The Who, What, When, Where, and How of Fiber Builds!

June 21, 2022


In our fifth episode Bryan, Karen, and Micah find themselves at the BLC Plant Operations Facility and talking about…
  • What goes into getting fiber built and run to your home, plus the latest build updates with Director of Operations Chad Dees.
  • What are ExperienceIQ and ProtectIQ and why do I need them?
  • The latest in The Connection Magazine, Channel 6, and area events.
  • Micah’s Trivia and more!

Show Notes


Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.

Bryan Kell: Welcome to the BLC Connection Podcast. I’m Bryan Kell.

Karen Wilson: I’m Karen Wilson.

Micah Lawrence: And I’m Micah Lawrence.

All: Let’s get connected!

Bryan Kell: Welcome into the BLC Connection Podcast, and we have still kept the crew here and we’re, I think, this is our fifth one. Karen Wilson.

Karen Wilson: Yes.

Bryan Kell: Micah Lawrence.

Micah Lawrence: Hello.

Bryan Kell: And we are kind of podcasting at the operations building here on Smithville Highway. We’ll talk a little bit about what all goes on out here in this episode of The Connection Podcast. Karen, well, there’s a lot of stuff hopping around Channel Six, the magazine and events going on.

Karen Wilson: Well, there are. We’re kind of taking a breather right now at Channel Six and then working on lots of wonderful stories coming up for The Connection magazine, and I’ll touch on that later.

Bryan Kell: Fresh off of election coverage with more election stuff to come later on this year. Micah, Karen is going to be grilling us about ProtectIQ and ExperienceIQ.

Micah Lawrence: Yep. I think we’re going to wrap up everything that’s associated with Ben Lomand Home. So this is some good services to add to it, and I think everybody will enjoy it.

Bryan Kell: And you’ve got a little bag of trivia for us too, don’t you?

Micah Lawrence: Absolutely.

Bryan Kell: Okay. And also, we’re going to be taking you inside, like we said, the ops building here at Ben Lomand Connect and discuss some of the early processes of bringing about fiber before it is installed at your home or business with Chad Dees. That is next here on the BLC Connection Podcast.

Bryan Kell: We’re back here on the BLC Connection Podcast. We’re at the Ops building, and Micah and I are joined by someone who is no stranger to us and who is probably two of his favorite people to debate. He calls it probably debate. Sometimes it might even get into, I’m not going to say argument, but just a friendly debate. It is Chad Dees, director of operations at Ben Lomand Connect. Chad, welcome in to the BLC Connection podcast.

Chad Dees: Thank you.

Bryan Kell: 20 years of this place first. That’s coming up in June of this year. And this is this is a pretty special facility.

Chad Dees: I would agree.

Chad Dees: Yeah, it’s definitely one that maybe a lot of people don’t know what goes on here. And we’ll talk a little bit about that. But tell us, you know, when we’re talking about fiber, and I think as of right now, we’re like 77% fiber right now. A lot of people, one of their basic questions they always ask is, is how do we determine where fiber is going? Can you kind of walk us through some of those processes?

Chad Dees: So the process has changed over the years. I think originally we really looked at usage, and it was more usage based. If we saw areas of high demand, then we kind of targeted those areas. Since then, it’s been driven more about the cost of constructing the fiber. So we’re looking for locations where the density or, you know, grant opportunity or whatever, in that area allows us to build it and be most cost effective. So it’s more of a cost I think today than it is of the usage.

Bryan Kell: Yeah. I mean, you mentioned just a couple of things. I mean, grants play a huge part in where we’re going. But then also we’ve got areas within our service territory area that are maybe on copper that we need to get those converted over. So it’s a mish mash, at least right now of current service territory that we have and that we serve and others that are being added through grants.

Chad Dees: You know, the last five years we really we focused on the ILEC…

Bryan Kell: So explain what that is real quick if we’re going to throw around stuff.

Chad Dees: That’s our incumbent area. So that is the area in which we have a boundary to serve. So we’ve really covered and focused in on the ALEC, which would be the counties in which we serve, the 11 counties. We had, some of those that were still copper, and that’s been the focus since about 2017.

Bryan Kell: Okay.

Micah Lawrence: So, Chad, we try to educate our listeners on some of the terminology that we use. When we talk about fiber, we talk about first having to go out staking and then also the construction of the fiber. Can you tell us what this means, and what kind of this involves?

Chad Dees: So staking is not the first part of the engineering process, but it’s probably one of the most important. So when staking happens, that is the first time that we actually have employees with boots on the ground in the actual service area. So what they’re doing is they’re walking out every route, they’re determining the size of the fiber. They’re determining everything that would be needed to place the fiber, whether it should be aerial, whether it should be buried, what type of obstacles are in the way. And one of the most important things is through that process, they come up with a material list, which allows us to basically be able to go out and order every piece and part and every foot of fiber that we would need for that project and give an estimate of what the cost would be associated with that. So staking is definitely not the first part of the process, but probably one of the most important. As far as construction, construction is a long process when it comes to putting in fiber. So you’re looking at the first thing you will do is determine the area in which and the boundary in which you’re going to serve. That is part of the engineering process before staking happens. Once that’s done, the staking process will go into place. Material will be ordered.

Chad Dees: At this day and time on a normal basis, we would look at basically a 16 week lead time on a lot of material. Some of that lead time now, it can be as much as 80 weeks, depending on what the material is. So everything seems to be pushing out even farther. So you could be looking at 80 weeks from the original time that we put boots on the ground til we actually start the construction process just because we’re waiting on material. But once the process starts and construction starts, we will first send in a construction crew. They will basically place the cable. A lot of people see this, and they think they get really excited because they think at that point in time they’re getting really close to getting service. It’s just the very beginning of the process. So the cables being placed, once the cable is placed, they will come back. They will record that into our software so that we know the cable is there, and then the splicers will go out and start splicing all these cables together. This takes quite a bit of time. So they will splice it. They will test it. Once it’s tested, at that point, you’re ready for a drop at your house and service. But we’re talking several, several months of splicing and several months of construction before that happens.

Bryan Kell: Chad, we spoke to Greg a few months ago, and one of the main topics back then was trying to get out of this global supply chain issue that that kind of cranked up, I guess maybe fall of last year, winter definitely of last year and this year. Can you – we’re recording this in the latter part of May – can you kind of talk about where we kind of stand when it comes down to… Because you said it’s so important on getting equipment and getting things in. How is that today in late May?

Chad Dees: Well, you mentioned the warehouse that we have here in the operations building that we’re in presently. So one of the things that we’ve done is we’ve got out orders ahead of time and tried to really stock a lot of the things that we think will need to complete these projects. So we’ve tried to get out in front of this as much as we can. But that being said, it’s kind of a moving target. This is the first time that I’ve seen that it’s actually affected all products. It’s not just plastics or not just electronics or not just metal. It’s everything. So from remote controls, we’ve had issues with that. You know, some of the most basic of things that you wouldn’t normally think you would have an issue with have been an issue. We’ve worked tirelessly with our vendors almost on a daily basis. We switched products around. So we’ve changed some of the cable that we use. We’ve changed some of the products that we use to those that are easier to get that we can get faster. So we’re doing everything that we can, I guess, to keep up with it and make sure that projects stay on time. But there are some things that we’re not willing to sacrifice. So when it comes to quality control and things of that nature, we’re not going to sacrifice anything that we think is going to either sacrifice the quality of the plant or the quality of the service, that we’re not going to do. But if there are alternatives, we look at that.

Bryan Kell: You hear a lot of terms. You hear aerial and underground fiber thrown around a lot. Just so in case there are folks out there that don’t know what those definitions are and how we determine what goes aerial and what goes underground, can you kind of talk about that?

Chad Dees: So, aerial construction would be construction on a pole. So if you say cable on a pole, that’s part of what we consider aerial construction. Buried construction obviously is just the opposite. That’s going to be cable that’s placed in the ground. In our area, the biggest two probably determining factors is if we currently have our own existing pole line, we’re going to use that pole line just because it keeps the cost of the project down. The second determining factor for our area is rock, and we have a lot of it in some of the service territories. So if you’re in an area that is predominantly very rocky, if the terrain is rocky, if it’s mountainous, Grundy County comes to mind…

Bryan Kell: Your home county.

Chad Dees: My home county, you will see that we place a lot more of the facilities in the air. Our preference is to put it in the ground. Anywhere that we can, that’s where we want to place it. But again, some locations are very good with that. If you look at Viola and Dibrell, you you can place a lot of that cable into the ground. But if you look at a Grundy County, the rock won’t allow that.

Bryan Kell: And when we’re talking about aerial, putting things up on poles or even in the ground, do our employees do those? Is it a combination of our employees and contractors that come in? Explain who gets to handle what in those things.

Chad Dees: It’s definitely a combination. So you’ve got, as far as routine maintenance and things of that nature, almost 100% of that is our employees. As far as actual construction, it depends on the size of the project. If we’re looking at an exchange project, that’s going to be contracted just because of the size, the timeline and the scope of the project. If you look at maybe a situation where fiber has already been built in the area, there’s a new service road that’s been put into place and you have 15 homes on that road, that could be our crews that go in and construct that and add that tap. So it’s a combination of…

Bryan Kell: What’s a tap?

Chad Dees: A tap is going to be. Again, it’s a fiber cable coming off a main line that’s used to feed a side road or some road or some route that wasn’t there currently. So that’s going to be a tap.

Micah Lawrence: So, Chad, you mentioned if we’ve got an existing pole line or something like that, most people don’t realize, I’m assuming most of these polls that we see going on the road, they could be ours, could be somebody else’s. What, give me some information about how that happens or what happens there.

Chad Dees: So the majority of the poles that you see are probably owned by the electric company. So most of the poles that we use are with joint use agreements that we have with the local cooperatives and electric companies. There are cases where electric facilities may not be in the area, or we take a separate route where we develop our own basically our own pole line. What we don’t want to do and we try to avoid is to create another or a second pole line where one pole line already exists. For obvious reasons, homeowners don’t like that. Property owners don’t like that. So if there’s a pole line there, we typically try to use it. If it’s not ours, we may bury under it. If it’s not rock, if we can do that. And if we have, like I said, if we have to take a different route other than what the electric took, we may establish a pole line at that point.

Micah Lawrence: So we know that fiber is a little different. We know that it’s glass. We’ve talked about that before here. You know, with copper, we could just kind of put the pairs together pretty easily. When it comes to fiber, we know it’s different. What are some tools that your group uses to kind of put the fiber together? Because obviously it doesn’t come on one big spool all the way to your house. How do they connect that together?

Chad Dees: So everything that we use is a fusion splice. So there was a time that mechanical splices were a little bit more common. That’s not been common for us with everything that we have is fusion slot. So a fusion splicer for us. It’s a very expensive piece of equipment. It’s going to have several other things that come along with it, cleavers and things of that nature that are made to cut the fiber and to strip the fiber before it’s placed into the splicer itself. And then at that point, basically, it uses heat to melt and fuse the glass together.

Micah Lawrence: What’s the size of the fiber? Like what can you relate that to that people would understand?

Chad Dees: It’s probably smaller than a strand of hair. I think that’s probably the easiest way to look at it. It’s very small. A lot of people will see a fiber strand with the jacket, and they think that’s the fiber. That’s the size of it. It’s not. The jacket is usually about, I don’t know, 3 to 4 times bigger than the actual strand itself.

Bryan Kell: So if I’m looking up there on a pole, and I’m assuming that that I’m looking at Ben Lomand’s fiber line that’s going down through there, is there a good idea as to how many individual strands of fiber are in that?

Chad Dees: That you can’t tell basically by just looking. So what I can tell you is it could be anywhere from 12 fibers to 288. There is a 432 that we try to avoid just because of the time it takes. If it were to be damaged, the time it takes to put that back together. We would rather run multiple to 288s and be able to get that back quicker. So for Ben Lomand purposes, you’re looking at something in between a 12 count to a to a 288.

Bryan Kell: So kind of following up on that. From time to time, something happens that damages the fiber. We ran into one of those I think just a couple of weeks ago, a couple to a few weeks ago. I mean, what are different things that cause fiber damage when we kind of have to run and take care of a problem? What are those problems that pop up?

Chad Dees: Those are many.

Bryan Kell: So we’ve heard of dump trucks before.

Chad Dees: Dump trucks, fire transformers. We just had one recently where basically a transformer had caught fire and then caught fire to the cable. So transformers, large trucks that snag or pull on the line. Squirrels.

Bryan Kell: Shotguns?

Chad Dees: Shotguns.

Bryan Kell: That blew me away when I got to Ben Lomand, when I started hearing, I think within the first six months. What guns?

Chad Dees: Well, even worse than that. BB guns. Dove season. Dove season we’re always busy just because people at times like to shoot them off the line. So. And then again, a BB gun is a lot worse. I can locate a shotgun blast on a cable very, very easily because it’s visible. A BB that goes through a cable and hits one strand or two strands, it’s a lot more difficult to locate. So anything from firearms to rodents to ants to, I mean, you name it, for whatever reason, some of the rodents are very attracted to. We’ve heard several, several reasons why. I don’t know how many of those are true, but they are attracted to the cable. They do tend to chew it. So whether that’s a, if it’s in the ground, it may be a mole or a rat. If it’s in the area, it might be a squirrel. But rodents do like the cable.

Micah Lawrence: So Chad, we heard before, or our customers might hear a lot ,that we need to bury a drop to your house. We need to, you know, hang a drop. When they say fiber drop, what is that exactly? What are we doing there?

Chad Dees: So we talked about the 12 to 288. That’s a main line cable. So that’s the cable that’s coming back to the equipment that actually provides the service. Off of that cable, you will have a drop, what we call a service drop. And that drop basically connects your home back to the mainline cable. So that is what the service drop is. The service drop would typically run from a knit on the outside of your home, back to either an aerial case where we make the splice into the mainline cable or a buried pedestal where we do the same thing. We make the splice into the mainline cable. So that is your connection back to the main line, they get you back to our basically where we provide the service.

Micah Lawrence: And so we talked about all these multiple fibers that we see hanging on the pole. Typically, what do we, I mean, how many fibers do you run to my house?

Chad Dees: Typically we run two. So most of the drops that we run, the service drops that we run in place are a two count. So we only splice one of those to provide the service. But there’s a two count in the actual drop itself. So you have two fibers available.

Bryan Kell: So, Chad, we’ve recently at Ben Lomand gone to one speed, one price on our gig customers. We mentioned earlier, we’re about 77% fiber ready throughout our service territory area. One gig seems like a lot. I mean, it is a lot synchronous up and down speed there, but we keep hearing more talk about multi gig connections, especially for businesses. Talk about the future of speeds of what we’re going to be probably talking and looking and delivering maybe over the years to come.

Chad Dees: I think that’s the beauty of the fiber network. So people will throw around the phrase of future proof. And what that means for Ben Lomand and what it means for our customers is basically we’re going to be able to keep up with the needs of the customer without having to do a complete overhaul of the infrastructure. To change your service from one gig to ten gig, it’s basically an electronic change on our side. So it’s not, you know, reworking or rebuilding the infrastructure. The infrastructure itself will be able to maintain whatever speeds are needed. So we’re looking at basically an electronic change on our side. It could be as simple as an SFP and maybe putting a switch at the location that handles that.

Bryan Kell: We talk about this from time to time with folks that have been with Ben Lomand a while. And you were running around Ben Lomand as a kid. But talk about the growth in speed that just you’ve seen and how crazy that is.

Chad Dees: So I can remember being here when we put in the first 192 fiber. I was a contractor, I was working downstairs. We were putting it in place, and I can remember laughing because we were talking about what would Ben Lomand ever need with 192 fibers. You look today and now we run a single cable with 288. This was one single 192 that we were setting up in a ring. And we thought that was ridiculous. And that was I mean, if I look back, that’s 20 years ago. And then as close as I guess ten years ago, I can remember having a conversation with our marketing team about how we could provide, I guess, a better broadband service over copper. And we were looking at adding other devices to the home to be able to do that. And I was kind of arguing that we shouldn’t do that because we increase the number of failure points inside the home. And the comment was made, I shouldn’t really worry about that because at that point in time, we had less than 100 megabits per second customers. Now, I mean, the lowest thing that we had was 50, and now we’re up to a gig. So I really don’t know. Technology is going to drive the future, so it’s really going to be applications and things of that nature. And I think they’re going to be more and more bandwidth intensive, and we’re going to see that number continue to rise.

Micah Lawrence: So, Chad, a lot of people are are asking us constantly, I know when I’m out and about, they’re like, you know, when is fiber coming out on this road or that road. And, you know, lots of times I can’t tell them exact addresses. But, you know, I tell a lot of people, you know, call in, give them your address. Let’s see what we can do for you. But what are some updates on our fiber builds today? Like where are we going? What’s our plans? So that way people kind of have a good idea.

Chad Dees: So I think I hear this a lot. So I hear it a lot from the different district managers and supervisors. So we’ve got a lot going on. So the first thing that I would say is that we currently have construction actually happening in just about every county that we serve. So you’ve got construction in Coffee County currently, Cumberland County, we’ve got construction in Grundy County, Van Buren County, Warren County, White county. So there are so many projects going on. I know the one frustration that I hear from customers is I’ve talked to someone and someone told me one thing. Now somebody told me another. Again, depending on which project you’re talking about, they may both be telling you the truth. It’s just different projects, so it’s really difficult to keep up with for any one individual. But what I can say is over the last two weeks, I think we’ve released what we call MCOO, which is going to be the customers that are served out of McMinnville City office there at 311 North Chancery.

Bryan Kell: And if I remember correctly, that kind of is the area, like you said, behind the office at Ben Lomand, maybe even stretches towards the civic or through the Milner Rec Center kind of back, or maybe it’s the middle school that I hear that area.

Chad Dees: We got the middle school remote is actually being built as well. But the area that’s just across the road from our main office up toward the square and then back behind the main office. So that’s what that’s going to cover. We also had a Laager remote that was released that’s there at the junction, which is one of their main intersections in Gruetli-Laager. So that was released last week. And then we also had a remote in Dole that was released last week. So we’ve got a couple of more coming in Dole. We’ve got several coming in Laager and Tracy City. We have at least two more coming in McMinnville City that are up to be released. So, and then Cumberland County is extremely busy. So we’ve got a lot going on there as well.

Micah Lawrence: So Chad, you know, if someone hears, you know, “Hey, we’re coming out of the back of Ben Lomand’s office and doing some in the city.” A lot of people are curious that they’re saying, “Well, hey, I’ve got it out in the county, which is out in the middle of nowhere. But, you know, let’s say in town, I can’t get it.” Why is that? Why do we go out to the county before we go to the city? Or what are the reasons for making those decisions?

Chad Dees: So what what I mentioned earlier was our ILEC service territory, and that basically is our membership.

Bryan Kell: That cooperative member.

Chad Dees: That is our cooperative member. That is our cooperative boundary. I know it’s a little strange, but because of the way things lay out, McMinnville City itself is actually, it would be the ILEC not for us, but for another provider. So it’s competitive in that area for us. So what we’ve done is we’ve we focused on, and we have really tried hard to make sure that that we cover the gaps in McMinnville City. It’s obviously very important to us. Our office sits right in the middle of it, but we also have a responsibility to our membership. So we’re making sure that we’re taking care of our membership, and then we’re trying to come back and also take care of those that take care of us that are directly in the vicinity of our main office.

Bryan Kell: As we kind of wrap up here, Chad, this building that we’re podcasting from right now, most people, when they think of Ben Lohman, they think of that main office that’s down on Chancery Street. But this is such a vital building that sits out here on Smithville Highway. Talk to us just a bit about all the departments out here. And just like I say, the importance of the ops building to all offices of Ben Lomand.

Chad Dees: The ops building is something that it’s pretty unique to Ben Lomand, as far as what we have here and what we’ve been fortunate enough to work with. So we have our engineering department is here, our install and repair department is here, construction, splicing, our warehouse.

Bryan Kell: Big warehouse, pretty good sized warehouse.

Chad Dees: A very, very nice sized warehouse and a large yard. So we’ve got several departments here that are extremely busy right now because of the construction that’s going on. A lot of that is is worked out of this building.

Bryan Kell: And for those family members that are out there that are listening to this, that enjoy BLTV, there’s a pretty important building behind the ops building for that as well.

Chad Dees: There is. Our head in is actually located directly behind the ops building.

Bryan Kell: So thanks for coming on the podcast, taking time out of not only your schedule here at Ben Lomand, but also your fishing schedule, which I know is a big, big schedule that you’re, you know. So thanks for letting us hook you into this podcast.

Chad Dees: I appreciate it.

Bryan Kell: Chad Dees, director of operations here at Ben Lomand Connect.

Karen Wilson: This is the BLC Connection Podcast, and it’s time for our Connected Home segment. I’m Karen Wilson, and we are back with Micah Lawrence and Brian Kell to take a deep dove into more Ben Lomand Home products, specifically ExperienceIQ and ProtectIQ. So let me just open this up, guys. As someone whose children were growing up at the beginning of the digital revolution, I wish these two options that we’re getting ready to talk about that Ben Lomand offers were around then. Everyone has their own method for policing the Internet at home. Bryan, how did you manage this with your kids when they were young?

Bryan Kell: This is always going to be good. The parenting skills of Micah Lawrence and Bryan Kell.

Karen Wilson: Yeah.

Bryan Kell: This is not good. Okay. So and we were kind of talking a bit about this before we got rolling on this. The biggest concerns I had of raising kids, much of the age of yours, mine are now 25 and 22. So the biggest thing growing up was, how much TV are you watching? And then later on, obviously, at what time do you give a kid a smartphone? You know, I don’t think necessarily my kids had tablets and things like that, but screen time was a concern. And if you ever did ground, those were easy things to immediately kind of go, “Okay, you’re losing screen time on,” or “You’re losing your phone” or something along those lines. So, like you said, I wish that we had had these type of things because you had, you know, the family had to decide, you and your wife or you and your husband had to decide at what point do I give this kid a smartphone? And it was really all or nothing. There was nothing like this to help kind of filter, at least to my knowledge and where I was at the time, to really help filter things, it was like, okay, what point do I give this kid this access to all things that are on the Internet? And that is great things and those are horrible things. So we kind of developed a situation to where it was like at this age you can have this type of phone. Or, you know, you can only, you know, “Hey, you need to turn that off. And that’s enough of” at that point, probably TV and maybe some laptop. But yeah, those were those kind of discussions. I wish and Micah’s raising one that younger than ours, that there had been something to be able to help you parent better and to allow your kids to not get as exposed to what is out there in the ways that there were back then.

Karen Wilson: Well, I don’t think we really understood the effects of screen time. You know, now we’re kind of seeing these kids that aren’t socially interactive in-person with other kids and things like that. So we didn’t really know at that point to be fearful of that or to have caution against that.

Bryan Kell: And you and I are slightly older than Micah, but, you know, we didn’t, I mean, our things that probably – we didn’t I don’t know about you – but we didn’t go inside to play with stuff, whether that was even gaming consoles, Atari’s and all that kind of stuff. If it was a pretty day outside or if there were, it was all about being outside. And so more and more, as technology has grown, it’s pulled kids inside more than outside. So we were lucky, I think, to probably miss some of that. Micah was so heavy into computers and stuff that that probably, he probably had a balance of being outside and really enjoying computer time too.

Micah Lawrence: Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of the way I started. You know, we, I almost feel like we were the the gaming generation, you know, when Atari’s were kind of at their peak and then this thing called a Nintendo, you know, came to be about. And it did bring us inside, absolutely a lot more. Got me into wanting to deal with computers. Of course, I used to play with Apple computers at that time and still into the Apple side now. But when it comes to the way, you know, I’m trying to protect my daughter is, I see a difference from when I started, you know, when we started with dialup Internet, you know, this thing you had to someone you called in, you got knocked off of it. You know, from there, til now is, things were a little bit more difficult to get to. You know, viruses and malicious websites and pornography and things of that nature, were a lot more difficult to get to. And now it seems to be incredibly available to them. So, you know, being able to have something there to kind of protect them is a necessity, I think, in today’s day and age. And, you know, you know, with the whole talk about the social part of this, is that’s the other side of this coin, too, is when we talk about screen time, we want to be very careful because I have noticed this generation of kids, this one coming up around my daughter’s age. She’s about to be a teenager. They’re almost becoming antisocial. You know, they would prefer that, you know, we used to go to different events, whether it’s church related or something public. And we would want to do that, to go and actually have conversation with people or to meet friends. Now they’re like, I don’t want to do that. I’d rather just text them or watch a YouTube video. And of course, you know, Tiktoks are a big thing. And I think it’s just the one thing I told my daughter the other day is like when it comes to like Tiktoks and YouTube videos, they see all these cool things that happen and, you know, “Oh wow, that was cool. That was amazing.” But when we go out in the real world and actually see something that’s really cool and awesome, like, “Yeah, I’ve seen that before.” So they’re kind of, you know, losing some of that anti-social and or being antisocial and not really, you know.

Karen Wilson: It’s almost like they’re spectators and not participants.

Micah Lawrence: That’s right. And to me is, you know, I want to protect her as long as possible. Obviously, you know, don’t want to shelter your children too much, but, you know, you want to protect them from those things that can be extremely damaging or lifelong damaging. So I try to do the best I can with what I’ve got.

Bryan Kell: Yeah.

Karen Wilson: So that brings us into talk about Experience IQ and Protect IQ, which is two new things that that we have through the Ben Lomand app. Give us a general overview of the purpose of those two things.

Bryan Kell: So ExperienceIQ, I think it’s probably good to probably talk. It’s going to be an extra layer of being able to manage devices. That’s probably the overview for, you know, in this case, we’re probably talking about kids. It’s important to note that there are still some management features on the regular Ben Lomand Home app. And again, you must have Ben Lomand Home to be able to have access to these two features. They run as low as $0.10 a day. So there’s your marketing plug there for that with each of these. You do have the ability without getting ExperienceIQ to be able to create a profile, let’s say, for my son or my daughter and put devices under that that they use. And we’ve talked about this in previous podcasts, to where if you want to kill all the basically connectivity to a device or to all those devices, you can do that. You don’t have to have ExperienceIQ to be able to do that. You can even be able to schedule times and days when it comes down to, you know, by individual as far as the amount of time that they’re spending on that. When you get into ExperienceIQ, it’s kind of getting more laser focused, and we’re talking about specific time with specific applications and/or websites. And so that’s probably the overview of ExperienceIQ. And I think we’ll probably dive more into into what those do in just a bit. So I’ll let you take, Mister Protector, I’ll let you talk about protect.

Micah Lawrence: So ProtectIQ. To explain the difference really between ExperienceIQ and ProtectIQ, ExperienceIQ is kind of protecting from the inside outward, you know, that type of content kids or someone on the inside. ProtectIQ protects you from the outside coming in. So you could see this as kind of like a firewall. If you’ve ever heard of a firewall, it’s protecting you from incoming traffic because, you know, hackers are rampant on the Internet. They are, you know, actively trying to scan things to see if they can get in through any vulnerabilities. And what protect IQ does is basically, you know, kind of stops that or monitors that. It’s kind of your traffic cop.

Karen Wilson: That’s very helpful. And we’ll talk about just how far that that protection spreads later on in our podcast. So Bryan, it sounds like ExperienceIQ is an upgrade from what you get with the Ben Lomand app. You said it kind of laser focuses the control. Give us, I guess, more of the differences between the app and subscribing to ExperienceIQ.

Bryan Kell: Yeah. And so real quick, I’ll throw a quick plug in to something that you work a lot on, and that’s the website. You can find some more, all the information that we’re talking about on the Ben Lomand Home page on our website. You do one of two things. Go to Internet services, I believe, residential, and then from there you can choose Ben Lomand Home. Or what I do most of the time, honestly go to the search engine at the very top and type in Ben Lomand Home, and then just click on Ben Lomand Home, and i9t takes you straight to the page. So if you happen to miss something like this or feel like you want some more information, that’s a great place for everybody to be able to go. So that quick plug there. We talked about it that you can, it’s kind of more a shotgun approach with the app itself before you add ExperienceIQ. It’s a difference to probably shooting a shotgun and being able to shoot a sniper rifle. We like doing that in Call of Duty and stuff like that, right Micah?

Micah Lawrence: Oh yeah.

Bryan Kell: So here are some of the things that ExperienceIQ can really help you with. And that is things that I know Micah has already said. You said it, that we wish we had when our kids were growing up, especially in today’s age. To be able to block inappropriate categories, pornography, violence, that’s extremely important on that side. If there are applications that you just don’t want your kid messing with at a certain age, if you don’t want them on TikTok, if you don’t want them on YouTube, then you can be able to go and say, “Listen, with this device or with these devices, I don’t want them to have access to these type of applications.”

Bryan Kell: It’s great to be able to do that. That’s what ExperienceIQ can do. We talked about screen time setting time limits, not only with just overall screen time, but in this case, if you don’t want your kid to be more than 30 minutes a day on YouTube, you can set those type of time limits when it comes down to certain applications that are there. Other things that it can do, you know, safe search and YouTube restriction to block harmful or inappropriate content when searching on Google, Bing or YouTube. Search engines to be able to have that kind of layer there to be able to do that is very good. And then you can, you know, view usage of all devices and understand how the Internet is being used in your home just to be able to look and be able to analyze. We’re all about analysis. I know Mike is huge into that and to be able to say, where is my kid spending most of his time or her time? And you know, because that could be important just to have a better understanding of where your child is going. So it’s it’s that it’s it’s more than that, too. I didn’t get into every line item, but just giving you as a parent a little bit more piece of mind and also the ability to be able to know where they’re going and and if you don’t want them going, certain places to put the kibosh on that if that.

Karen Wilson: I think it’s so neat t0o that, you know, there’s places where we all go: YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, all of those things that are generally pretty good. But with the audience also, predators tend to go there. Putting things out there that you don’t want your kids to see. Well, instead of me having to go into each of those individually and set perimeters, I can do it basically from ExperienceIQ, and it’s going to cover everything, correct?

Bryan Kell: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean something else that I did leave off as well, that that can be very important, especially as you have more and more people that are working from home. If you want to set priorities on certain devices to take precedence and have a I guess, Micah, a better way of saying the best experience possible, and not I guess. If you’re working from home and your specific laptop needs to have top priority because you’re working from home, you can set that priority in ExperienceIQ to be able to help make sure that the gamer in your family is not taking priority over a very important Zoom call that’s going on at that particular time. Right?

Micah Lawrence: Yeah. And this is we call this prioritization in the networking world, because what you might end up having is, let’s say your son or your daughter is in there watching Netflix or Hulu. You know, they could be, you know, using up all the bandwidth or using quite a bit of the bandwidth. So this takes it to where, you know, your machine that you’re trying to use for work is actually able to have priority over that. So that way you’re not sitting there waiting for something to come up or something to download. You’re getting priority over something that is, you know, not a big concern.

Bryan Kell: Now, I will say this to you, especially for all of our fiber customers that are listening out there. It helps so much to have that synchronous gig connection for this to be a part of that, because the hope would be that maybe you’re not going to run into that problem unless you’ve really got a lot of stuff going on at your house and a lot of family members that are pulling from that. But that gig/gig, this is a great point to bring that up, that helps so much with maybe that not even being much of an issue at all.

Micah Lawrence: Well, and something I’d like to bring up to everybody is the beauty of Ben Lomand home and being able to have the GigaSpire there like we’ve talked about in previous podcasts, is when you go out to some of these big box stores and buy some of these routers, you know, from different prices, you know, you might be given a gig/gig from Ben Lomand, but maybe your router can’t support it. Or it’s, let’s say it’s Wi-Fi 5, which might not have the same amount of bandwidth on the wireless side. So, you know, that’s a big concern with with Ben Lomand Home, you’re actually getting Wi-Fi 6. That’s the latest and greatest. Got plenty of bandwidth there on the wireless side, so it makes things so much better as far as the experience for everybody in the home.

Karen Wilson: I can think of many instances during the COVID lockdown where I would have loved to have prioritized my, you know, I was on a zoom call for work. My husband was over there gaming. We didn’t have gig at the house at that point. So many instances and the kids, too. Another issue that we have from young to old is getting viruses, hacking, which can lead to identity theft. Tell us how ProtectIQ kind of differs from your traditional virus protector like McAfee or something of that nature that we download to our laptop.

Micah Lawrence: So when we talk about antivirus, we’re generally talking about software on the machines. You know, when you talk about McAfee, Norton’s, Trend Micro, you know, any of those pieces of software, they’re running on the device itself. But what you don’t realize is things like iPads, phones, you know, there’s lots of times people buy computers, and it doesn’t have any built in antivirus, or they didn’t pay for it, or it’s not up to date. We find it all over the place. Everybody thinks, well, Windows has their built in one, which they do, but it’s not perfect. And so this is more of a network based security where, you know, it’s monitoring traffic coming in. It’s also making sure that some of the malicious sites that are out there, you can’t get to. We know that this list of malicious websites is updated weekly on our part. So that way we’re staying up to date with the latest and greatest information. But as far as incoming stuff, you know, we talked about earlier about hackers coming in. You know, they’re constantly scanning IP addresses. They’re constantly saying, “Hey, is there a port open here, or can I get in this way to try to attack them?” And what this does is it’s got some smarts in it that says, “Okay, I see what you’re doing. I going to shut you down. I’m not going to talk to you more. You’re not allowed to talk to me.” To me I always quite this to, you know, like when we’re looking at our kids and we see a friend come by that or so called friend that, you know, probably not great for our kids.

Bryan Kell: Sketchy.

Micah Lawrence: Yeah, a little sketchy for our kids. You know, we want to kind of shut that down, say, okay, that’s not okay. We’re not okay with that. And so with this, we do the same principle as we do not want to talk to you basically. Is because we don’t want you to try to get our information. We don’t want you to try to infect my machine. You know, one of the things that’s very rampant on the Internet that we talk about in our security awareness training for businesses is ransomware. You know, ransomware is a big deal. We want to make sure that we cut that off because we don’t want you encrypting all the files, especially business files, things that are important to your business. We don’t want you encrypting that where you can’t get your information back. So ProtectIQ is kind of that smart firewall. And the biggest part about this is with ProtectIQ is it differs from normal firewalls that you would buy on routers out in the world is because it’s proactive as opposed to reactive. And so we want to proactively watch these. And then as the user at home, I can also get alerts saying something’s happening here. So, you know, let’s say a device comes to my network that’s infected, I’ll immediately know it because it’s going to pop up on my phone and say, Hey, something’s not right here. Or, you know, if someone’s trying to from the outside trying to come in, it’ll alert me that as well. So in case I need to do something about that, so being able to be proactive about my security as opposed to reactive because generally in the technology world, if you’re reacting, it’s already too late, you know, it’s already done the damage. So we want to be proactive in our security and ProtectIQ does that.

Karen Wilson: So I like the way you put that. It’s protecting your network. So even if you have guests at your house bringing a random phone in, but they’re using your Wi-Fi, then your network or every device on there is still protected because of it’s based on the network and not per device.

Micah Lawrence: In my experience with I.T and businesses is you don’t trust devices you don’t know about. If you know when you have a vendor come in or a guest come into your network, you almost always want to segregate their traffic from main business side. In this case we’re talking about the home is, you know, you invite a family member over or friends and you honestly, you can’t trust their devices. Not that that person is doing anything intentionally. We find a lot of this is just pure mistake or they really don’t even know it’s infected. So this protects you and your equipment. So that way, you know, if anybody brings in something else that you’re protected. Your whole system of computers and tablets and all that stuff is protected.

Karen Wilson: Not compromised by someone coming in.

Bryan Kell: I will say this real quick, because I’ve probably had ProtectIQ on my phone for about 15 months, something along those lines. Whenever it first started. And within the first couple to a few months, it blocked a threat. I thought, well, that’s pretty cool. It went on probably for close to a year without getting any more notices through ProtectIQ. This week, three. And so it’s one of those things. I said this one, there was something we shared on social media, a video that kind of talks about ProtectIQ and the importance of it. In my opinion. penny for penny of any service that Ben Lomand Connect has. Obviously gig/gig is important and that’s kind of, that’s a given. It is, in my opinion, the best service you can have because of that extra layer of protection. And you don’t realize you need it in some cases until it’s too late. And you run into that all the time on the business side. But to be able to still have it, you don’t know if it’s doing its job or not until it does its job. And so to go a year without it. And then this week of all weeks, when we’re fixing to talk about these things, three different times it blocked threats. And because I had it identified through Ben Lomand Home the different devices that were there, I knew it was on my wife’s phone each of those three times. So that’s just utilizing Ben Lomand Home and ProtectIQ to really give you the information you need and to go, Wow, thanks. It’s doing its job.

Micah Lawrence: And what I’d like to do is take a second to to make sure that if there’s any business people that are listening, you know, if you’ve got this question, do I need this protection? Do I need some protection? The answer is 100% yes, always. If you don’t know about your protection on your computers or your network, then you’re at risk. And the reason why I say that is because one of the things we talk about, like I said in our security awareness training that we do for businesses, is we talk about possibly losing this personal identifiable information, you know, things like Social Security numbers, you know, phone numbers, addresses, names, all this information is you’re responsible for that data. And if a hacker obtains that information, you are financially responsible for that information. And I tell a lot of people, if you don’t have cyber insurance, you’re rolling the dice. And it is very important for you to have that is, you’re running the risk and it’s a make or break in some of these occasions. You’re one ransomware attack away from losing your entire business. So if there’s any business customers listening, if you don’t know about your network and technology protection, then you’re at risk. You need to go find out about it. If you need help, we’ll absolutely help you. But it is of vital importance.

Karen Wilson: So, you know, talking about businesses, but isn’t you’re in managed IT as well. Isn’t that equally as important or not maybe not as, or maybe as, for a residential customer? I mean, what kind of information are they putting out there that to them, if someone gets their credit card number, it’s devastating.

Micah Lawrence: So I’ll give everyone a tip. And a lot of people have never really even thought about this.

Bryan Kell: Free tip. Free tip.

Micah Lawrence: I’ll give you a free tip. For those that are on Facebook. I think we’ve all seen it is either your friends will send you something or they themselves will do it and they’ll answer this like 20 to 30 question survey about themselves. You know, what was your nickname as a child, and what was your favorite pet? And they answer, all these questions. And you know, between friends to friend, this is interesting information just to see where where, you know, how they grew up and what their thoughts are. But what they don’t realize is most of these questions or a few of them in particular, are the exact same questions that are your security questions for your bank accounts or your other accounts online, and you’re just giving them the answer. So and a lot of Facebook stuff is deemed public, whether you believe it or not. It’s nothing. No such thing is private there. And so you’re giving them this information to easily change your password, hack your account. I mean, you know, I tell people there’s password files out on the Internet that has every birthdate known to man, every dog’s name, every cat’s name, every son and daughter’s name, every combination of lettering and wording you can imagine. They can easily guess your password. It’s available to them. So, you know, be very cautious about what you put online and then also where you go. Make sure that what you’re clicking on is where you’re wanting to go.

Karen Wilson: So you mean there’s not somebody out there just making a fun program for the heck of it for me to answer all of these questions?

Micah Lawrence: Yeah. I mean, I know. It’s so interesting. If you really want to know about somebody, I’ll give you even another free tip.

Bryan Kell: Oh, here we go.

Micah Lawrence: Go and talk to them. It’s amazing. It’s called human interaction.

Bryan Kell: (laughs) We’re going back. We’re kind of going backward.

Micah Lawrence: We’re going back. It’s human interaction as opposed to trying to put all this information out on the Internet for everyone to read. It’s very dangerous. And I don’t think people realize how dangerous that actually is.

Karen Wilson: Yeah. You know, I go back to family members and stuff that are like, Oh, my laptop’s not working. What happened? But they love to click on these little ads and or friend requests, fake friend request. You know, that’s kind of that runs rampant on Facebook, too. So you have to be very careful. And especially if people message you that…

Bryan Kell: Yes.

Karen Wilson: Maybe do not speak good English, maybe they do. I don’t know. But, you know, if you don’t know, if it’s someone randomly messaging, don’t answer.

Micah Lawrence: Well, I’ll give you a quick joke. You know, a lot of people, when you install a piece of software, it always comes up with like the terms and conditions and everybody, instead of looking at what some of the stuff says, they just hit next, next, next, next, next. And until it actually finishes. So the joke is, is Adam and Eve were the first ones to not read the Apple terms and conditions.

Bryan Kell: Oh, ba-dum-ching Wait, do I have that? I do have that.

Karen Wilson: I like that. And as someone who uses Apple, I get it. I get it for sure. I love it. Okay. Well, thank you guys both for weighing in on these two new features. I feel like I need to call customer service immediately and take these myself, because if anybody needs protecting, it’s my network. I mean, even though your kids kind of leave, and there’s always just that need for that at the house and ExperienceIQ, too. So thank you both for weighing in on that.

Micah Lawrence: So we’re back with Connect BLC. Karen, what can we expect from Channel Six and then also the Connection Magazine for the month of July?

Karen Wilson: Channel six is coming down from a busy time right now. We have had tons of live content with all the graduations from kindergarten graduation to high school graduation. So we’re kind of taking a breather right now, but we’ll have our normal content coming out. As far as the magazine goes, have any of you eating at the Rock Island Trolley Stop yet?

Bryan Kell: I have not.

Karen Wilson: Or had an ice cream there?

Bryan Kell: and it’s sad.

Micah Lawrence: I have seen it, and I would like to soon.

Karen Wilson: Yes. So it’s you know, that is whatever you order is about as big as your head. And be ready for donuts and all of those things hanging off of it. I mean, so that’s one of our stories is the Rock Island Trolley Stop. What a neat place to go. Just down the road for Warren and White County customers and a fun place too. You might have to wait a little bit on your ice cream because they are extra special, but that’s one of the main stories we’re working on for July and August.

Micah Lawrence: All right. So, Bryan, what kind of events can we see around our service area in June?

Bryan Kell: So the mobile Wi-Fi vans starting to creep out a little bit more in May. We’re recording the last part of May, but this past week it found itself, the mobile Wi-Fi van that is, at the Grundy County High School graduation. And I was looking through Karen, and I didn’t see anything necessarily set in stone for June. There’s some stuff getting set for July, and then we’re going to be moving into fair. So more information and follow any of our social media accounts as far as when the mobile Wi-Fi van will be there and how you can stay connected at different events that are out there. However, some indoor events and in some ways in a cave event that are that are going on in June. Warren Arts, located on Manchester Highway in McMinnville, has got “Walk Don’t Ride: A Celebration of the Fight for Equality” from June 10th through the 18th. At the Cumberland County Playhouse, which was featured as the cover of the last month’s or the past or the one that’s out right now, I should say, Connection magazine, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” from June 10th through August 21st. At the Palace Theater in Crossville, the biggest thing I found on there is something me and Micah probably would think is pretty cool, is that for three straight Saturdays, they’re going to show Star Wars Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. That’s going to be showcasing over there. So that’s kind of cool to be able to see it, if you haven’t seen on the big screen. Might be a great way to go travel over to the Palace Theater and catch that. The Caverns in Pelham Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular. I think that is so cool.

Micah Lawrence: I’m in.

Bryan Kell: And so that’s going to be an underground show. That’s on June 11th. Many other things going on over there, too, as well. And at the Park Theater in McMinnville, dreams come true, a musical theater workshop. It’s for second graders all the way through 12th graders. The workshop begins June 13th through June 17th, with the performance to take place on June 18th. Again, lots of things going on at all those places. Reach out to them or go online and take a look at their schedules. But those are just a brief glimpse as far as what all is happening around our service area.

Micah Lawrence: Awesome. Thank you, guys. So time for Ye Ole Dictionary. And this time we’re not going to do – what did we do last time?

Bryan Kell: Phobias, you did phobias, yeah.

Chad Dees: Phobias. So we’re going to go back to some words that you might not know.

Bryan Kell: Are these things that make you go “hmmm?”

Micah Lawrence: These are things that make you go, hmm. So the word is “ghosted.”

Karen Wilson: Oh, I know that. So that’s like…

Bryan Kell: Following somebody?

Karen Wilson: You don’t follow. Like they’re trying to reach out to you, and you don’t respond. It’s like you disappeared.

Bryan Kell: Yeah.

Karen Wilson: Kind of like you would like an ex-girlfriend or a boyfriend or maybe even a bill collector.

Micah Lawrence: So that’s about right. So it’s so when you go on a date with someone you meet online and you thought things were going well, but they never responded. Unfortunately, you’ve been ghosted. All right. Now, I’m pretty sure you’re not going to get this one. All right. It is “on fleek.” Two words “on fleek.”

Karen Wilson: Is that…

Bryan Kell: I don’t have it. It seems like I’ve heard the word “fleek” for some reason, but I have no idea.

Karen Wilson: On point. But is it? I mean, I don’t know.

Micah Lawrence: You’re actually right.

Bryan Kell: This one.

Micah Lawrence: All right. All right. Yeah. It’s basically a replacement for on point.

Bryan Kell: Two for two for Karen!

Micah Lawrence: Way to go. Awesome. Good job.

Karen Wilson: It’s those kids. I can’t take credit.

Bryan Kell: That’s right.

Karen Wilson: Useless information from my children, and I’m left to decipher it on my own. And sometimes I even have to look it up.

Micah Lawrence: Well, if anybody else has any words that they would like to share with me, I know I’ll get some from different departments at Ben Lomand, and then also others. So if anybody’s got any words that they would like to stump Karen and Bryan with as long as they’re PG-rated, feel free to send it to us via email, and we’ll try to get it on there.

Bryan Kell: Well, another podcast is in the books, Karen and Micah. And so as part of our wrap-up here, Micah, bring us home on where folks can find us.

Micah Lawrence: So you can submit your questions to us. You message us on BLC Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts, or just email us at And absolutely check out our podcast on multiple different platforms, things like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon, iHeart Radio, and a bunch of other ones.

Bryan Kell: Or on the website too.

Micah Lawrence: Yeah, absolutely.

Bryan Kell: Yeah. And Karen, the mini episodes for the BLC Connection podcast will focus in on business and community. Do you have one? Or are you going to keep us in limbo on this one?

Karen Wilson: Well, I’ve reached out to some interesting people about that, and I’m working on something. Last month, I had a great interview with Tony Laurence from the Bybee Branch Church of Christ.

Bryan Kell: What’s his last name?

Karen Wilson: Lawrence. Mm hmm. Smell any, you know, see any difference there?

Micah Lawrence: I think I like that guy.

Bryan Kell: Yeah. Yeah, I like that guy.

Karen Wilson: So we talked about technology, and I’m always looking for businesses that go, you know, it doesn’t even have to be a business, but organizations that kind of go above and beyond. And so I’ve got a few things in the works for that.

Bryan Kell: Good deal. I will say that I sat in the wings for the Tony Lawrence interview. Nicest Lawrence man I’ve ever met. Great guy.

Karen Wilson: I would agree.

Bryan Kell: Great guy. On next episode of the full version of the podcast, we are going to have Gina Barry. She’s the business development and customer relations manager. And Karen, longtime, long time Ben Lomand employee, but also a longtime friend.

Karen Wilson: Yes, we have known each other probably since kindergarten. Our brothers were friends. So, yeah, me and Gina go way back. I’ve mentioned that before, so I won’t get into the specifics, but we’ve had a playground rumble or two, and had friendships and things like that. So great, great person.

Bryan Kell: Could be a dicey podcast as we dive into the history of of Karen and Gina. But no, join us next time on that. Hey, and thanks for, thank you, guys. And we also want to thank Chad Dees for for jumping on in the podcast with us today. Continue to take care of yourselves out there. Thanks for listening. Stay safe and most importantly, stay connected.

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