Connected, Even at Home

April 1, 2020 | 1:52PM

As the world faces COVID-19 and we, as a nation and a community, work together to prevent its spread, the federal and state government as well as the CDC recommend staying at home if at all possible. Thank you for your commitment to helping us all stay healthy. Here is WCTEL’s guide to staying connected at home.

Working from home

If you have a job that allows you to work from home, you’re probably already working there. Here are some best practices for working from home:

  1. Work in a space separate from the rest of your house. To concentrate on work, you need a space to work that is set apart from the normal bustle of home life. While family members, pets, TV, and other people and things are a part of your day-to-day life, they will probably make it harder to get work done. Ideally, your home office has a door that shuts—maybe even locks.
  2. Use a high-speed internet connection. As a WCTEL customer, that won’t be a problem. If you’re working wirelessly, don’t forget these wireless router tips:
    1. Place the router away from metal, thick walls, or major appliances
    1. Put the router the main floor of your house
    1. Make sure your router is able to handle high speeds
  3. Take breaks. At home, you may be sitting for longer periods that you normally would at work. Get up, take a walk, spend a few minutes with your family. Especially during this uncertain time, maintaining connection and taking time for your emotional health is vital.

Learning from home

If you have children and who are at home right now, there are many ways they can continue to learn online—no matter their age. Here are some helpful resources for helping kids learn at home:

  1. For younger children:
    1. Each day since COVID-19 shut schools across the country, children’s author Mo Willems has held a short (about 20 minutes) drawing class live on YouTube. You can connect to it here: https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/
    1. BrainPop offers all kinds of educational programs for small children. Visit them at https://jr.brainpop.com
    1. NASA has all kinds of online activities for kids in the NASA Kids Club: https://www.nasa.gov/kidsclub/index.html
  2. For older kids and teenagers:
    1. If your child studies a foreign language in school, they can keep their skills up on DuoLingo, which offers free language instruction in dozens of languages: https://www.duolingo.com
    1. Your child may want to keep a journal of their time at home. They can practice better writing skills by using Grammarly’s free writing help: https://www.grammarly.com
    1. Let your kids explore TED Talks (https://www.ted.com/talks) or take a course on Lynda (https://www.lynda.com) to learn more about a topic they’re already interested in.

Playing from home

Your internet connection puts a world of entertainment options at your fingertips, even when you’re stuck inside. Many services are streaming movies that would normally be in theaters right now. Others are offering discounts or free service for people who have lost their jobs. This is the time to make sure you have a streaming service to help you stay sane. Here are some of the most popular:

  1. Netflix. The first is still one of the most popular. Netflix provides movies and TV series to stream, with content varying over time. Netflix is also known for its original content, including popular shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Stranger Things. Netflix costs between $8.99-$15.99 per month.
  2. Hulu. Hulu focuses on the latest broadcast television episodes, as well as their own original content. Hulu costs between $5.99-$12.99 per month. Hulu also offers a service that lets you stream about 60 channels of live TV, and costs $54.99 per month.
  3. YouTube TV. As long as we’re talking about live TV… YouTube offers one of the most comprehensive streaming services for live television. It offers more than 70 channels of content, including local channels that vary depending on your location. YouTube TV costs $49.99 per month.
  4. Sling TV. Sling TV is another offering that lets you watch live TV. Sling has two separate packages—Sling Orange (30+ channels, $20) and Sling Blue (45+ channels, $30)—with different channel lineups.
  5. Amazon Prime Video. Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video offers movies and TV shows, as well as some original content. The service comes free for users who already have Amazon Prime, or $8.99 per month if you just want the video service.

Most of us have more time at home right now than we expected. Whether you’re working at home, learning at home, playing at home, or some combination of the three, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Creative Ways to use the Internet to Connect

March 31, 2020 | 2:40PM

Behind it all, there’s the internet

Before COVID-19 hit so close to home, the internet generally seemed like a handy tool. Depending on your job or interests, the world wide web might not have been something you gave any thought to. The internet was just there.

Now, as we practice social distancing, that “handy tool” may be becoming a central part of our lives. While it certainly cannot replace good old-fashioned conversations at the neighborhood bakery or hands-on learning in the classroom, it does have the ability to keep us connected in many ways. And let’s face it, generally, we are social beings. The internet provides that outlet.

Here’s a handful of creative ways people are using their internet connection to connect:

We want to make sure you are having the best experience with your internet. Feel free to give us a call to troubleshoot issues you may be having with WiFi or to increase your bandwidth as your needs grow during this time. We’re in it together.

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

March 30, 2020 | 10:22AM

Did you know your cell phone has 10x more germs than a toilet seat? So, while you’re washing your hands consider washing your phone too. Here is a handy article on some ways to go about disinfecting your phone.

Watch TV Everywhere

March 27, 2020 | 10:46AM

Looking for something to do while at home? Check out watchTVeverywhere for great movies and shows. (Eligibility: WCTEL/WCFIBER TV customers who subscribe to our Bronze/Silver TV packages)

  1. Go to: www.wtve.net
  2. Choose “West Carolina Communications” as your TV Provider.
  3. Click “Register”.
    • You will need your account number and last name on your account to register.
  4. Activate your account by clicking on the link sent to your email address.
  5. Login to your account.
  6. Click on the TV Network you would like to watch. The networks available will depend on your subscribed TV package.
    • You will be taken to the selected network’s website.
    • You may have to sign in again with your TV Everywhere email address and password.

The Best Apps for Video Conferencing

March 26, 2020 | 8:45AM

The Coronavirus epidemic has slowed us all down, but that doesn’t mean life stops. With everyone staying in their homes, we have all had to get creative on how we normally do things. Conference calls are taking place in the living room, the dining room has become the kids’ classroom, and you can tune into your church worship service from your bed! But how are we doing all of this? Video conferencing! Video conferencing has taken the place of many of our face-to-face meetings and gatherings. Click on these links to see the best apps for video meetings. https://www.owllabs.com/blog/best-meeting-apps
https://hygger.io/…/top-10-best-group-meeting-apps-business/
Whether working-from-home, homeschooling, or virtual bible studies, all of these things can be done via your internet connection.

Work Hard, Play Hard

March 25, 2020 | 11:51AM

We hope this time for you working from home is safe and productive. And once you’re done working for the day, check out this list of shows to binge watch while stuck inside.

CDC on Coronavirus and Travel in the United States

March 24, 2020 | 9:16AM

Should I travel within the US?

CDC does not generally issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States. However, cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been reported in many states, and some areas are experiencing community spread of the disease. Crowded travel settings, like airports, may increase chances of getting COVID-19, if there are other travelers with coronavirus infection. There are several things you should consider when deciding whether it is safe for you to travel.

Things to consider before travel:

Depending on your unique circumstances, you may choose to delay or cancel your plans. If you do decide to travel, be sure to take steps to help prevent getting and spreading COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases during travel. For the most up-to-date COVID-19 travel information, visit CDC COVID-19 Travel page.

WCTEL Ways to Pay Your Bill

March 23, 2020 | 1:21PM

There are many ways you can pay your bill without coming into the office or leaving the comfort of your home. Please rest assured that all methods are safe and secure.
24/7 Pay by phone | 888-813-2340 — Give us a call to pay your bill over the phone. We will verify your identity, confirm your monthly bill amount and proceed with payment options. 
24/7 Online Bill Pay | wctel.smarthub.coop — Log in to your SmartHub account to pay your bill online. You can also manage your account 24/7, set up payments, check usage and much more. There is even an easy-to-use app you can download for FREE to your smartphone.
Setup bank draft — You can sign up for automatic bank draft by using your checking account’s routing and account numbers over the phone or with your Smarthub account. With this option, your monthly bill amount will be deducted from your bank each payment cycle. You never have to worry about missing a payment!
Pay by night drop — You are welcome to visit our nearest office to your home after hours without worry of personal contact or contamination. We have a night drop box located outside to serve you!

Smart Education Resources for At-Home Learning

March 20, 2020 | 8:30AM

As schools close their doors to slow the spread of COVID-19, many families across the country are making a rapid and unplanned switch to homeschooling—at least for the time being.

If you’re not sure where to begin with your child’s at-home education, check out these online homeschooling resources.

Programs for Getting Started

Homeschool.com is a comprehensive guide to homeschooling and offers online community support. You can access an array of resources and services, including free printable educational activities and worksheets.

An easy A-to-Z guide to homeschooling, The Homeschool Mom includes links to some of the best online resources. You have access to local programs, lesson plans, and other popular topics. This program also offers parent reviews of various homeschool curriculums.

Free Online Courses & Lesson Plans

You can find thousands of free online courses and lesson plans across many different subjects at Kahn Academy: Math, English, Science, Computer Programming, Art, History, Economics, and Finance, to name a few. Kahn has partnered with NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, the California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to provide specialized content.

TED-Ed is an extensive online video library that features cool animation paired with great educational content. Popular video topics include: “Does Time Exist?”, “History Through the Eyes of a Chicken”, “Can You Solve the Leonardo Da Vinci Riddle?” and “A Day in the Life of an Egyptian Doctor.”

Want to balance education and religious life? Try All-in-One Homeschool. This free Christian homeschool curriculum includes Reading, Math, Language Arts, Science, Bible, Computer, Foreign Languages, History, Art, Music, and PE. You can customize your child’s daily lessons based on their skill level and track their progress for each course.

Additional Free Online Resources by Subject

Math: Math Games, Corbett Math, Dreambox (free trial available), Math is Fun

Science: Exploratorium, NASA for Students, Steve Spangler Science, How to Smile

Reading and Language Arts: Project Gutenberg, Starfall, Read Write Think, Read Works

Whether you’re looking for a structured homeschooling curriculum or simply want some fun, interactive learning resources to keep your kids occupied throughout the coronavirus crisis, any of these digital resources can help.

Call WCTEL today to ensure you have the fast and reliable internet you need to power all of the smart, at-home education resources at your fingertips.

A Guide to Web Conferencing from Your Home Office

March 19, 2020 | 1:28PM

Has COVID-19 forced your office to go remote? Video conferencing is a great tool for staying connected, but planning your first online meeting can be pretty overwhelming. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

In addition to fast, reliable internet from WCTEL, here are a few tips to help you plan successful web conferences.

Pick the Right Program

For smaller, in-house team meetings, you can test the video conferencing waters for free with platforms like join.me, CyberLink U, and Skype’s group video chat. When big pitches or high-stakes meetings are on the line, it may be worth investing in paid software instead. Topping the list of PC Magazine’s Best Video Conferencing Software are ClickMeeting, Zoom, and Webex. (Pro Tip: Even the paid software platforms often have free plans with limited capabilities, so compare the options to find the best one for your needs and budget.)

Get Good Video Conferencing Equipment

Your laptop’s built-in webcam might work, but you should consider using a camera with a resolution of 1080p and speed from 30 to 60 frames per second. Business Insider’s top choice is the Logitech C920. It’s an Amazon bestseller that you can purchase for $79.99. If you’re interested in ultra HD, Business Insider also recommends the Logitech Brio 4K. Even though it’s a bit pricey—offered at $199.00—you’ll see why people love Brio’s stunning 60-frames-per-second image quality.

Because audio is also important and you certainly don’t want any awkward “Can you hear me now?” moments, you’ll probably want to invest in a noise-canceling headset that delivers clear sound. Windows Central recommends the Plantronics Voyager, a wireless headset that’s compatible across PCs and mobile devices.

Stick to Your Routine

If you have a routine before getting to the office, stick to it. While the jammies are comfortable, it may help your mindset to get ready for the day in your usual way by looking and feeling a little more professional — even if that means just upgrading from pajamas to sweatpants or jeans to take on the day.

Be Mindful of Your Filming Area

Pay attention to lights, camera, and action. Unless you wish to appear as a spooky silhouette, follow these final tips:

  1. Position yourself in front of a light source with no illumination at your back.
  2. Natural light is best, but a lamp will do.
  3. Clear clutter from the background and look at the camera lens to convey eye contact.
  4. Keep body movements to a minimum.

Don’t Forget to Move

Set alarms to take 10 to 15 minutes to move, stretch, get fresh air and disconnect from tech. It’s easy to get caught up in work and remain stagnant all day.

Be Kind to Your Back

Don’t spend hours on your couch, recliner or bed. While it may be comfy, over the course of a day it can do damage to your spine and cause lower back pain. Use an office chair if you can, but any chair with a firm back is OK.

Make Sure Calls are Forwarded to Your Home or Cellphone

Make sure you aren’t missing anything by taking advantage of call forwarding!

Check Your Internet Package

Of course, all of your carefully-made web conferencing plans will be for nothing if your internet can’t power the technologies you need to make them happen.

Call WCTEL, at 864-446-2111, today to ensure your connection offers the strength and bandwidth you need to work and video conference from home without interruption.

These Free Apps Will Get Your Kids Moving

March 17, 2020 | 6:00PM

Are your kids falling prey to coronavirus cabin fever? We’re here to share four free apps (available for both iOS & Android) that can make at-home fitness fun and keep your family active in the weeks ahead.

1. Sworkit Kids

With customizable workouts for strength, agility, and flexibility, this app generates random exercises to get kids moving as they follow along with video tutorials. If your kids’ enthusiasm has you feeling inspired, join in the fun and download the original Sworkit fitness app, designed for teens and adults!

2. NFL PLAY 60

The American Heart Association and National Football League are on a mission to get your kids moving for 60 minutes or more every day, and this app is a great place to start. It features virtual experience challenges to get hearts pumping. Plus, users receive extra points for fun activities like going on a family walk or riding their bike. They can then use those points to unlock NFL gear and customize their in-app avatar—a great incentive to keep kids engaged and active.

3. Just Dance Now

Maybe you’ve seen the popular Just Dance game in arcades. Now, your kids can play it anytime and without a video game console. All you need is a smartphone and internet-connected screen to follow along with the choreography and dance to tons of popular music. Just be aware: Although the app is free, the number of free songs is limited, so your kids may ask to make some in-app purchases to keep the party going.

4. Zombies, Run!

This next app is sure to be a hit with your older, zombie-loving kids and teens. Just pop in your headphones to turn any run (or walk) into an epic storytelling adventure and race to escape the living dead breathing down your neck. Encourage your kid to run for fun or even set a goal to participate in their first 5K! If you’re worried about your children running with headphones, consider taking them to a local track where you can watch or even join in to make memories as you sweat.

These apps are a great way to get your kids moving, but without high-speed internet, you may find downloading them is more of an exercise in frustration. Call WCTEL today to make sure you have the reliable connection you need to power your family throughout this coronavirus crisis and beyond.