By Ashley Spinks, Communications Coordinator, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association
April 5, 2018
Reliable broadband access can be difficult to come by in the middle of Tennessee, but Ben Lomand Connect (McMinnville, Tenn.) is making every effort to eradicate barriers to access. In November 2017, the company celebrated its new partnership with the University of the South in Sewanee, as the provider of gigabit speeds, more bandwidth and redundancy safeguards in the university’s network. And at the end of January, Ben Lomand announced on Twitter: “We are in the midst of providing gigabit broadband to over 2,400 homes in rural middle Tennessee, with over 8,000 more homes passed by the end of [the] year.”
Perhaps most notable among Ben Lomand’s projects are those the company has undertaken to provide community service. Ben Lomand—which is both an NTCA Certified Gig-Capable Provider and a Smart Rural Community Showcase Award winner—received a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Community Connect grant last year and constructed the new Ben Lomand Connect Technology and Community Center in fulfillment of the grant’s requirements. The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center in February 2018. The portable building includes two computers, desks and a printer, with Wi-Fi provided by Ben Lomand. It serves the communities of Greentown, Palmer and Whitwell Mountain, where residents often must rely on area businesses to access the internet.
Ben Lomand offers public Wi-Fi connections in other locations, too. These locations include “a soccer park with free and open Wi-Fi access—and other places in downtown, at the ball parks, at the civic center here.” Some of the connections are only accessible to Ben Lomand customers, but others are “wide open,” Ben Lomand Marketing and Sales Manager Bryan Kell said.
Kell enjoys promoting all the projects of Ben Lomand Connect, but said, “Probably the coolest thing we’ve done—and the best thing—has been our mobile Wi-Fi van.” The van travels throughout the company’s service area, providing Wi-Fi connections during local nonprofit events.
“We can set up for a day, for a weekend—[the van] provides very wide coverage for everybody to be able to use,” Kell said. According to Kell, four out of five counties in Ben Lomand’s coverage area are serviced by the Wi-Fi van.
Ben Lomand’s continued efforts to expand its coverage area and its broadband services has led to some notable economic developments. Near the end of 2017, Hӧrmann—a multinational manufacturer of doors and door openers—announced that it would build a new production facility in Sparta, Tenn., within Ben Lomand’s service area.
The facility is predicted to bring 200 new jobs to the area, and Kell said Ben Lomand’s gigabit capability was one of the reasons Hӧrmann chose Tennessee as the build site.
Ben Lomand Connect Chief Executive Officer Lisa Cope explained, “White County Mayor Denny Wayne Robinson indicated that excellent infrastructure was a firm requirement for any potential site. At this location we have fiber deployed and are able to provide Hӧrmann a synchronous gig connection. We are 100% vested in the success of our communities and want to be a good citizen and partner that helps keep our areas viable for generations."
“Anytime that you’re able to be a part of landing large, global corporations in your footprint, that’s a big deal,” Kell said, but Ben Lomand’s impact doesn’t end there. Ben Lomand broadband is “starting to be used a lot in our chamber of commerce, by our industrial development board. We’re doing a study, as far as our usage and what that’s looked like—even from a residential standpoint, usage has been great. We’re seeing a lot of traction.”
Ben Lomand will continue leveraging all possible resources to expand and support its customer base—the new community center is but its latest accomplishment.