WCTEL is now Certified Gig-Capable

GIG Seal final WCTEL has been recognized by NTCA as a Certified Gig-Capable Provider for delivering gigabit broadband speeds and enabling technological innovation to the surrounding service area.

WCTEL is one of only two dozen cooperatives to be initially “Gig-Certified” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. The organization represents nearly 900 independent, community-based telecommunications companies and their interests in national government affairs.

The distinction is part of a national program highlighting independent telecommunications providers delivering gigabit broadband speeds. A gigabit is 1,000 Mbps — more than 60 times faster than WCTEL’s basic Internet speed. A gigabit connection allows for fantastic download speeds, such as downloading a two-hour HD movie in less than 30 seconds.

The certification acknowledges the power of high-speed Internet and the potential it brings to the service area. “This is a great accomplishment,” says WCTEL CEO Jeff Wilson. “We strive to continually improve and add onto our services so that our members will benefit from the opportunity to invest in our state-of-the-art services. This certification proves that we are heading in the right direction.”

Familiar faces changing places

Brittany, Amanda, and Alison

WCTel Employees Brittany Ramey, Amanda Blackwell and Alison Stone.

WCTEL is excited to announce new positions for some staff members.

Alison Stone, who previously served as the wireless services specialist, has made a move to bookkeeping.
Amanda Blackwell, who had served as a switchboard operator, will now work as a customer service representative.

Brittany Ramey, who had been the plant services specialist for the outside plant, will now serve as an account services representative.

These changes are designed to make the cooperative stronger. WCTEL’s greatest assets are its employees.

Here comes the Gig!

WCTEL ran 1,300 miles of fiber all across McCormick, Abbeville and Anderson counties in order to deliver the best Internet service available.

WCTEL ran 1,300 miles of fiber all across McCormick, Abbeville and Anderson counties in order to deliver the best Internet service available.

 

When the president of the United States spoke recently about the need for greater broadband speeds in our country, he showed a chart listing cities where gigabit Internet access is available: Hong Kong, Paris, Chattanooga and Kansas City were among them.

Now you can add the WCTEL service area to that list.

In fact, thanks to WCTEL’s upgrades to the fiber network in McCormick and Abbeville counties, most of the cities and towns in the area, including Starr and Iva, can list gigabit Internet access among the benefits they can offer prospective businesses and families looking to relocate.

With its launch of gigabit Internet service this month, WCTEL put the Freshwater Coast on the map as one of the areas with the most advanced broadband networks available. Those connected to WCTEL’s fiber system can enjoy speeds up to 100 times faster than the 10 megabits per second (Mbps) once considered typical, and 40 times faster than the new definition of broadband — 25 Mbps — adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in January.

January was also when Google announced it would be building a gigabit fiber network in parts of Atlanta and Charlotte. “It will be a big deal for Atlanta and Charlotte to get gigabit networks when the work is done in a couple of years,” CEO Jeff Wilson says. “We’re happy that through careful planning, we’ve got that quality of a network right now in rural upstate South Carolina.”

The gig: How?
In order to join the short list of U.S. providers offering gigabit speeds, WCTEL first had to build a 1,300-mile, world-class fiber network. “Our network was the first large-scale fiber network in South Carolina,” says Wilson. “The leadership here at the time could see that high-speed broadband over fiber was the infrastructure of the future. Now as we look ahead, gigabit service takes that next step in giving our members the absolute best service available anywhere.”

With the construction of the fiber network essentially complete, WCTEL decided last year to begin the work of making gigabit speeds available. Switches and other components along the system had to be upgraded. “It was a significant investment by the cooperative,” Wilson says. “But it’s an investment in the future of our community.”

The gig: why?
Only a small percentage of consumers today actually need the capacity of a gigabit connection. But as with any type of critical infrastructure, WCTEL’s network has been built with the future in mind.

Gigabit service means students will be able to access advanced learning tools, families will take advantage of new entertainment options and home automation technology, and businesses will use the ultra-high-speed connection to compete and grow.

“Today, camera cards or memory sticks hold the same amount of data as entire computers a few years ago,” says Shannon Sears, director of commercial operations for West Carolina. “With SmartTVs, tablets and other connected devices, the same thing is happening with the demand for broadband capacity. Thanks to gigabit service, WCTEL will be ready to support our members as their needs grow.”

The gig: when?
Before rolling out the full network, WCTEL needed a test area and selected part of Savannah Lakes to try out the service in April. As of May 1, gigabit Internet speeds are available immediately to the entire area served by the cooperative’s fiber network.

Upgrades continue in the cities of Abbeville, McCormick and Calhoun Falls in order to make the gigabit upgrade available there.

What is a gig?
The rate at which information (photos, movies, music) flows from its source to your device (computer, tablet, gaming console) is measured in bits per second.
One megabit, or Mb, is 1,000 bits.
One gigabit, or Gb, is 1,000 megabits.
Internet speeds of 10 megabits per second (or Mbps) are commonly available throughout the U.S.
1 Gbps is 100 times faster than 10 Mbps!

That’s fast!
Downloading a typical HD movie:
10 Mbps connection = 3 hours, 30 minutes
1 Gbps connection = less than 2 minutes

Economic Impact

A study released by the Fiber to the Home Council found that communities with widely available access to gigabit Internet service have a per capita GDP (gross domestic product) that is 1.1 percent higher than communities with little to no gigabit service. In the 14 gigabit communities studied, this meant a difference of approximately $1.4 billion in additional GDP!

WCTEL marks 20 years of Internet Service

In today’s world of streaming video, gigabit connection speeds and Wi-Fi, the days of humble dial-up connections and 56K modems seem a long way off.

Mainly because they are.

WCTEL was one of the first rural telephone companies to offer Internet service 20 years ago in 1995.

“The decision to jump on what was then a new form of communication was a bold move, and one that continues to shape our cooperative,” says CEO Jeff Wilson. “The Internet seems like such an ever-changing, new technology that it’s hard to believe it’s been around for 20 years.”

Technically, the Internet and its forerunners have been around for much longer.

In 1965, scientists in Massachusetts connected to a computer in California over telephone lines, making the first long-distance computer network. But for 30 years, the Internet remained an obscure, complicated network used only by researchers and governments.

In 1995, the Internet and World Wide Web went commercial, laying the groundwork for the Web we know today.

While some telcos hesitated to offer Internet service, WCTEL jumped on board early and continues that legacy of innovation today. In the telecommunications industry, West Carolina has the reputation as a forward-thinking cooperative on the cutting edge of technology.

“West Carolina was one of the first rural telcos in the country to offer Internet service,” Wilson says. “We’re also proud to have been one of the first telcos to offer television service through DE Plus, one of the first with a fiber network and now one of the first with a gigabit network.”

New look, same trusted company

PrintAs you may have noticed on the cover of this magazine, WCTEL has a fresh new logo.

“We’re constantly updating our technology and improving our operations, so it was time to update and improve our logo to reflect that,” says CEO Jeff Wilson. “The new logo conveys a cutting edge, professional organization with high standards that is looking toward the future.”

The logo will gradually replace the previous logo on printed materials, employee clothes, vehicles, buildings and other locations over the next several months.

“This is something that had been in the works a long time, and we’re very pleased with the results,” says Shannon Sears, director of commercial operations. “It’s not something we took lightly. The oval and the gray and blue colors really put us in line with many other technology companies, which is really what West Carolina has become. We’re a top-notch provider, and we needed a top-notch look.”

You’re invited!

WCTEL has a new interactive security demo station at our Abbeville office, and the security team would love for you to come by and see it. With the full-size display, a security expert can show you exactly what products are available, what they look like and how they work to keep your home safe.

Stop by during business hours to see everything West Carolina Security has to offer!

WCTEL donates $200,000 to Freshwater Coast Community Foundation

FCCF Check PresentationWest Carolina Tel is proud to support the Freshwater Coast Community Foundation with a $200,000 check presented in December.

FCCF’s mission is to provide opportunities for individuals and businesses in the Abbeville County, McCormick County and Starr-Iva area to join together to improve and support economic development, educational opportunities and cultural enhancement.

“We appreciate West Carolina and their contribution to our foundation,” says Brad Evans, FCCF Chairman. “With this generous contribution, the foundation will impact the overall quality of life in this area through educational, cultural, and economic development.”

Pictured: Faye Crocker, FCCF Treasurer; Betty Cowan, FCCF Board Member; Brad Evans, FCCF Chairman; Jeff Wilson, West Carolina Tel CEO and General Manager; Lee Logan, FCCF Board Member; Andy Timmerman, FCCF Board Member; Tom Howie, Steering Committee Member.

How well do you know security?

Basic RGBWest Carolina’s full line of security services will keep you safe in an emergency

Whoever said “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” didn’t know much about home security.

It’s exactly what you don’t know about break-ins and fire emergencies that can cost you or your family a high price in property, peace of mind and even personal safety. As with many things, knowledge is your best weapon. Find out how much you know by taking this security quiz.

1) The total number of burglaries in South Carolina in 2013 was:

A) 12,498

B) 24,248

C) 33,076

D) 40,958

 

2) What is the most deadly month for house fires?

A) September

B) July

C) January

D) November

 

3) Rank the most common times for a burglary to occur:

A) 3 to 6 p.m.

B) Midnight to 3 a.m.

C) Noon to 3 p.m.

D) 6 to 9 a.m.

 

4) In 2012, what percentage of burglars used forcible entry to get into a target home?

A) 15 percent

B) 28 percent

C) 47 percent

D) 60 percent

 

5) The average dollar loss among homes where a burglary occurred in 2011 was:

A) $330

B) $884

C) $1,493

D) $2,120

 

6) From 2006 to 2010, where did South Carolina rank nationally in fire death rate?

A) 48th

B) 33rd

C) 12th

D) 5th

 

7) On average, how many house fires occur in the U.S. each year?

A) 45,644

B) 79,467

C) 198,776

D) 366,600

 

8) What percentage of convicted burglars say they would attempt to see if their target had an alarm system?

A) 12 percent

B) 38 percent

C) 45 percent

D) 83 percent

 

9) How long does a typical burglar take to break into a home?

A) Less than 60 seconds

B) Two minutes

C) Four minutes

D) More than 5 minutes

 

10) What percentage of unsuccessful burglaries can be attributed to alarm systems?

A) 18 percent

B) 29 percent

C) 51 percent

D) 74 percent

 

Sources: National Fire Protection Association, 2013 Crime Statistics, FBI “Crime in the United States”, Electronic Security Association, Bureau of Justice Statistic

Answers: 1:D, 2:C, 3:C, A, D, B, 4:D, 5:D, 6:D, 7:D, 8:D, 9:A, 10:D

Don’t let your family become a statistic!

West Carolina Secure Connect service offers a full line of security and fire detection alarms. In addition to basic and premium security kits, the WCTEL team will conduct a free home security evaluation. To set up an appointment or to learn more, call 864-446-2111.

SmartHub mobile app makes monitoring your account easy!

Remembering to pay your WCTEL bill just got a little easier.

West Carolina has partnered with SmartHub to provide members a safe and secure way to manage their accounts through connected devices.

SmartHub logo - purpleSmartHub makes it possible to access your WCTEL account — even multiple accounts — from your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can view and pay your bill online, get timely account information, notify the cooperative of account and service issues, check monthly service usage and receive special notifications from WCTEL. Conveniently, SmartHub allows members to set reminders and alerts to be delivered to their device reminding them of due dates.

“With the busy lives everyone seems to live now, we could all use a little help remembering things,” says Virginia Harmon, marketing representative for West Carolina. “The app is right there on your phone to remind you of when your bill is due.”

Studies show that nationally, more than one-third of people who miss due dates on their bills do so because they’ve simply forgotten the bill was due.

The same study, Fiserv’s 2014 Billing Household Survey, found that paying bills through mobile apps such as SmartHub is becoming increasingly popular, especially for people ages 18 to 52. The top reasons, according to the surveys, are the speed and convenience of mobile apps as well as alerts and reminders.

“If you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you forgot to pay your bill, the app is right there on your phone,” Harmon says. “The SmartHub app is just convenient. Its cut down on a lot of time I would spend paying bills.”

Beyond paying bills and checking usage, the SmartHub app can make it easy to call a West Carolina customer service advisor or get turn-by-turn directions to your nearest office.

“There’s a lot to like about SmartHub, and I think our members will be surprised at how easy it is to use,” Harmon says.

Ways to pay

For the times when you don’t need a mobile app, West Carolina provides bill payment options online at WCTEL.com, by phone and in person. West Carolina also offers auto-pay services so you never have to worry about when the bill is due.

And to encourage members to try paperless billing, WCTEL is offering a $5 credit for customers who go paperless.

Members can pay at any WCTEL office or by phone 24 hours a day at 1-888-813-2340.

“We’re still happy to accept payments at our offices, but many members have asked for other options, and we’re happy to provide a full line of convenient ways to pay,” Harmon says.

To get SmartHub: Smarthubapp.com has full instructions for downloading and using the app.

By The numbers…

The percentage of US consumers using mobile bill pay:

  • 2011 — 6%
  • 2012 — 8%
  • 2013 — 16%
  • 2014 — 27%

–Source: Fiserv 2014 Billing Household Survey

 

-Get a $5 credit! Receive a one-time $5 credit from WCTEL for going paperless!

-Secure Bill Pay: Pay by phone 24 hours a day 1-888-813-2340

Upgrades mean a few changes for DVR users

Jeff Robinson, business development manager, tweaks settings at West Carolina’s headend.

Jeff Robinson, business development manager, tweaks settings at West Carolina’s headend.

West Carolina is making some upgrades to DE Plus that will give the cooperative more room to expand and improve DE Plus service in the near future. It will, however, mean a small change that DVR customers need to be aware of.

On a technical level, the cooperative’s TV service will be going to a shared datacenter with two other South Carolina telcos so all three companies can offer more reliable service.

Practically speaking, the upgrades will allow for cutting-edge, customizable options in the future.

“It will definitely afford us opportunities that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Jeff Robinson, West Carolina’s business development manager.

The changes will be made street by street throughout the service area over the first few months of the year.

However, because of the switch in servers, any members with saved DVR content will lose those recordings in the changeover. West Carolina apologizes for the inconvenience, but the issue is unavoidable. If you have DVR content that you would like to save, you will need to find a way to record it to a digital file, DVD or VHS tape before the changeover. Due to copyright laws, some recordings may be restricted from being transferred. Instructions for this transfer are available at www.wctel.net.

For specific dates or help with saving any irreplaceable content, please call the West Carolina office at 864-446-2111.