Greetings and welcome to the “ber” months. Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve punctuate the months of September, October, November and December. Some employees call it the cozy season.

These months are when I start to reflect on the past year. One of the highlights late this summer was our 71st Annual Meeting of the Membership. You can review our 2023 highlights in our recently launched Annual Report, found at wctel.com/ annual-report. This year three board seats were up for election. I’m pleased to share that Aimee Gray – Area 1 – Starr, Robert Hester – Area 6 – Calhoun Falls and Tag Bussey – Area 9 – South McCormick, were all reelected to another term. Our 2023 story is one of growth and a reinforced commitment to our cooperative areas. Today we have fellow South Carolinians left behind in the digital divide. Fortunately, our federal and state governments recognize that internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. So, they, too, are doing something about it. We’re grateful to be their partners. This past year, the state of South Carolina entrusted us with $40 million in federal funding to help connect the Upstate. Through our subsidiary’s brand, Upcountry Fiber, more than 1,000 miles of fiber have been laid throughout the Upstate this past year, and more than 14,000 orders have been taken since the start of the project. The multiyear project comprises 6,000 miles and, when complete, will pass 65,000 addresses. This growth allows us to continue to serve YOU, take care of our communities and be a cooperative force for support, service and good. It’s what allows us to continue to invest in our infrastructure, so you are receiving state-of-the-art service. Other highlights from 2023 include strides in enrollment in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a $30 monthly savings on internet service for qualified households. We currently have 1,385 customers enrolled in the ACP program – a jump of almost 700 since last year. This year, anyone with a student enrolled in a public school within our area is eligible to receive this benefit. To learn more, go to wctel.com/acp or call our office at 864-446-2111. I can’t touch on 2023 without mentioning WiFi X, which was launched in late spring this year. WiFi X not only protects your homes from incoming threats and viruses, but it puts YOU in the driver’s seat of your home WiFi. It enables you to run speed tests, set up guest networks, change your WiFi password easily, prioritize bandwidth, and for parents, it gives you greater control and insight into your child’s internet usage. Lastly, in this issue you’ll read about our second annual Give Big, Get Gig food drive. We are hoping to build off of that success and collect even more food. I wish you a wonderful holiday season, and on behalf of every WCTEL and WCFIBER employee, we are humbled and honored to help connect you to the world and each other.