Facebook Pixel CodeNews Archives - HCTC

Lifeline Service

LIFELINE IS A FEDERAL PROGRAM TO HELP LOW-INCOME AMERICANS PAY FOR PHONE OR BROADBAND SERVICE

Consumers are allowed only one Lifeline program benefit per household.

FAQ:

How much will Lifeline save me?

If you qualify for Lifeline, you will receive a credit of $9.25 each month on your bill.

What services are covered by this credit?

You have the choice (where applicable) of applying your benefit to one of three types of service offerings:

  • Fixed or mobile broadband
  • Fixed or mobile voice-only
  • Bundles of fixed or mobile voice and broadband

NOTE: Lifeline can only be used for one source of communication from the list above.

Can I receive more than one Lifeline credit?

No, consumers are allowed only one Lifeline program benefit per household.

How do I qualify?

You are eligible for Lifeline benefits if you qualify for and receive one of the following benefits:

  • SNAP
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • The Veteran’s Pension or Survivor’s Pension benefit

Additionally, consumers at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines will continue to be eligible for a Lifeline program benefit. (State determinations of income will no longer be accepted.) There are no changes to the eligibility criteria for Tribal programs.

NOTE: Some states have additional qualifying programs, allowances and stipulations. Check with your local telecommunications provider for information about benefits that may be available in your state.

How do I enroll in the Lifeline program and start receiving this benefit?

To find out whether you qualify for Lifeline assistance, please visit www.lifelinesupport.org or call your local telecommunications provider.

NOTE: Your telephone company is not responsible for determining who qualifies for these programs or who receives assistance. Consumers must meet specific criteria in order to obtain assistance with their local telephone and/or broadband service, and qualifying is dependent upon government-established guidelines.

Precision Agriculture – Rural Broadband Creates Opportunities

The difference between success and failure for those who work in agriculture is, as it has ever been, small and frequently dependent on unpredictable factors: Too much rain. Not enough rain. Fickle prices. And more.

The goal is to manage the challenges in the best way possible, maximizing opportunity and limiting risk. Increasingly, internet-based technology can better balance the margin between losses and gains.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the case for further extending broadband internet services to rural areas by highlighting the benefits of fast internet for agribusiness.

The report “Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies” offered a broad look at the possibilities for broadband to make use of data-driven tools to improve results.

Farmers and ranchers can follow the path of other modern businesses by using digital tools across the production cycle, according to the report. These new

tools can support decision-making with integrated data. Automation can increase efficiency. Real-time insight can improve productivity. And entering into global markets becomes more attainable.

The trend can benefit farmers, ranchers and others in agriculture while also sup-porting technology companies leveraging these new or expanded markets. In fact, they have an opportunity to capture a portion of a global digital agriculture market projected to be between $254 billion and $340 billion.

New tools are needed to help farmers and ranchers better estimate the potential profit and economic risks associated with growing one particular crop over another. They may help with decisions about which fertilizer is best for current soil conditions or provide guidance on the best applications for pesticides. There are opportunities to create better water management strategies and to provide ways to use sensors to monitor animal health and nutrition.

“Connected devices equip farmers with a clear picture of their operations at any moment, making it possible to prioritize tasks more effectively and to triage the most pressing issues,” according to the report.

Rural broadband capable of supporting these data-intensive tools makes it all possible, and the financial potential of the market emphasizes the need to continue to expand broadband networks throughout the nation. If fully realized, fast internet services paired with new “precision agriculture” technologies have the potential to add $47-$65 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

POWER ON: Guarding Against a Surge

POWER ON

Guarding against a surge. All big-ticket pieces of electronic equipment are at the mercy of power spikes: your desktop computer, your big-screen TV, your audio system and more. Fortunately, surge protectors offer relatively low-cost solutions that can help keep your gear and your data safe.

POWER STRIPS

The most basic models of power strips offer little surge protection. So, consider them as nothing more than multi-outlet extension cords. While often equipped with a circuit breaker, they aren’t very effective in shielding your gadgets from harm. A true surge protector comes with a rating, typically measured in joules, that shows how much energy it can absorb before failing. Generally, a strip with a higher joule rating will offer greater protection.

SURGE PROTECTOR

Surge protectors come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from a large block with more than a dozen connectors to a single-outlet travel version. Consider a joule rating of 2,000 and above for your expensive or delicate equipment. Any wire that goes into your devices
can produce a power surge, so a good surge protector for your home office will also include connections for a phone line or network cables. For your cable system or TV, some surge protectors also come with a coaxial cable connection. Surge protectors work by absorbing excess voltage, so protection will degrade over time, depending on how much voltage has been absorbed. Once that protection is gone, it’s gone. While some devices have lights that indicate they are no longer working as intended, they are impossible to see when they’re behind the furniture. So, make sure you choose a surge protector with an auto-shutoff feature. Once it is unable to provide protection, the surge protector will stop providing power.

UNINTERRUPTIBLE POWER SUPPLY

Commonly known as a UPS, uninterruptible power supplies offer surge protection and keep your equipment working when the power goes out. A blackout won’t damage your devices, but if a sudden power outage occurs while you’re saving a computer file, it can lead to data corruption and render the file inaccessible. A UPS can buy enough time to save files and shut down equipment properly. A UPS, however, cannot take the place of a
generator for long-term use during an outage. It’s still a battery, and its cost is typically tied to its capacity for providing power. If you only need enough time to save your work or power your internet for an hour, there are options starting under $100 that can do the job. Whatever you choose, a surge protector is a wise investment that more than pays for itself.

Broadband Now Awards HCTC Top Honor

HCTC was awarded the 2019 “Top Internet Speeds in Texas” within the small provider category by BroadbandNow. The purpose of the BroadbandNow provider awards program is to grant awards to internet providers who display operational excellence across a range of categories. BroadbandNow uses extensive marketwide datasets, which include information collected from consumers, ISPs, the FCC, NTIA and more.

“We are honored to have been recognized by BroadbandNow for our operational excellence and infrastructure, which allows us to provide the top internet speeds to rural Texas,” says HCTC Chief Executive Officer Craig Cook. “As we’ve continued to grow our footprint via high-speed fiber, smaller towns across Texas are now able to compete at speeds equivalent to those offered in large metropolitan areas. We’re thrilled to have been recognized for our work.”

Building Communities Locally and Globally

CRAIG COOK
Chief Executive Officer

The internet has changed the way we define community.

Sure, we’ll always have the community where we live. Many of us have a community of faith through our church or a school community with our kids.
But one of the things people discovered early on with the internet was the amazing ability to connect to others with similar interests in an online community. If no one else in your town was into quilting or vintage motorcycles or jewelry-making, there were thousands of enthusiasts online who shared those hobbies.

Unique, long-distance relationships formed during those early days of group email lists, message boards and online forums. Whatever our hobbies or interests, many of us have benefited from sharing ideas, swapping stories and soliciting advice with fellow enthusiasts.

As you’ll read in the pages of this magazine, creative folks like artists, bakers, photographers, carpenters, seamstresses and metalworkers all use broadband to enhance their skills or to even turn their passions into moneymakers.

Even if your hobbies don’t involve creating anything tangible, your broadband connection from HCTC has likely helped you find joy in your interests.

There are hundreds of active online communities for gaming, hunting, hiking, gardening, music, genealogy, sports and more just waiting for new members to plug in. Many of these are global groups that would be impossible to assemble if not for the reach of broadband networks like ours.

Personally, I’m gratified to know that artisans and craftspeople from our region have a chance to share work that celebrates our local culture. Through their skill, they hopefully earn money to support themselves, as well as export our culture to the rest of the country to help ensure our way of life thrives.

There is more good news for anyone wanting to learn those old ways — or something new. Whether it’s refinishing furniture, replacing a headlight, or learning to play the trombone, there are probably videos from experts on YouTube to walk you through the learning process step by step. This is the kind of skills library that has never before been available. Thanks to broadband, it’s right at our fingertips.

While I would normally use this space to tout the big-picture societal benefits of broadband — such as economic development, educational opportunities or telemedicine — I think it’s important to remember the hundreds of small ways a broadband connection makes our lives a little better.

Whether you’re learning a new skill or sharing community with fellow enthusiasts, we’re proud to be the company in the middle that helps you make those connections

Retail sales consultant connects with customers

Anthony Robbins arrived at HCTC nearly four years ago with a sales background and a penchant for fixing most anything.

Now, he’s combining those two things as a retail sales consultant with HCTC, putting local customers together with the services that are best for them. “It’s about helping people find solutions for what they need,” Robbins says.

Those needs are constantly evolving, he says. HCTC is evolving, too, with high-speed fiber internet, security systems, home and business telephone, computer repair, and IT solutions as part of its service and product lineup.

“I usually inquire about what the customer is using our services for, and that gives me an idea of what products are going to be best for them,” Robbins says. “I’ve learned that most people are starting to use the internet more and more for different reasons. People are doing a lot more streaming online and need internet connectivity that requires higher bandwidths.”

Most internet customers want faster speeds, a need Robbins, an avid video gamer, understands. Though he plays a variety of PC-based games, he knows online speeds are essential to online-based gaming. “Online gaming doesn’t take that much bandwidth, surprisingly,” Robbins says. “It’s about speed and depends on the ‘ping’ that communicates back and forth between players. A faster ping means an online game runs smoother.”

While he enjoys video games, Robbins, 28, says some of his other interests, such as woodworking, are more artisan in nature. “I’ve got my workshop, and I’ve got my tools,” he says. “I’ve got every- thing I need to get started, I just need to get in there and organize it. I tend to take on too many projects at one time, and I get more started than I get completed.”
He says he wants to start some small woodworking projects at first and see if they sell locally at swap meets and other outlets. “My parents were homeowners, so I learned how to work on things growing up,” Robbins says.

Robbins, a 2010 graduate of Tivy High School in Kerrville, came to HCTC from a “do-it-all” position at an office supply chain. While there, he also met his wife, Joy, whom he married in 2017. The two were co-workers. “We met in February 2015, and we became friends working there. Both of us were leaving at about the same time, and that’s about the time our relationship took off,” he says.

He says he is part of a great team at home and at HCTC, where the retail sales department works cohesively with other departments and employees throughout the cooperative.

“We’ve got a great team of people over here,” Robbins says. “Everyone is really knowledgeable and always helpful when there’s something someone needs to know how to do. And it’s not just the retail sales department. It’s across the whole company. If you have a question, you can usually find someone who can get the answer.”