Company News

Pole-climbing School

PoleClimb1601Ben Lomand purchased new safety equipment for each crew member earlier this year. The new OSHA-mandated system has two safeties and gives a point of contact with the pole at all times through a four-ring belt system. Previously pole climbers either “free climbed” or “hitchhiked” with one safety. Employees also completed the “Super Squeeze” training session on proper techniques with the new equipment.

Congratulations, winners!

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Three members won a 24” television from Ben Lomand. William Dillard (left) won during the Warren County Fair, Claudene Mills won at the Van Buren County Fair and Jane Griffin won at the White County Fair.

Ben Lomand family mourns the loss of former General Manager Ozle Allen

BLC_FormerGM

Ben Lomand Connect is sad to announce the passing of its former general manager and friend Ozle Allen. Working at the cooperative since its formation in 1954, Allen eventually worked his way up to serve as general manager from 1983 to 1988. After working at Ben Lomand, he worked as an advocate for the telecommunications industry on Capitol Hill in Nashville. He loved Ben Lomand dearly and inquired about how things were going with the cooperative on a weekly basis. Ben Lomand would like to extend its sincere condolences to his family and friends. He will be missed.

Don’t miss the Ben Lomand Connect Annual Meeting

March 21, McMinnville Civic Center
Doors open at 11 a.m., entertainment begins at 12:45 p.m.

  • Refreshments
  • Live entertainment
  • Product demonstrations
  • Door prizes
  • Children’s play area
  • Parting gifts for members

Entertainment by The Holloway Sisters and Outta the Blue
This family band is well-known for its hard-driving music, energetic stage presence and Southern hospitality. Their music ranges from traditional bluegrass to a new-wave bluegrass with a style all their own. They pride themselves on their ability to bring upbeat family fun entertainment to the young and young at heart!

Come out and enjoy the festivities!

SmartHub app makes monitoring your account easy!

Remembering to pay your Ben Lomand bill just got a little simpler.

Ben Lomand has partnered with SmartHub to provide members a safe and secure way to manage their accounts through any device connected to the Internet.

SmartHub makes it possible to access your Ben Lomand 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 Ben Lomand. 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 with things like bills,” says Chris Centracchio, Ben Lomand’s security and information systems manager. “The app is right there on your phone to remind you of when your bill is due.”

For Ben Lomand customers currently using online bill pay, their username and password to log in will not change. 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 the 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,” Centracchio says. “The SmartHub app is just convenient. It cuts down on a lot of time members would normally spend paying bills.”

Beyond paying bills and checking usage, the SmartHub app can make it easy to call a Ben Lomand 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,” Centracchio says.

Ways to pay

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

Members can pay in person at any Ben Lomand office or by phone 24 hours a day at 1-800 974-7779.

“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,” Centracchio says.

To get SmartHub

SmartHub is a free app that can be downloaded for iOS and Android users. Search for “SmartHub” in your device’s app store. Click the “Tutorials” link at benlomandconnect.com for video instructions on how to use SmartHub.

By The numbers…

The percentage of consumers using mobile bill pay:

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

-Source: Fiserv 2014 Billing Household Survey

66% of bills are paid online or through automatic payments

20% of bills are paid by mail

9% of bills are paid in person

5% of bills are paid by phone

-Source: 2013 Western Union’s Bill Payments Money Mindset Index

Ben Lomand moves Customer Response Center back to McMinnville

Ben Lomand has moved its Customer Response Center back to McMinnville, after previously being located in Sparta. The move allows for better communication between the CRC and other departments within the company.

CRC_Photo“We feel like the CRC is an integral part of the cooperative,” says Bill Jennings, Customer Response Center supervisor. “It’s something that makes Ben Lomand stand out, and it lets us provide better service to our members.”

By moving the department back to the main office in McMinnville, all employees are now under the same roof, rather than being split between two locations. This allows information to be shared with the CRC team more easily, providing callers with help more efficiently and more effectively.

The CRC is available to troubleshoot “almost any electronic problem” that a Ben Lomand member may encounter. Representatives are on hand seven days a week to solve problems on devices, such as computers, remote controls, DVD players, tablets, phones and wireless routers, and any phone service issues members may experience. “You name it, we support it,” Jennings says, jokingly.

“There’s a lot of knowledge that you have to have to help members here in the CRC,” says Jennings. “We deal with all different types of brands, models and operating systems. It’s a great feeling to help people solve their electronics problems.”

Working in two shifts and covering 16 hours, 18 Ben Lomand employees are always ready to help. “This has been great for Ben Lomand and for our members,” says Jennings. “We’re dealing directly with the customers, and the move has empowered this department, and now we’re able to better serve our members.”

If you’re in need of assistance with a Ben Lomand product or service, don’t hesitate to call your local office. We’re always happy to help!

Hundreds more will soon have Ben Lomand’s fiber service

HickoryHills-DSCF0174Homes in the Hickory Hills Estates and Hickory Glen subdivisions will soon have access to the blazing-fast Internet speeds and the crystal-clear television and phone service offered through Ben Lomand’s fiber service.

Fiber works by sending pulses of light along strands of glass the thickness of a human hair. And like anything that’s well built and state-of-the-art, it doesn’t happen overnight. Ben Lomand crews are putting in long hours to replace the old copper system with new fiber lines. But the wait will be worth it.

“I think we’re going to have a much better TV picture and I think everyone realizes it’s going to be the best possible speeds we have around here,” says Clint Moore, president of the Hickory Hills Estates and Hickory Glen Neighborhood Associations. “It’s going to benefit everyone in the neighborhood. I know everybody is looking forward to it.”  DSCF0176

Ben Lomand’s fiber project is also helping to transform the entire region. It’s not only increasing Internet speeds and television and phone service quality, fiber is also helping to spur economic growth and preparing our area for the future.

Members living in the Hickory Hills and Hickory Glen subdivisions will be contacted by a Ben Lomand representative to begin the process of installing fiber to their homes. Thank you for your patience!

Watch TV EVERYWHERE gives you new flexibility for your TV choices

Young Couple Using A Digital TabletWatching your favorite television programs doesn’t mean you have to be in front of the TV anymore. By using Watch TV EVERYWHERE from Ben Lomand, you can view your TV shows anytime, anywhere on your favorite devices — home computers, smartphones, tablets  and more. Wherever you go, your favorite shows go with you. Ben Lomand has recently added content from channels including Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike, VH1, C-SPAN, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, A&E, History, H2, Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network.

It doesn’t matter if you’re at the ballpark or on vacation, with Watch TV EVERYWHERE from Ben Lomand, you can see all your shows from a mobile device while you’re on the go. For more information, call your local Ben Lomand Connect office.

60 years of service

2014… and beyond

EDITOR’S NOTE:
This is the final in a series of articles exploring the rich 60-year history of our cooperative.
 

1st Ben Lomand officeToday’s Ben Lomand looks very different from the one that began providing basic phone service 60 years ago. While standing firm on its foundation of customer service, the cooperative is now focused on the technology that is shaping rural America — fiber.

“We currently pass some 16,000 homes with our advanced fiber network,” says Ray Cantrell, Ben Lomand Connect’s general manager. “Some 4,000 homes are on that network now, and our goal is to connect 2,000 more this year.”

The cooperative began building fiber in high demand areas or where copper lines have been unreliable. The ultimate goal is to have fiber throughout the service area. Crews have already built the lines in Pelham, Bon De Croft, Spencer and Beersheba Springs, along with parts of McMinnville and Warren County.

This is a major benefit for a rural area because it makes it possible to enjoy broadband connection speeds that rival those in big cities. “We are looking at how our customers are using bandwidth, and budgeting for what our future bandwidth needs will be,” Cantrell says. “As people connect more and more devices to their Wi-Fi networks — such as tablets, cell phones, game consoles, smart TVs, appliances and thermostats — we will be ready to deliver the bandwidth they need.”

This network is not only important to those who are already here, it also makes communities more appealing for businesses and families looking to relocate. With this in mind, members of the Van Buren County Chamber of Commerce earlier this year asked Ben Lomand Connect to send representatives to one of their meetings to discuss the new network. 1967 Annual Mtg Winners

Beyond reliable phone service and high-speed Internet access, fiber delivers digital TV service that features HD programming, DVR capabilities, video on demand and local programs. Because fiber can maintain signal strength over much longer distances than cable, and it has no line-of-sight issues like satellite, Ben Lomand’s TV offering is bringing a new level of service to rural customers.

There are even more benefits. “Our Secure Connect service helps our families and business owners protect their property and loved ones,” says Cantrell. “And our Secure Care medical alert system helps seniors remain safe and independent in their homes. These kinds of offerings improve the quality of life for our members.”

When men and woman worked hard to form a new member-owned company more than six decades ago, they did so in order to bring a much-needed service to their rural communities. Ben Lomand’s focus on broadband remains true to the cooperative’s original mission. “As technology advances, as the needs of our members change, and as the industry continues to evolve, this cooperative will evolve as well,” Cantrell says.

1966 Board Members“We may have to adjust our business plan,” he continues. “We may have to make changes in how we operate or in how we provide service. But as our members see us adapting to the new industry reality, I want them to remember that we will always be their technology company, focused on bringing the best in telecommunications to this region.”

As Ben Lomand Connect celebrates 60 years of service, Cantrell says the goal of the board, management and employees is clear: “We are working together with our members to build an even better future, so that when our children’s children mark the next 60 years they, too, will celebrate the life of a cooperative that has continued to enrich the lives of its members throughout our communities.”

Recent history: 1990-2010

By Laura Candler

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles exploring the rich 60-year history of our cooperative. In this issue, we look at the growth of the cooperative during the ‘90s and 2000s along with some major events that took place during that time. 

When Ben Lomand started in 1954, its founders never would have imagined the broad scope of services it would provide 60 years later. It began with a small group of individuals motivated to connect rural Middle Tennessee residents to phone service, and today it is a highly successful cooperative that provides high-speed Internet, television and phone service to more than 35,000 individuals.

If there’s one theme that sums up the modern era in the communications business, it’s technology turnover: platforms shifted from analog to digital, wiring changed from copper to fiber and companies went from central office-based to remote transmitting locations. Ben Lomand rode to the forefront of these changes, and as a result, it became one of the five largest phone cooperatives in the country, with a subscriber base spanning 3,200 square miles.

A lot of the groundwork for Ben Lomand’s current service offerings was laid in the 1990s. In 1993, the cooperative launched its first subsidiary, Ben Lomand Communications, to provide residents with their first-ever local choice for long distance service. It was also around that time that Ben Lomand converted all of its operations from analog to digital technology. In the coming years, that proved to be a smart move. Personal computers took off, and the demand for Internet service began to increase dramatically. Ben Lomand’s digital platforms paved the way for its very first Internet access option in 1996, as well as caller ID, auto recall and auto callback. High-speed Internet with Firewire DSL followed soon after that. Just seven years after their first subsidiary was born, Ben Lomand launched another called Volunteer Wireless, which today oversees all of the cooperative’s Internet and video services.

Fiber optics is another technology that Ben Lomand embraced early on. Not only can it carry more data than copper wiring, but it’s also more flexible and can carry a signal almost 100 times farther without losing the strength of the signal. In addition to converting some areas to fiber, Ben Lomand also began to set up remote locations that created hubs closer to different customer locations and thus provide faster service. The central office, which was once crammed full of electronic components, became uncluttered and customers began to see quicker Internet speeds as a result. Ben Lomand now operates more than 400 remote locations.

Clearly, the cooperative looked very different in 2010 than it did in 1990. The most important things however, are that Ben Lomand continued to serve its customers throughout the changes and that the cooperative laid a strong foundation for what is coming next.

 

Ben Lomand hosts 60th annual meeting

AM-DSC_0110Members and staff of Ben Lomand Connect gathered in force recently for the company’s 60th Annual Meeting.

It was an opportunity for new General Manager Ray Cantrell to introduce himself to members.

“Our annual meeting is a great opportunity for us to touch base with our members,” Cantrell says. “We understand that our members are the backbone of who we are, and we love the opportunity to visit with them.”

The meeting is also a time to elect board members. This year, a new face joins the board with the election of Jeff Flatt, a manager at Farm Bureau Insurance. am-DSC_0034

“I am very excited for the opportunity to represent and serve the members and employees of Ben Lomand Connect,” Flatt says.

Members at the meeting were also treated to hot dogs, popcorn, drinks and cookies, while being entertained by the bluegrass band The Rank Strangers.

Members also toured a historical display area that dated back to Ben Lomand’s inception in the early 1950s. The area included historical photographs, log books with entries for many of Ben Lomand’s first members, a display of phones from the ‘70s and ‘80s and more.

AM-DSC_0036From there, members learned about today’s technology with a demonstration of BLTV’s HD and DVR service, high-speed Internet and Home Security.

One of the meeting’s highlights was seeing all the employees gather in their 60th Anniversary shirts, says Karen Wilson, public relations manager for Ben Lomand. “It was a huge statement of how many families we employ and how our employees impact the local economy,” she says. “We have a great workforce that is here to serve our customers every day.”

All attendees left with a canvas cooler bag and some lucky members won prizes that ranged from cash to Kindle Fires and other technology items. Kids were treated to games, balloon creations, pictures and much more.

Meet Jeff Flatt

At the Ben Lomand Annual Conference, members elected Jeff Flatt to serve as its newest member of the Board of Directors.JeffFlatt

“This is a great opportunity, and I am excited to serve the members and employees of Ben Lomand Connect,” Flatt says.

Flatt has worked for Farm Bureau Insurance for more than 30 years, and he has managed the Warren County agency for the past 18. He also serves as a director for Homeland Community Bank, and he is a member and the vice president of the McMinnville Noon Rotary.

He graduated from Lipscomb University with degrees in marketing and management.

He is a deacon at Bybee Branch Church of Christ. He has been married to Mary Flatt for 30 years. They have three children and are expecting two grandchildren in June.

In his spare time, Flatt enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with his family at the lake.