billion in capital investment and more than 3,000 new jobs created in the aerospace industry. “Palmetto Aero is another example of an aerospace company that has seen the success we are having in this industry and has chosen to be a part of the growth happening here in South Carolina,” Hitt said. “We look forward to seeing the economic impact Palmetto Aero will have on Colleton County and beyond.”

Strategic position

From the Lowcountry Airport, Dent can fly to Savannah in 20 minutes and Charleston in 12 minutes. That’s important because two of the biggest names in the aerospace industry are located there — Boeing in Charleston and Gulfstream in Savannah.

Proximity is important, Dent says, stressing the idea that companies like Boeing don’t build planes from scratch. “They assemble airplanes,” he says. “There are thousands of components that come from suppliers.”
Dent and Palmetto Aero are taking steps to play a role in that supplier network. They specialize in aircraft-grade fasteners, filters and other components. They are small, specialized and hard-to-find parts that aircraft from Cessnas and Pipers to Bell helicopters can’t do without. “They’re all important,” Dent says.
In August, Palmetto Aero received the coveted AS9100 C certification that is a requirement to work with industry-leading companies.

“All aerospace manufacturing companies are requiring that certification,” Dent says. “It’s a very difficult quality standard to get.”

Most companies take two to five years to get certified, but Palmetto Aero received the distinction after only about a year of production. Soon after that, they got their first order from Boeing.

Dent credits their quick start to experience. His team has more than 40 years of experience in the industry.
Back in 1979, Dent purchased bolt manufacturing equipment from a company called Lamson and Sessions in Cleveland, Ohio, and founded his own company named Airfasco. Dent is still involved with Airfasco, which has had a longtime relationship with Gulfstream in Savannah.

In 2011, Gov. Nikki Haley approached Dent at the Paris Air Show to ask about moving Airfasco to South Carolina.
Airfasco remains firmly rooted in Ohio, but Dent is ready to soar over South Carolina.

He’s purchased a home in Colleton County and will be leaving Ohio for the Palmetto State. “I was never planning to live in Colleton County, but after spending a year down there, with the weather and everything, it’s like working on vacation,” he says. “From a business standpoint, it’s really the best place to live in the Lowcountry.”

He initially looked at homes in Summerville and Charleston, but he didn’t like the traffic. He liked the rural atmosphere of Colleton County, and he was amazed to learn he could connect to significantly faster Internet speeds with PRTC’s fiber optic network than what he could get in Charleston. That sealed the decision to relocate.

In addition to communicating with business across the United States, Dent is frequently on conference calls with businesses in Europe and needs a reliable connection.

“It’s really important for business,” he says of the connection. “That was probably the most important part. I can work from home and do everything I need in the office.”

The airport was also especially important to the decision of where to build his company and find a home. Dent is also a part owner of Air Truck, which makes kit air planes that they will build and test at Lowcountry Regional. The airport has three runways compared to two at most similar airfields and he likes the way it is run. “The airport conducts itself as one of the best county airports I’ve been to in the United States,” Dent says.

Local officials return the admiration.

“The Lowcountry Regional Airport is the largest general aviation airport in South Carolina and is one of our greatest assets,” Bill Workman, chairman of the Colleton County Resource & Development Board, said after the initial announcement. “Dennis Dent and Palmetto Aero’s investment will make our airport an even stronger force for the aviation industry in Colleton County and the entire Lowcountry region.”

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.

Bowled Over

Liberty Bowl Stadium(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

Liberty Bowl Stadium
(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

There’s more to bowl-game trips than football

As football season fades into history, host cities gear up for events that really score. Get ready for kickoff with a tour of the 2015 bowl games in cities across the South — which are great places to visit anytime.

December 23

GoDaddy Bowl; Mobile, Alabama; Ladd-Peebles Stadium

Let’s start your tour with the week leading up to the bowl game in Mobile. The focus is on the bowl’s eve and its Mardi Gras-style parade. Marching bands and cheerleaders from each bowl team will help pump up team spirit. The parade culminates in a giant pep rally on the waterfront at Mobile Bay. So don’t sit on the sidelines. Get into the action.

Other sights to see:

USS Alabama in Mobile Bay

USS Alabama
(Photo courtesy of USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park)

The USS Alabama arrived in Mobile Bay in 1964 and opened for public tours a year later. Bill Tunnell, executive director of the USS Alabama Memorial Park, says bowl week is always a lot of fun for players and fans.

One of the best places to view Mobile’s historic past is at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. The cathedral’s stained-glass windows date to 1890, so bring your camera. And this would be a good place to say a prayer for a successful Hail Mary near game’s end. The church is at 2 S. Claiborne St.

Where to eat: Regina’s Kitchen, 2056 Government St., a mile from the stadium. Best bet: muffuletta with a side of potato salad.

December 26

Camping World Independence Bowl; Shreveport, Louisiana; Independence Stadium

On our next stop, the days leading up to the bowl game see a marked change in the city of Shreveport. Fans sporting team colors are out in full force enjoying the many cool, old places to eat, drink and socialize along the riverfront. There will be a pep rally, which consistently draws big crowds. And there’s always been a free event for families: Fan Fest — a fun time with face painting, jump houses and more.

If you feel the need to shop, there’s no better place to go than Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets, home to 60-plus stores. “It’s probably the most-popular destination for football fans,” says Chris Jay, with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau.

Kids will enjoy spending time at Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center. It’s always ranked in the top 10 of children’s science museums in the country.

Where to eat: Sam’s Southern Eatery, 3500 Jewella Ave., 0.7 miles from the stadium. One of the best spots in town for fried seafood. Favorite dish? It’s a coin toss between the 3N3 — three shrimp and three fish fillets — or the shrimp with red beans and rice.

December 30

Birmingham Bowl; Birmingham, Alabama; Legion Field

The journey continues as the year winds down. It’s one of the smaller bowl games, but don’t be blindsided by the fact that there will be as much play-by-play action off the field as on.
Bowl eve begins with the Monday Morning Quarterback Club Team Luncheon. The public is welcome, but tickets are required. Then, at 2 p.m., the Uptown Street Fest and Pep Rally kicks off a huge celebration with team bands, cheerleaders, players and live music.

And if you have time, make a drive to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum with its collection of almost 750 vintage and modern motorcycles and race cars.

Where to eat: Niki’s West Steak and Seafood, 233 Finley Ave. W, 2.7 miles from the stadium. Some of the best soul food in Alabama. Fried green tomatoes, turnip greens, stewed okra and white beans are favorite sides to daily entree choices.

December 30

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl; Nashville, Tennessee; Nissan Stadium

Hot Chicken Eating World Championship (Photo courtesy of Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl)

Hot Chicken Eating World Championship
(Photo courtesy of Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl)

The home of country music earns a stop on the itinerary. Last year’s Music City Bowl was one of the highest-attended in its 17-year history, and organizers are hopeful to repeat that success this year. To kick things off, there’s a battle off the field on game eve: MusicFest and Battle of the Bands. It begins with the Hot Chicken Eating World Championships, followed by a free concert at Riverfront Park. The evening ends with the two team bands “duking it out” on the streets.

While in town, be sure to make time for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where the history of country music comes alive.

Where to eat: Manny’s House of Pizza, 15 Arcade Alley, 0.8 miles from the stadium. Creative pies are the trademark of this pizzeria, as well as great spaghetti and calzones. A local favorite.

December 31

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl; Atlanta, Georgia; Georgia Dome

Don’t forget to plan a New Year’s Eve stop. When traveling to a city the size of Atlanta, deciding what venues to visit is difficult. And during bowl week, they’re often crowded. The Peach Bowl draws one of the largest of all bowl crowds. Visitors enjoy the restaurants, sights and sounds of The Big Peach, including the Peach Bowl Parade. Dozens of bands and floats pass through the streets.

To narrow down the playing field of other sights to see, there are two places near the Georgia Dome. The College Football Hall of Fame is a touchdown for football fans with its interactive exhibits and helmet and jersey collections. And for fishy folks, there’s the Georgia Aquarium and the inhabitants of its 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water.

Where to eat: Jamal’s Buffalo Wings, 10 Northside Drive NW, 0.7 miles from the stadium. Scramble over to Jamal’s for a football tradition: wings. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, but don’t let that stop you.

January 2

AutoZone Liberty Bowl; Memphis, Tennessee; Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium

Bash on Beale Pep Rally (Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

Bash on Beale Pep Rally
(Photo courtesy of AutoZone Liberty Bowl)

There’s nothing sad about ending a bowl season journey at the home of the blues. As if Beale Street wasn’t busy on any given day or night, it scores big with an undercurrent of excitement that builds as the Liberty Bowl teams come to town, exploding at the Bash on Beale Pep Rally. The area comes alive beginning at 3 p.m. with a parade featuring local bands, team bands, cheerleaders and more. When the parade ends, the pep rally begins. And this year, it all happens on Jan. 1, the day before the game.
And if there’s time in your schedule, don’t forget a tour of Graceland, as well as Sun Studios where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and more sang the blues.

Where to eat: Soul Fish, 862 S. Cooper St., 1.4 miles from the stadium. The best catfish, Cuban sandwiches and fish tacos in Memphis, but the place scores an extra point for its oyster po’ boys.

Tech-Savvy Traveler:

As if the holidays didn’t provide enough excitement, it’s nearly time for an unending blitz of college bowl games. There are a few apps to help get us even further into the game. Team Stream is a popular sports news app by Bleacher Report. Want the latest scores and highlights? The ESPN app alerts you when your team scores. Searching for a social media society of sports fans? FanCred’s app could help visiting fans survive a trip into hostile territory.