CC Communications waives $25K in fees during school transition to distance learning
When students and teachers quickly transitioned to distance learning during the spring because of the pandemic, CC Communications was ready to take on the extra bandwidth.
The local internet, TV and phone provider was set up to absorb any surge in service, in particular, increased use of its internet service with students and teachers requiring strong connections for daily video conference calls and chats.
“Even prior to the pandemic, CC Communications maintained the practice of always having a diverse route of bandwidth to the internet equal to two times what we actually had on the network,” General Manager Mark Feest said. “This allows us to completely failover if an upstream carrier goes down, which happens from time to time. Thus, it has not been an issue for us. Additionally, we recently ordered an additional link, which was already in the works.”
In addition to CC Communications being prepared for the pandemic, Feest said the company waived about $25,000 in fees for its broadband service to students and teachers. During the peak, customers needed to wait about two weeks to have service installed and in some cases, Feest added that there was more involved with the installation because of the location not having fiber services.
“We looked at whether there was an existing fiber drop and Network Interface Device at the location and, if so, got those installs right into the schedule,” Feest said. “In situations where we needed to dig a drop in or do extensive wiring, we diverted construction resources to expedite the installation. We also utilized NNE (Native Network Encryption) to expedite drops.”
The feedback from both Churchill County School District and Oasis Academy was positive as CC Communications stepped in to save the community during the unexpected transition from in-person schooling to full distance learning. For this current school year, CC Communications did not create new packages but is offering discounted rates.
Feest said the company is using its highest available copper speed where there’s no fiber to the home (FTTH) and the 100Mbps speed tier where FTTH does exist. Because FTTH construction is costly and slow, Feest said it could take about six months and $1 million to serve 50 locations. Still, the copper speeds are sufficient and able to support virtual learning.
With Churchill County, Feest said that the area is covered well with available broadband compared to “most rural communities in Nevada and across the country.” There has been a 5 percent increase in subscribers and 10 percent increase in total bandwidth usage.
“The penetration rate for broadband was already very good,” Feest added. “Residents that did not already have broadband tend to fall more into the category of simply not being able to afford it rather than not interested in it. Since the Federal Communications Commission allowed us to offer broadband without a phone line, our subscriber numbers have been trending upward.”
For eligible households under lifeline and link-up programs, CC Communications is offering two plans at 150 (download)/50 (upload) Mbps for fiber homes only and 20/3 Mbps for copper homes only. For more information, families can call 775-423-7171, ext. 1450.
To put the internet speeds into perspective, Zoom, for example, requires between 600 kbps (download and upload) for high quality video and 1.8 Mbps for 1080p high definition video download and upload speeds. Group video calling requires up to 3.0 Mbps download and upload speeds for the 1080p quality. Internet speed requirements are lower for audio-only Zoom calls.
Feest has several tips to help families understand and better use their internet service.
· Wireless connections, compared to hardwired, have greater latency and the speed is slower than what’s delivered to the home. If possible, connecting hardwired (device is plugged into the internet) will result in faster speeds.
· Invest in a quality Wi-Fi router to avoid slowing down how much data are successfully transferred to the devices.
· Ensure the Wi-Fi radio is on the strongest setting. A dual-band router will output one signal stronger at one end of the house and another signal may be stronger at the other end of the house.
· Even if a device is not being used but is still powered up and online, it will consume internet. In this case, these devices should be turned off to allow for best performance.
· For larger homes or if you encounter interference, look into purchasing a Wi-Fi extender.
· When using a device that will consume a lot of bandwidth, like video meetings, position yourself closer to the router or extender for a stronger signal.
While CC Communications focused on providing the community internet because of the inconveniences caused by the pandemic, Feest said attention was devoted toward his employees. Concerns surfaced about what happens if there’s an outbreak within the work groups, which would affect CC Communications from responding to the customer’s needs. Feest said the company made several changes to help their employees.
“We instituted practices that created more separation between members of the same workgroup, especially in installation and repair,” Feest said. “We utilized work from home, as well as having technicians take their work vehicle home at night and dispatch in the morning directly to their first install or trouble ticket location. We are having their equipment for the next day placed in boxes outside the warehouse for them to pick up in the late afternoon before returning home.”
For the customer’s safety, CC Communications requires appointments prior to visiting its office and all customers are required to complete a health screening questionnaire prior to the appointment and for in-home visits.