Bringing Congress to Rural America

By Trevor Bonnstetter
Chief Executive Officer

It’s not often that rural telcos like ours get a chance to share our stories, struggles and successes with a busload of Congressional staff members.

So when the Foundation for Rural Service recently brought a group of legislative advisors on a bus tour through East Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, we at Ardmore Telephone made the most of the opportunity.

These bright, young staffers — most of whom work for representatives and senators on key commerce, technology and communications committees — left Washington, D.C., to visit our part of the country and 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.

While on the trip they observed a crew plowing fiber in Middle Tennessee, toured the facilities of a number of small rural communication companies like ours and talked with local officials.

At one stop on the tour, I, along with other nearby rural broadband providers, made sure to catch the ear of a few of the staffers and explain how important our mission is to our local residents. It was important for them see how vibrant our communities are and to meet the great people in our region.

It was important for them to hear rural business owners, hospital administrators and local officials talk about the importance of a broadband connection.
And it’s important for them to understand the challenges cooperatives like ours 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.

It was a great chance to tell them our cooperative’s story: 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 Ardmore Telephone could play a role in bringing the congressional delegation to rural America. And I’m proud every day that you’ve trusted us to connect you to the world.

Fayetteville’s Host of Christmas Past

Every second weekend in November, downtown Fayetteville, Tennessee, rolls out the red carpet for visitors with the Host of Christmas Past event.

Every second weekend in November, downtown Fayetteville, Tennessee, rolls out the red carpet for visitors with the Host of Christmas Past event.

Downtown Fayetteville will soon be alive with the sights and sounds of the Christmas season. The 23rd Annual Fayetteville’s Host of Christmas Past is Nov. 13-15, with events throughout the weekend. The event, which draws 20,000-25,000 people annually will provide a lot of free family holiday fun.

The three-day festival will feature free movies in the theater, plays performed by the Carriage House Players, craft shows and live dance performances. There will even be a “kid’s zone” area with snow for the children to play in. Santa will make an appearance on Saturday for photos as well. “It’s really a kid’s paradise,” says longtime volunteer Barbara Faulkner.

The majority of the events are free, but advance tickets must be purchased for the home tour on Sunday and the Tea and Lace Luncheon, which is high tea. For more information about purchasing tickets, call Carolyn Denton at the Chamber of Commerce at 931-433-1234.

Company News

Fiber optics come to JB Magnusson area

Ardmore Telephone’s fiber optic network continues to grow, extending to 85 homes in the JB Magnusson residential area south of Bethel. Crews began staking the area in late September, and area residents were notified of the infrastructure enhancements by mail. This investment will provide faster Internet speeds of 50 Mbps to deliver you the very best in telecommunications. Ardmore Telephone’s fiber is not available everywhere, but the company remains committed to expanding the network as funds allow.

For more information about your upcoming fiber connection, or the high-speed Internet and telephone services available from Ardmore Telephone, please contact our customer service representatives at 800-830-9946 or stop by your nearest office.

Library Donation

Georgie Bailey with Ardmore Telephone Company presented a $500 check to Ardmore Public Library Director Verlin Collins in June. The gift was used to purchase more books for children of all ages and to help with the renovations to the children’s room, which is used for a preschool program.

Trading the city for the country

Black Herefords are a hybrid cross between Black Angus and an American Hereford.

Black Herefords are a hybrid cross between Black Angus and an American Hereford.

A retirement filled with family and cattle

By Melissa Smith

Debra and Kenn Kelley decided city life just wasn’t making them happy. So after living and working in Washington, D.C., they retired from jobs with the government and moved to Ardmore.

Three years ago, they opened the Kelley Black Hereford Farm, building a business based on the increasingly popular breed of cattle. “We’ve always loved animals and agriculture. We love what we do. It’s very rewarding,” Debra says.

She grew up in Huntsville, and her father was a cattleman. She says the reason they decided to start a farm was both for the nostalgia and for the challenge.

Black Herefords are a hybrid cross between Black Angus and an American Hereford, with at least 62.5 percent registered Hereford blood. Anything greater than 87.5 percent is considered purebred. The animals are known for their unique features: a black body with a white face. All of these cattle must be sired by a bull registered with the American Black Hereford Association.

More farmers in the Southeast are becoming interested in the breed. With the heightened attention, the Kelleys decided they needed a way to communicate with other farms. “Until a few years ago, you couldn’t find a registered Black Hereford east of the Mississippi,” Debra says. People began to show interest, and the couple organized a southeastern chapter of the American Black Hereford Association.

The Kelleys have 20 head of cattle, and they are expecting between six and nine calves in the spring. “Supply is low and demand is high,” Debra says. But, they have really grown considering they started with three heifers and the herd sire, Hercules. Weighing in at 1,942 pounds, Hercules was “without a doubt, one of the best bulls. He was like a big baby,” she says.

Black Herefords are known for being very gentle, docile creatures. Although the process can take well over a year to “ready” a calf to sell, Debra says people are waiting in line. It takes 283 days for a cow to produce a calf, and then another 205 days to wean.
Life in Ardmore is a significant change from earlier careers.

In the mid-’90s, Debra worked directly with the logistics secretary at the Pentagon and at Fort McNair. After returning to the Huntsville area for a few years, in 2004 the Kelleys moved back to Washington, D.C., and Debra worked at Fort Belvoir. Her specialty was program management, and she worked on a fixed-wing aircraft project for the Army. She retired after 30 years of federal service.

Her husband, Kenn, is an Oregon native who retired from the Air Force. Also, he worked for the Department of Homeland Security. He is now a civil servant for the Army at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

Keeping the farm running is also a family affair. The Kelleys have 11 grandchildren, and the whole family pitches in to care for the animals. “We’ve been everywhere, and we found this place specifically for retirement. We love the people and the community. And, we love every day God gives us here,” Debra says.

Debra Kelley makes the rounds of the Black Hereford farm that she and her husband built a few years ago.

Debra Kelley makes the rounds of the Black Hereford farm that she and her husband built a few years ago.

Creating a purpose

By Matt Ledger

The Elk Valley Crafters Association is a growing collection of woodworkers, painters and other artists. “The joke I used to tell was that we were 12 women and one old man,” Lesia Bergman says.

However, the number of crafters has now doubled since those early days. It now has 25 members … and one more man. Bergman, who joined in 2000, is in her third year as the group’s president. She was the youngest for several years, until she turned 59 in 2014 and a few younger crafters joined.

And they are more than just artists. The group’s members are devoted to using their skills to raise money to benefit a range of charities and local organizations.

Artistic origins

The group started off with five people — including woodworkers Wanda and Enos Yeager and china painter Betty Cousins — meeting informally for a few years. The handcraft hobbyists formed the nonprofit organization in 1995. In recent years, Cousins and the Yeagers passed away. However, two of those original founders are still with the group as honorary members — Ruth Monschein crochets clothes for dolls and Annette Harrison paints gourds.

During the 20 years that followed its creation, the crafter’s group has donated more than $60,000 to local charities and organizations. Individually, the artists take part in other crafting events and juried shows, with most averaging one show monthly. The Elk Valley Crafters have also united their passion for an even greater purpose.

Doug Atkins and his wife are wood carvers who like to create miniature wildlife figures.

Doug Atkins and his wife are wood carvers who like to create miniature wildlife figures.

Creating for a purpose

Lesia Bergman is a monogrammer who uses her embroidery machine to drop designs and initials on everything from towels to T-shirts. “I needed an outlet to make more of what I really enjoy creating,” she says.

Crafters work on their own throughout the year, stockpiling handmade creations for two annual events. In mid-November, the artists will take part in Fayetteville’s seasonal extravaganza, the 23rd Annual Host of Christmas Past. Their spring show occurs the second weekend in March.

From seniors to scout troops and from fire departments to the Junior House for abused children, these artists support nearly as many local programs as there are members in the group. “We believe in giving back to our community, especially those who need help the most,” says Chris Bussler, the group’s vice president. “I love that we are able to help the schools.” She became involved in 2010, starting with scrapbooking and crocheting. She has since expanded her artistic interests into drawing and painting.

At the beginning of each year, the group sets budgeted goals for each of the organizations and charities that they contribute toward. “We even donated a bicycle to a man after his was stolen,” Bergman says. “He rides daily to the nursing home to see his mother. If somebody needs us, we’re there to help.”

Elk Valley Crafters will be at Fayetteville’s Host of Christmas Past in Downtown Fayetteville, Tennessee, on Saturday, Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 15 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Elk Valley Crafters Association meets on the third Monday of each month, and their membership fee is $10 annually. Applications for those interested in becoming a new member are available at elkvalleycrafters.com.

Helping on the Homefront

By Matt Ledger

A year after high school, five classmates from Clarendon, Arkansas, formulated a simple plan on a Saturday night in 1958. “On Monday morning, let’s go to the bus station, go to Little Rock and join the Army,” Ardmore’s Ken Crosson recalls. “So five of us went. Four joined the Army, and the other guy joined the Air Force.”

Crosson, as well as other veterans, learned a lesson from military service: Never leave a buddy behind. It’s a creed that continues to shape their civilian lives.

In 1998, the Ardmore Veterans Group began with a half-dozen members who sought a program to honor the service and sacrifice of area veterans. “We wanted to give honor to those who are still serving and to remember those who have passed on,” says Crosson, the group’s president.
The organization received nonprofit status and teamed up with the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce. “Back in those days, our main focus was helping the widows and orphans of veterans,” he says. “Then, we decided to do a memorial walk.”

The veterans started a long-term memorial project, creating 15 to 20 engraved pavers in the first year. Both the project and the organization have grown, adding present-day veterans who have served during conflicts in the Middle East. The 45-member group is not limited to those who live in the city, but includes those living in Giles, Limestone and Madison counties. “Ken Crosson is the driving force behind everything we do,” says Jack Watson, secretary of the Ardmore Veterans Group.

Local Missions

The group hosts three annual events as fundraisers, including a tractor pull in the spring, a chicken stew luncheon in January and a pancake breakfast in March. The proceeds allow the occasional purchase of flags for public events and three annual scholarships. Following the military creed of ‘never leave a buddy behind,’ the group assists area veterans in need, providing a lift chair for an older, disabled veteran and offering support to the widows of other veterans who have passed on.

Earlier this year, Gulf War veteran Ken Chancey helped Crosson remove each of the 375 pavers, which Ken pressure washed in his spare time. It’s a mission to revamp and expand the existing memorial site, honoring both living and deceased veterans. City officials helped by providing crews to clear out overgrown shrubs and by donating a new concrete pad. Many local organizations have donated to the project as well. The sacred site also has water fountain plaques for the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.

The veterans placed three new flag poles at the location. The center flag is the ultimate patriotic symbol that once graced their uniforms. The other two are the Tennessee and Alabama flags, precisely placed on the state line. “It’s a pretty site, and I know that the community enjoys and respects it for what it is,” Crosson says. The bricks include the names of eight veterans killed in action and three who were held as prisoners of war. Each year, the group organizes a Veterans Day program at the memorial site, followed by a luncheon.

Personnel Pride

Marines have often been called “the few and the proud,” a slogan that could easily apply to the small group of patriots that make up the Ardmore Veterans Group. Here are just a few of their stories:

  • The late Gordon C. Davis served in the infantry during WWII. He was captured by the Japanese, survived several diseases and the “Bataan Death March,” and spent nearly four years as a prisoner of war in Osaka, Japan. He weighed 85 pounds when released after the war. Davis met a church volunteer named Margaret during his years of recovery at Walter Reed Hospital. She was part of a group that visited with soldiers weekly. “We’d get cakes for their birthdays and take little treats out there,” Margaret recalls. “My pastor suggested it, but I guess I talked to one of them too long, but he was a good one.” It was love at first sight, and the two married in Davis’ hospital room in 1947.
  • Gordon Mitchell retired from the Air Force after a career in weapons loading. He placed bombs and munitions on a variety of planes. He served over a year in Vietnam before completing 20 years of service in 1976. “I was really proud of the Air Force, and if they called me back today I would go,” Mitchell says.
  • Deborah Verbeek served in the U.S. Army as an emergency room nurse in a Denver-based military hospital. “We treated a lot of soldiers coming home from Vietnam,” Verbeek says. She’s still cares for patients as a nurse-practitioner.
  • Jack Watson joined the U.S. Navy in 1979 as an electrician and spent half his career aboard ships. On his first wedding anniversary, he called his wife from Bahrain during Operation Desert Storm. He later retired in 2000. “It gives you a love for this country,” Watson says. “I’ve been to 34 countries and there is no place better than the U.S. That’s for sure.”
  • Kenneth Camp was a heavy machine gunner with the U.S. Marines from 1956 to 1958, spending nine months in the Mediterranean Sea attached to the Sixth Fleet. “Being a Marine gets in your blood, and I think it’s one of the greatest units that we’ve got in our Armed Forces.”
  • Oddie Dugger joined the U.S. Army in 1952 as a combat engineer, but found himself on a troop ship for 30 days heading toward Korea. “It wasn’t fun, but we made it,” he says. Dugger spent 17 months ‘in country’ and was involved in the post-war prisoner exchange.
  • Ken Crosson retired from the U.S. Army after two tours in Vietnam. His last post was the Redstone Arsenal. He became one of the founding members of the Ardmore Veterans Group and spent the past 20 years as a council member. “I stay busy doing all of that, and it makes me feel like I am still serving,” Crosson says.


(Founding members include Woody Stuart, Deborah Verbeek, Ken Crosson, David Foster, Bill Norman, Oddie Dugger, Dan Taylor and Doc Oliver.)

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.