Great Plains Communications Residential Blog

Keeping Your Family Connected

Category: Business Customers

Business Appreciation – Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in Antelope County, NE.

This national treasure called Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park got its start about 12 million years ago. At that time, a volcano in southwest Idaho spread a blanket of ash over many miles, and one or two feet of this powder covered the flat savannah-like grasslands in northeastern Nebraska. Within several weeks, animals gathered around a waterhole in the area died, and their bodies were covered by ash. This preserved their skeletons for today’s paleontologists to study and the public to see.

Travel Back in Time

Visitors have access to interpretive displays and the fossil preparation laboratory and can ask the paleontologists there about their work. The park also includes the Hubbard Rhino Barn, where new fossil discoveries continue to be unearthed. Fossil evidence at the site reveals complete, articulated skeletons of large mammals, birds and turtles, as well as seeds of grasses and trees.

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is in Antelope County, four miles east and six miles north of the village of Orchard. Due to its remote location far from a population center, getting adequate communications services has been a challenge.

A Need for More Bandwidth

Superintendent Rick Otto notes, “The satellite Internet service we’ve been using is limited in speed, and its lag time disrupts any interactive transmissions we’re trying to host. In addition, many of our callers have complained about the poor audio quality of the current phone system. Clearly, changes needed to be made since the local provider was simply not able to provide the level of technology we require.”

To develop a solution to these challenges, Great Plains Communications has been in discussion for several years with the State of Nebraska on a fiber project to bring more bandwidth to Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. The installation is scheduled for completion in August 2017. Funding of the fiber optic cable was made possible by a grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

What is Otto expecting after Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park becomes a customer of Great Plains Communications? He replies, “I expect to see a night-and-day difference between our new fiber Internet service compared to our current satellite service. I am also looking forward to having significantly better audio quality during our phone calls. What’s more, I appreciate how friendly and informative the team from Great Plains Communications has been during the planning process.”

Virtual Field Trips

The vastly improved speed of fiber Internet from Great Plains Communications will be especially beneficial. Otto explains, “We’re open seven months a year and get about 20,000 visitors annually. The park is operated entirely with funds generated by admissions fees and gift shop sales; we receive no tax dollars. After Great Plains Communications finishes the installation of fiber Internet service here, we’ll have the speed we need to offer virtual field trips to classrooms all over the world.”

He adds, “These virtual field trips will be a win-win addition to our educational services. Schools will benefit by being able to give students the feel of visiting Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park without the time and expense of travel. And the park will benefit by bringing in the additional revenues generated by the fees for virtual field trips.”

Great Plains Communications is honored to help enhance the capabilities of Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. It’s one example of our longstanding commitment to Nebraska.

Business Appreciation – Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy in Fremont, NE.

Their therapists help patients move better, and we did the same for their voice and data transmission.

After completing Doctorate of Physical Therapy degrees at Creighton University, therapists Ross Tessendorf and Chris Demuth gained experience working in both hospital and private clinic settings. In 2006, they opened their own clinic, Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy, in Fremont. A second location in Elkhorn was added in 2016.

 

Comprehensive Services

Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy offers comprehensive physical therapy services for a wide range of diagnoses, injuries and conditions. Its physical therapists help patients recover from surgeries and injuries, help athletes increase their strength and performance, and help those plagued by chronic pain to restore pain-free motion and activity.

With the two clinic locations, Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy serves patients from Dodge, Saunders, Washington and Douglas counties as well as the cities of Fremont, Arlington, North Bend, Hooper, Blair, Scribner, Schuyler, Wahoo, Cedar Bluffs, Elkhorn and Omaha.

 

Switching to Great Plains Communications

In addition to having a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, owner Ross Tessendorf is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.  While he clearly is an expert on the movement of muscles and joints, Tessendorf leaves the mechanics of voice and data transmission to Great Plains Communications. Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy has been a Great Plains Communications customer for a year and a half and currently receives Internet and phone services at both the Elkhorn and Fremont locations.

“We were previously working with another communications provider, and the service was initially okay. Over time, how- ever, their service declined. When we experienced an outage, it was taking that provider two to three days to fix things; their technicians came from Lincoln and had to cover the entire state. Imagine not having phone or Internet services for that many days. We were basically closed,” Tessendorf notes.

He continues, “Chris Demuth and I decided to switch to Great Plains Communications in 2015 for a few reasons. I live in the Blair community, and my wife and I knew a couple of people who work for the company—Kelli Swanson, Strategic Account Manager; and Chris Wulf, OSP Fiber Design Engineer. When we heard Great Plains Communications was coming to Fremont, Kelli Swanson put a package of services together for us to review. It was an easy decision, since we were able to save money and get faster Internet speeds by going with Great Plains Communications.”

Great Plains Communications installed Internet and phone services at Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy’s Fremont location first, then added these services in two phases at the Elkhorn location. Swanson explains, “When the Elkhorn location opened, our company couldn’t provide Internet service in that area yet. So we installed phone service only. In February 2017, Great Plains Communications was able to connect the Elkhorn location with our Internet service since our fiber network in the area was complete.”

 

Responsive Local Service and Support

By using Great Plains Communications for both services at both locations, Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy is benefiting from enhanced communications as well as the convenience of working with a single provider.

Tessendorf says, “We love being able to call someone locally and discuss options with our phone and Internet services. Tammy Hovendick at Great Plains Communications has helped with our rollover and forwarding issues with phones as well as the fax line. She’s stayed late and communicated with our IT guy to make sure we were satisfied with how everything was working. I appreciate that kind of customer service.”

What’s ahead for Nebraska Orthopaedic Physical Therapy? Tessendorf replies, “Our goals for 2017 are to continue to provide excellent customer service to the Fremont community and grow our Elkhorn location. In Elkhorn, we want to be the place that provides high-quality care in the area. With Great Plains Communications assisting us with efficiently communicating with patients, doctors and local schools, I believe these goals can be achieved.”

Business Appreciation – Red Willow County Courthouse

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Red Willow County Courthouse in McCook, NE.

The process began in 2014, when Red Willow County Courthouse completed the construction of its new Law Enforcement Center and jail in McCook and was looking into updating its more than 25-year-old phone system. Explains McNutt, “We initially had someone put in a different phone system, but it worked poorly and caused lots of frustration. We then made the decision to put our project out for bids, and included not only the phone system but our other communications services as well.”

He continues, “We received several bids including one from Great Plains Communications. I met multiple times with Philip Jensen and others from Great Plains Communications, as did our Commissioners, Head of Maintenance and all department heads. Great Plains Communications clearly did their research to determine our needs. I liked their approach and their willingness to make sure our needs would be met. We gave our business to Great Plains Communications — phone, Internet and TV — and have been customers for about a year.”

Great Plains Communications Installs Fiber and More

Philip Jensen is Sales Manager of Business Accounts at Great Plains Communications. He notes, “The first thing we needed to do was install fiber optic cable to the Red Willow County Courthouse. We also utilized as much existing cable and wiring in the Courthouse and Sheriff’s Department as we could, combining it with the new fiber optic cable. This allowed greater flexibility for their communications services, and helped prepare Red Willow County Courthouse and other county buildings for many years to come.”

For phone services, the Business Solutions department of Great Plains Communications installed a Panasonic NS700 Hybrid analog and digital IP PBX. All of the Red Willow County Courthouse phone lines were combined into one PRI (Primary Rate Interface) connection, which saved money. PRI also allowed for Caller ID service to every phone in the Courthouse and Sheriff’s Department, which they previously did not have on all phones.

Two Internet access connections are set up — one for the Red Willow County Courthouse and one for the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff needed a separate connection and more bandwidth in order to efficiently upload and download footage from cameras and conduct training. Inside the Courthouse, Great Plains Communications combined all connections into one, therefore providing more bandwidth with only one connection to maintain.

Jensen recalls, “We installed the phone system on Presidents’ Day 2015, since the Courthouse was closed that day and installation could be done with minimal downtime. Our PBX person did training by phone for County employees before the phone conversion to get them up to speed. Technicians from Great Plains Communications also stuck around another week to make sure everything was working well.”

Better, Faster Connections

McNutt is pleased with the upgrades to their phone and Internet services. “Great Plains Communications connected our Law Enforcement Center and Jail to the Red Willow County Courthouse. For the sake of efficiency, we really wanted those two facilities tied together in our communications stream. We’re also benefitting from much faster Internet speeds and clearer sound quality with our phone calls,” McNutt says.

He adds, “It’s not just me. Everybody is so enthusiastic about the people from Great Plains Communications. They’ve bent over backwards to accommodate our needs. They get right on it if we have questions or issues, and if they don’t have the answers immediately, they’ll find out and get right back to me. I can’t say enough about how courteous and easy to work with they are. I also appreciate having one designated person at Great Plains Communications who takes care of our account, so there’s just one phone call to make. We’re out here in rural Nebraska, and we’re still getting advanced services and great customer support.”

Ready for the Future

What’s ahead for the Red Willow County Courthouse? McNutt replies, “We don’t have any major technology upgrades planned for 2017. However, we will be working on getting additional facilities tied into our network. And now that we have the infrastructure in place, we may look at using new applications such as video conferencing for the Courthouse.” Jensen sums it up this way: “Thanks to fiber, they’re pretty well ‘future proofed’ as far as communications.”

Business Appreciation – Do Space

 

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Do Space in Omaha, NE.

What can you do at Do Space? You can enroll in a class to develop tech skills, work on a creative project using design software, prototype a product with a 3D printer, register a child in a robotics club, use a meeting room with high-end touchscreen technology, get assistance troubleshooting a new tablet and much more.

Empowering a Diverse Membership

Do Space is all about empowering the community through access to technology and innovative learning experiences. Located at 72nd and Dodge next to Crossroads Mall and near the University of Nebraska Omaha campus, Do Space is in the heart of Omaha. It’s also on the bus line to make it available to more people.

Rebecca Stavick, Executive Director at Do Space, says, “We currently have more than 34,000 members. Our memberships are free — similar to getting a library card — and are designed so everyone can get one. There are no residency requirements; you could be a visitor to Omaha and get a Do Space membership.”

Stavick adds, “I’m continually impressed by the diversity of our members. They’re of all different ages and backgrounds from all over the city. At Do Space, you’ll see little kids, seniors and every age in between. We offer learning opportunities for all levels of expertise, from a beginners class on the Internet to advanced programming.”

Tech Tools and Training

Members have access to a wide variety of popular and emerging tech tools as well as technology classes, workshops and events hosted at Do Space. Most services at Do Space are offered free of charge to members, but there is a nominal cost for printed materials.

Do Space is many things in one place:

  • A technology equalizer – giving people from all walks of life access to technology.
  • A technology enabler – empowering everyone with the tools and guidance needed to learn, create, explore and invent with technology.
  • A technology educator – creating a new path for technology literacy and understanding its potential while providing opportunities for advanced learning.
  • A technology innovator – changing the shape of technology education and actively playing a role in technology advancement and creation.

Members of Do Space can get their hands on exceptional hardware. There are more than 50 public access PCs and Macs, 60 laptops, 12 iPad Air and 80 Kindle Fire HD tablets. In addition, both a full-color scanner/copier/printer and a wide-format printer are available for printing even the most complex documents, and the 3D Lab has 3D printers, a 3D scanner and a laser cutter.

Software for business and home use is also at your fingertips at Do Space. Computers are loaded with current business productivity programs such as Microsoft Office along with various creative programs for audio, video and image editing. Other options include advanced design tools, accessibility software and specialized communications apps.

Gigabit Internet From Great Plains Communications

Keeping all this hardware and software running at peak performance is Great Plains Communications’ 1 Gigabit Internet service including Wi-Fi. This super-fast connection enables Do Space members to take technology to the next level. “Do Space is knocking down tech barriers like the slow, terrible Internet connections people may have at home. Some software needs advanced speed, and Do Space has it. We’re the only community organization that offers 1 Gigabit Internet for free in Omaha,” Stavick explains.

Stavick appreciates Great Plains Communications and the reliability of their Internet service, noting, “We don’t ever worry about our Internet going down or lagging in the afternoon during high-traffic periods. We can have hundreds of people online inside Do Space and it doesn’t impact our Internet performance. I’ve always found Great Plains Communications to be incredible with customer service and a great partner for Do Space.”

Business Appreciation – Hughes Brothers, Inc.

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Hughes Brother, Inc. in Seward, NE.

In 1893, John Morse Hughes was a skilled carpenter who came to Seward, Nebraska to work. He built a reputation for painstaking attention to detail and an unwavering adherence to standards. This commitment to quality was passed down to his sons: John, Burr, Ted and Ben. Following the death of John Morse Hughes in 1918, the brothers combined to form Hughes Brothers, Inc.

Electric Transmission and Distribution

In the ensuing decades, Hughes Brothers (HB) became a leader in the electric transmission and distribution industry. The company began by building wooden crossarms and then incorporated steel products into the mix such as the signature X-Brace for H-Frames to add stability and reliability to any structure. Later, HB expanded its product line with steel pole line hardware and customer manufactured steel fittings.

Throughout HB’s history, the heart of the company has always been the small community of Seward. Since 1921, HB has rebuilt Seward’s storm-worn neighborhoods, employed its citizens and invested in the organizations essential to keeping Seward strong. The community and the company forged a strong bond.

Today, HB has more than 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space, employs several hundred people and builds with steel, fiberglass and wood. It produces crossarms, dead end assemblers, braces, pole line hardware, equipment mounts, fasteners, fiberglass products, davit arms, structure reframing, lighting poles, sign posts and transmission design.

Moving Faster With Fiber

While the company’s work ethic and dedication to excellence remains the same as it was in the last century, HB has enthusiastically adopted new technologies as they became available. For example, when Great Plains Communications brought its fiber network to Seward in 2015, HB was more than happy to switch Internet providers.

IT Manager Lee Meysenburg explains, “There used to be no Internet competition in Seward, and with our previous provider, we were getting speeds of 50 Mbps. When Great Plains Communications came to town, we switched to their fiber Internet. Our speeds have quadrupled up to 200 Mbps download and upload. As great as these faster speeds are, however, the number one reason we switched to Great Plains Communications was cost. Great Plains Communications offered HB a better price for more speed. The decision was a no-brainer.”

Why does HB need this much speed? Meysenburg replies, “The main reason is that the files we send are growing in size. We have to be able to quickly send PDF files of our catalogs to customers as well as download large files, such as specification sheets or sample architectural drawings, sent to us by customers. Even more importantly, HB needs very fast and reliable Internet service for our backup. We transfer backup files nightly to an off-site location to protect our data.”

He adds, “So far, we’ve had no real issues with our Internet service. Great Plains Communications is good at letting us know in advance if there will be a brief outage due to system upgrades so we can plan accordingly.”

Customer Service is Key

In the future, HB plans to subscribe to phone services from Great Plains Communications. Meysenburg is impressed with the customer service. “Every time I’ve been in contact with customer service at Great Plains Communications, it’s been an absolutely wonderful experience. When I call, there is virtually no hold time. We appreciate getting local customer service instead of trying to communicate with someone from another state or country. The people at Great Plains Communications understand our company and this area of Nebraska,” he says.

As HB moves forward to meet the changing needs of customers, it will be with a new logo and new website. Meysenburg notes, “A few months ago, we had our sales rep meeting here in Seward. One goal of this event was to talk about new branding and a new website for the company. Based on these discussions and other research, HB has changed our logo to a more modern look and updated our website design. The HB website now allows our sales rep to get access to the inventory system via a password-protected sales rep portal. With this real-time access to data, they can instantly see if we have a product in stock while on the phone with a customer. We also added our product catalog to the website based on many requests for an online version to complement the printed one.”

Clearly, a spirit of innovation and attention to detail continues to guide HB. John Morse Hughes would be proud.

The 2016 INCOMPAS Show

Great Plains Communications is excited to be exhibiting at the 2016 INCOMPAS Show (previously COMPTEL PLUS) next week, April 10-13 at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in Washington, D.C. According to the INCOMPAS Show website, attendees can expect a “streamlined event designed to facilitate meaningful exchanges that lead to business deals and pipeline building.”

Below we have listed a few of the sessions that will be taking place at the conference:

 

The Benefits of Competition for the Customer

Robert T. Hale, JR., Founder, CEO and President of Granite

Cloud, loT, and the Emerging GRC Challenges

Sponsored by Juvo Technologies

The Evolving Privacy and Cybersecurity Landscape

 

For more information on the 2016 INCOMPAS Show, go to their website at http://show.incompas.org/. If you find yourself in the area, or plan to represent your own company in Washington, D.C. next week, be sure to stop by booth #413 and say “hi” to Great Plains Communications. We’re excited to see you there!

Business Appreciation – Paulman Farms

Great Plains Communications is proud to highlight another one of our business customers, Paulman Farms out of Sutherland, NE.

Paulman Farms is located in Sutherland in southwestern Nebraska, where Roric Paulman, his wife Deb and their son Zachary, farm nearly 5,000 acres. About 85 percent of the land is irrigated, and the annual cropping rotations include corn, popcorn, dry edible beans, soybeans, winter wheat and sugar beets. In its 40-year history, this family farm has weathered its share of storms, yet an innovative spirit keeps everything growing.

Farm Crisis and Family Crisis

Clearly the most difficult period for Paulman Farms occurred in the 1980s during the farm crisis, when thousands of families lost their farms because of low prices and overwhelming debt. Roric Paulman’s father had encouraged him to get career experience off the farm before joining the operation, which is why Roric and Deb Paulman were working in Omaha in 1985 when Roric’s father called and asked him to come back. Six months later, his father died. The 27-year-old and his wife faced a daunting list of challenges, including bankruptcy, at Paulman Farms that year. But they didn’t do it alone. They took a collaborative approach, assembling a team of advisors including an attorney, accountant and bankers, as well as meeting with the farm’s original landowners for support. While equipment had to be sold and land turned over to Farm Credit, Paulman Farms managed to begin a new chapter in what would ultimately become a tremendous success story. Today, the family owns all of the land it lost in the 1980s, and Paulman Farms has grown to become a $10 million business named as a 2015 finalist for Top Producer of the Year.

Doing More With Technology

In addition to collaboration, the use of technology has enabled Paulman Farms to meet and overcome challenges. This currently includes irrigation water and soil monitoring tools, precision farming equipment and new seed technologies. Roric Paulman notes, “Paulman Farms is a large farming operation, spread over a radius of approximately 26 miles. The low unemployment rate in Nebraska makes it difficult to find enough qualified people to work for us. So part of the answer is to use larger equipment and more technology to increase how much can be done with fewer people. We take advantage of technology such as cloud-based services and remote monitoring that sends alerts when something needs attention. We’re currently working on a system for real-time harvest, which instantly knows the inventory, yields and moisture content. Before using this system, data like this would only be available to us later. It’s a huge deal.”

Fiber Speeds Up Internet Connection

To take advantage of technology for improved cost-effectiveness and productivity, Paulman Farms needs substantial Internet service, which it gets from Great Plains Communications along with phone lines. “We recently upgraded to fiber for our Internet connection at Paulman Farms. We contracted with Great Plains Communications to put fiber in our area; they did the trenching and installation. This work was completed in 2015, and now with fiber, we get 20 Mbps/20 Mbps Internet speeds. Before fiber was installed, we were only able to get 8.5 Mbps/.6 Mbps. Besides being much faster, the fiber-based Internet from Great Plains Communications is also more reliable,” says Paulman. He adds, “We are generating tons of site-specific data in our farming operation, and the data piece is key to making better decisions. The other thing that’s important is maintaining efficient communication with our employees, agronomists, seed corn people and others. Our phone and Internet services from Great Plains Communications help make it all possible.” What does Paulman Farms appreciate most about Great Plains Communications? Paulman replies, “Great Plains Communications still has a live body in our community, which is not true of other communications providers. As a result, the customer service we receive is better; it’s top notch. What’s more, Great Plains Communications has the pulse of this community, and they contribute to making it better.

I appreciate the fact that Great Plains Communications helps businesses in rural areas get the technology they need not just to survive, but to thrive and grow.” It’s a philosophy that’s echoed in words Roric Paulman lives by: “If you want your community and your state to be a better place, you have to give your time to make it happen.”