A Few Questions

 By Mike Becker

General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Hartelco (Hartington, Neb.)

How big is Hartelco’s service area, and how many broadband customers do you reach?

Hartelco is located in Hartington, Neb., and serves the county seat in central Cedar County with 255 miles of fiber optic cable within our 198-square-mile service area. Hartington has a population of 1,550, and in 2014 it won the Governor’s Showcase Award as the best town in Nebraska over the previous five years for community development efforts. Part of those efforts was Hartelco’s completion of deploying fiber to 100% of our service area. We currently service over 900 broadband customers, with the longest loop being about 15 miles.

Tell us about a recent customer-service challenge and how Hartelco addressed it.

We have many day-to-day customer service challenges typical of any telco. But with last February came a particular challenge focused on the two Hartington school systems that are located across the street from each other: Hartington-Newcastle Public School and Cedar Catholic Jr.–Sr. High School.

This year we began “live” video broadcasting of local high school football and boys and girls basketball games. Since we’re 100% FTTH and have fiber provisioned at the local football field as well as both high school gyms, we are able to broadcast via webstreaming and convert it for our IPTV system where our customers can watch it at home on their TVs. The response from customers has been overwhelming.

Because of the two school systems in our small town, there are nights when both teams might have home games. In that event, we attempt to broadcast an even number of games for both schools based on the entire season. Because of conflicts during this last basketball season, we had previously broadcast two of the Cedar Catholic games and were scheduled to broadcast a Hartington-Newcastle game on a Thursday night.

A couple days prior to the game, I was contacted by a customer informing me that the mother of one of the Cedar Catholic girls team members was unable to attend that particular Parents Night game because she was in hospice at home and too weak to attend. The customer, a friend of the mother, asked if we could broadcast the Cedar Catholic game so the mother could watch her daughter play their last home game of the season. Note that the mother had been an All-State basketball player in high school, and led her team to the girls state basketball title.

Immediately I reached out to the superintendent at Hartington- Newcastle schools. He didn’t blink, never batted an eye. He said it was the right thing to do to broadcast the game so the mother could watch.