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Cyber Security – A Threat to Every Business

December 21st, 2018 by

Broadband Internet access opens the world to businesses, both large and small. Companies from throughout our region have efficient access to an array of resources, including point-of-sale systems, online accounting, digital marketing opportunities and the latest communications tools.

WK&T Blog Cyber SecurityThe power of the Internet, however, brings responsibility, and often new threats. The possibility of cyber attack is a real danger for businesses of all sizes.
In fact, rural small businesses face significant threats, according to a recent report by Symantec, a firm focused on digital security. About 30 percent — three out of every 10 — cyber attacks target small businesses.

Attackers may take advantage of security controls that are often weaker in small businesses than in larger companies.
But the risk from weak cyber security may extend beyond a single small business. In today’s connected world, a small business might have a trusted relationship with a larger company that may include the sharing of digital information between organizations. An attacker can target the weakest link, often the small business, and those vulnerabilities can then be exploited to eventually reach the larger company.

Last year, Target learned a costly lesson. A hacker leveraged the trust between Target and a small vendor. The result? The attack compromised credit card details and the personal information of Target customers. Estimates for the potential financial loss from the assault climbed into the millions.
While the risk of cyber attack is high, most small business owners have a false sense of security, according to a survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

In fact, 77 percent of small business owners who were surveyed reported that their business was safe from cyber threats, such as hackers, viruses and malware.

The same report, however, provided a contradiction. Eighty-three percent of surveyed business owners reported having no formal cyber security plan.

While there are many possible threats, three are most common:

Trojans — Not all digital notes arriving from the Internet deserve trust. A message might appear to come from a reliable source, such as a bank. That message, however, could be from a hacker hoping to lure you into providing passwords, account numbers or other sensitive personal information. Avoid clicking on a link in an email. When in doubt, contact the sender and verify that the message is legitimate.

Social Engineering — Just asking is often the easiest way for a bad guy to get your password. A cyber criminal might pose as someone who is trusted in hopes of a small business employee giving up secure information. Business owners should inform employees of the risk and train them to respond.

Malware — Many forms of malicious software fall into this category of attack. Keeping all software, operating systems and anti-virus tools updated to the latest versions can lower risk.

Wingo student receives $1,500 scholarship from TMS

June 24th, 2015 by
WK&T employee Chris Adams presents a $1,500 check to Cheyenne McMullen, a Graves County High School graduate, courtesy of TMS.

WK&T employee Chris Adams presents a $1,500 check to
Cheyenne McMullen, a Graves County High School graduate, courtesy of TMS.

Paying for college just got a little easier for Cheyenne McMullen. The Wingo resident and
Graves County High School graduate was awarded a $1,500 scholarship from the Foundation
for Rural Service (FRS) and Telecom Management Services (TMS) to help her attend the
University of Tennessee at Martin.

Cheyenne is the daughter of Jason and Kara McMullen. In high school, she participated in the
wind ensemble, various honor bands and the “Screamin’ Eagle Marching Band” as the drum
major for two years. She was also involved in the Academic Team, “Fermata Nowhere” A
Capella group and the Archery Team. She plans to study music education at UT-Martin and
hopes to one day teach band in high school or college.

“The scholarship means a lot to me because this will help me out a lot with expenses for
college, especially with the cost of housing at UT-Martin,” says McMullen. “I’m very excited and
grateful to receive the scholarship.”

FRS was established in 1994 and seeks to sustain and enhance the quality of life throughout
rural America by advancing an understanding of rural telecommunications issues. FRS has
awarded a total of $98,000 in college scholarships to 36 high school seniors in rural
communities served by members of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

“The price of college education keeps rising, and TMS is proud to help local students like
Cheyenne pursue their goals through our scholarship opportunities,” says Chief Marketing
Officer Carrie Huckeby. “We want to do all we can to help our young community members grow
and prosper, and we wish Cheyenne all the best of luck as she begins college this fall.”

Telco Leaders Return Trevor Bonnstetter To NECA Board Of Directors

October 31st, 2014 by

MAYFIELD, Ky.—Trevor Bonnstetter has won a second term representing rural telecommunications providers on the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA) board of directors.

Bonnstetter is the CEO of Telecom Management Services, based in Mayfield, Kentucky. In that capacity he also serves as CEO of WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative and Ardmore Telephone Company. Together the two companies provide broadband, voice and other technology based services to more than 20,000 homes and businesses in Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.

As a membership association of U.S. local telecommunications companies, NECA helps more than 1,000 systems across rural America deliver high-speed multi-use broadband services. “NECA’s impact has expanded dramatically from its original mission,” says Bonnstetter. “Today’s NECA is also focused on providing resources, thought leadership and support as we tackle some of our toughest trials yet for rural telecommunications providers. Our industry is changing, and NECA is helping us influence the new industry reality.”

Bonnstetter was first elected to the NECA board in 2008. “I am proud of the work NECA is doing to help its member bring service to rural America,” he says. “Our efforts on issues such as rural call completion and a standalone broadband mechanism are paying off — and the result is that the people in our service areas have access to technology that improves their quality of life.

“I appreciate the confidence placed in me by leaders in the telecommunications industry through this election process,” Bonnstetter adds. “It’s an honor to have been part of the progress the past 6 years. I remain excited to work through the NECA board to continue helping our industry meet today’s challenges while doing what we do best — keeping our rural communities connected.”

Local student receives scholarship from TMS

May 30th, 2014 by


College is off to a good start for Lindsey Thompson. The Mayfield resident and Graves County High School graduate was awarded a $1,500 scholarship from the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) and Telecom Management Services (TMS) to help her attend Western Kentucky University.

Lindsey is the daughter of Eric and Lori Thompson. In high school, she was on the varsity cheer squad for three years and a manager for the boys’ soccer team. She was also involved in Future Business Leaders of America, Agape Club, Young Democrats, Beta Club and the 2013 Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program. She plans to study biology at WKU and return to a rural area like Mayfield, to work as an optometrist.

“This scholarship means a lot to me, because I do want to own a business in a rural community and come back around here and be close to family,” says Thompson. “I’m really grateful.”

FRS was established in 1994 and seeks to sustain and enhance the quality of life throughout rural America by advancing an understanding of rural telecommunications issues. FRS has awarded a total of $98,000 in college scholarships to 36 high school seniors in rural communities served by members of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

“Helping local students like Lindsey pay for college through these scholarship opportunities is a great joy for TMS,” says Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Huckeby. “Our biggest priority is helping the people of the communities we serve. We wish Lindsey all the best of luck as she begins her collegiate studies.”

Finance and accounting has a major role in building a marketing-driving company

October 2nd, 2013 by


By Todd Crandall, CFO of Telecom Management Services (TMS). This article originally appeared in NTCA’s Rural Telecom Magazine.

Much has been written about the changes taking place in the telecommunications industry. As we address this issue, we often talk about the importance of forming partnerships as a strategy for overcoming the market forces and regulatory pressures we are all facing. Indeed, from regional networks to joint purchasing agreements, the partnership concept has proven effective in positioning companies for success.

The next step — and an absolutely necessary one, I believe — is for telcos to bring the idea of partnering in-house. If we are to be successful in the new industry reality, it’s critical that we start forming partnerships between the various functions within our own organizations. Telcos have traditionally operated with a system of silos wherein the marketing, operations, engineering and finance and accounting departments all act like islands unto themselves. That philosophy may well prove disastrous in the new environment we’re all facing.

How many times have you seen this happen? Engineering buys some equipment and deploys a new service into a community. Then it’s up to marketing to figure out how to sell the service in that area while finance and accounting calculates when — or if — it can be done profitably. In the meantime, engineering goes off and starts another project, with no knowledge of how it fits into the company’s overall marketing or financial strategies.

Now imagine a scenario wherein all departments look at that next capital expenditure in a holistic, cross-functional way. The questions become:

  • “Engineering, what new technology is available, what neighborhoods could we take it into and how soon could you have it built?”
  • “Marketing, what are the demographics, what products can you sell into these areas at what price points and what is the competition doing?”
  • “Operations, what capacity do you have for new installs and how long will it take to get new customers connected?”
  • “Finance and accounting, what makes the most financial sense and keeps us in line with the company’s overall goals?”

The result of this approach is that no one department is making decisions in a vacuum, while leaving marketing to “now go sell it” and finance and accounting to “make the numbers work.” This certainly does not mean that “finance and accounting just wants to tell everyone else what to do.” Rather, it represents a new model for working together — providing every department in the company the information it needs to make decisions based on real information.

I must stress that, while the input of every department is absolutely important, the strongest working relationship in this new industry reality should be between the finance and accounting department and the marketing group. They must work closely together, even be strong advocates for one another. Why? Because at the end of the day we must all become marketing-driven companies. That is, we must be selling a product or service for which there is a demand, that is competitive in the marketplace and is priced where we can make money. Marketing is the function that provides the data, while finance and accounting provides the numbers. Everything else must support that.

If we’re going to build a marketing-driven company, we must shift our focus to:

  • what our customers need now;
  • what technologies they are going to demand in the future;
  • how we differentiate ourselves from the competition; and
  • how we position ourselves in the marketplace.

When we become customer-focused, action-oriented and financially disciplined — and align the rest of the organization in the same manner — then we can truly say we are driven by the marketing function.

But to make all this happen, finance and accounting really has to reinvent itself. We must be in the business of educating marketing and all other departments, of providing them with the information they need to come together and collectively make decisions about the business. To become a true partner with the other functional areas, finance and accounting must move beyond its traditional role of simply being a transactional based, historical looking function, and move toward a more forward-looking perspective (all the while maintaining excellence in transactional processing and historical reporting, of course). Only then can we provide other departments with the timely information they need to help our companies get ahead of the curve and make decisions in real time.

How do we make that happen, in a practical sense, within our organizations? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Be patient. Silos weren’t built in a day, and neither were mindsets. It will take time to change the way people think about doing business, so don’t get discouraged when it doesn’t happen overnight.
  2. Build teams. Assign every department a “go-to partner” from the finance and accounting team. This person can help departments with the budgeting process and other issues, and be there to answer questions that may arise in the course of daily business.
  3. Get together. It may sound simple, but having regular meetings involving all department leaders allows everyone to get a clear picture of how their function impacts the entire operation. If you only gather as a group during budget season, the terms “marketing-drive” and “forward-looking” will mean nothing.
  4. Practice accountability. It’s always easy to fall back into the old way of doing things — even when we know that “old way” is not going to work moving forward. Hold one another accountable for doing business the new way, every day.

As rural telcos, we are about more than the numbers. But as we focus on providing reliable technology to our customers, and doing so with the best, most people-focused customer service in the business, we have to make sure that all departments agree on what the numbers will be and align ourselves to make those numbers happen. That will be the only way to survive in the industry reality that lies ahead.

Local Student receives scholarship opportunity from TMS

August 8th, 2013 by

TMS Scholarship Winner

Shelby Beloate was the 2013 recipient of The Foundation for Rural Service (FRS) and Telecom Management Services (TMS) college scholarship in the amount of $1,500.  Shelby is the 18 year old daughter of Chris and Missy Beloate of Puryear, Tennessee.  She is a 2013 graduate of Henry County High School, where she played basketball and golf, and was on the 4-H Youth Skeet Shooting Team.

Shelby was also Football Homecoming Queen and Miss Henry County High 2013.  Shelby has a heart for giving back to her community.  She was a Tennessee Scholar with over 250 hours of community service and participates in the outreach ministries of her church youth group. She will be attending Murray State University to pursue a degree in Animal Science and Pre-Veterinary Medicine, specializing in large farm animals.  By being a veterinarian, she hopes to return to her rural area to serve.

FRS was established in 1994 and seeks to sustain and enhance the quality of life throughout Rural America by advancing an understanding of rural telecommunications issues. TMS, who is in cooperation with FRS, was established in 2011 and consists of a team of telecommunication professionals who oversee the day-to-day operations of WK&T Telecommunications and two other rural telecommunications companies serving a combined 85,000 rural customers. The Beloates are members of the WK&T rural cooperative.

“It is our pleasure to offer this scholarship to Shelby and we wish her the best of luck as she begins her collegiate studies,” said TMS Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Huckeby. “Helping our local schools and local students has always been a priority for the cooperatives we serve.”

Knowles Named TTA Executive Director

December 1st, 2012 by

State telecommunications group streamlines operation, contracts with TMS for lobbying, advocacy and administrative services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Telecommunications Association (TTA) will streamline its operations in the new year to better position the state’s independent telecommunications service providers to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing industry.

The trade group’s board of directors voted last month to contract with Telecom Management Services (TMS) to focus on lobbying, regulatory and advocacy issues on behalf of its membership. As part of the agreement, TMS Chairman Levoy Knowles will serve as executive director for the association.

These changes take effect January 1, 2013.

In his new role, Knowles will work with Tennessee’s elected and regulatory officials to develop relationships and foster a deeper understanding of independent telecommunications issues among policymakers. “Cooperatives and independently owned telecommunications companies have an important mission,” Knowles says. “They provide critical connections to millions of people across Tennessee, many of whom reside in low-density areas where there are far fewer customers per mile of line than in the larger cities. These companies are delivering the advanced services that fuel economic growth, support community services and enable a better overall quality of life for their customers in these small towns and rural communities.

“And yet the companies who comprise the membership of TTA face a unique set of challenges in today’s environment,” Knowles continues. “Regulatory and legislative measures are placing undue burdens on the ability of independent telecommunications companies to fulfill their mission. It’s important for these companies to speak with a unified voice and present their concerns to officials on matters that impact their subscribers. TTA is the vehicle that can provide that strong voice.”

As part of these changes, TTA will transition to a virtual operation. The association will close its office in downtown Nashville, saving rent, utilities, parking and other expenses. The existing staff will be dissolved. The TTA phone and fax numbers will ring into Knowles’ office in McMinnville, Tenn., and he will receive administrative support from his TMS team.

“It will be a seamless transition,” Knowles says. “As part of the contract with TMS, my staff will provide administrative support, such as answering phone calls and inquiries, organizing meetings and managing financial reports. This will be in addition to the lobbying, regulatory and advocacy services I will provide.”

James Garner, vice president operations for TEC, is the current president of the TTA board of directors. “The TTA membership is excited about the new direction of our association,” Garner says. “By streamlining the operation, we will be able to place a greater emphasis on activity that will have the most impact on our companies — keeping our cause in front of lawmakers, staying on top of regulatory measures and advocating for the subscribers at the end of the line. Ultimately, TTA is their voice.”

Garner says the board made the decision to contract with Knowles because of the experience and talent he and his team bring to the association. “Levoy is an industry veteran with a track record of success in this state,” Garner says. “He is already well-known and respected among policymakers, and he has built a solid team that will do a great job supporting his work and helping him be effective as the association’s executive director.”

TTA members provide an array of communications services to homes and businesses throughout Tennessee. These services include broadband Internet access, cable and digital TV, wireless phone service, and local and long distance phone service.

Ellen Thomas named TMS Human Resources Manager

February 20th, 2012 by

WK&T manager brings HR know-how to TMS team

McMinnville, Tenn. — Ellen K. Thomas has been chosen to be the new Human Resources Director for Telecom Management Services (TMS), overseeing employee safety, hiring and benefits among her responsibilities.

TMS CEO Trevor Bonnstetter said Thomas’s 19 years of experience at WK&T Telecommunications Cooperative have prepared her well for her new position.

“Benefits and HR regulations are evolving almost as quickly as the telecommunications industry,” he says, “and no one is better suited to handle the changes in both fields than Ellen. She is a great addition to the TMS team.”

Thomas became WK&T’s first HR manager in 2004 and received her HR certification from the Society for Human Resource Management in 2009. A lifelong resident of Fancy Farm, Ky., she said the TMS approach to management allows her to share the best from each of its affiliated companies with the others to improve policies and procedures across the network.

“Every company has challenges that they’re working through, and I love a challenge,” Thomas says. “You learn with each company that you work with, and you gather more and more information to help the next one.”

A large portion of her new responsibilities, which she took over on Jan. 1, is keeping company policies in line with an ever-evolving industry.

“Employees and employers have to change along with the industry,” she says. “With companies that have been in business 50 or 60 years, change isn’t always easy.”

Telecom Management Services is a Tennessee-based company focused on helping cooperatives and independent telecommunications companies across the Southeast succeed in the new industry reality. Driving its comprehensive approach is a broad range of management services, including network administration, operations, plant expansion oversight, legislative monitoring, marketing, CRM and billing solutions, strategic planning and new business development.

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