The Ben Lomand Rural Telephone Cooperative was incorporated on Oct. 2, 1952 to provide local telephone service to rural Middle Tennessee. Ben Lomand began serving its first customers in 1954.
With 67 years of experience, counties served are Warren, White, and Grundy as well as parts of Van Buren, Cumberland, Coffee, DeKalb, Putnam, Bedford, Cannon, Rutherford, Franklin, and Marion. The original cooperative has evolved into Ben Lomand Connect, a technology-driven company bringing telecommunications technologies to industry and homeowners.
Ben Lomand Connect (BLC) operates with four branch locations in addition to headquarters in McMinnville. The branches are Sparta, Tracy City, Crossville, and Manchester. BLC has close to 1,900 square miles of territory to which it supplies over 25,000 phone lines and close to 25,000 broadband connections.
Ben Lomand Connect has 134 employees plus around 60 contractors at this time. That is up 6-8 people from one year ago. Another 10-12 additions are expected over the next 12 months. There are four openings at this time. Job openings are advertised on the website www.benlomandconnect.com under the “Jobs” tab. An employment application can be submitted online, and there is an email address listed where applicants can send in their resumes.
Greg Smartt is the general manager/ CEO of Ben Lomand Connect. This was a recent appointment to replace a retiring CEO. Greg has been with the company for 37 years starting as an I/R technician and rising up through the ranks of management. Most recently Greg was broadband operations manager, a strategic growth area for the company.
Greg is married to wife Tina and they have three children – Cody, Jared, and Sarah. Tina and Greg have four grandchildren. The family is a member of the Church of Christ. Greg is from Warren County originally and is a graduate of Warren County High School and then Motlow Community College. At Motlow, Greg majored in human resources and public relations. Greg’s hobbies are golf, hunting, fishing, and rooting for the Tennessee Vols.
Greg has a capable and experienced executive staff reporting to him and has a Board of Directors that meet monthly. BLC is recognized as being a leader in the distribution and services associated with fiber for high-speed broadband.
Since 2018, BLC has built McMinnville Rural, Centertown, and Rock Island exchanges whereby approximately 700 miles of aerial and buried (about 60% of total) fiber has been placed. This fiber has brought gig-capable speed to approximately 10,000 members in Warren County. BLC is continuing plans in the city of McMinnville that will bring fiber to another 1,000 subscribers there.
Ben Lomand has six grant award projects currently underway for expanding fiber coverage. These grants cover communities in Franklin and Marion counties, northwestern Cumberland County, northeastern Coffee County, southwestern Warren County, northeastern Cumberland County, and southwestern Cumberland County. Ben Lomand has been the recipient of over $17 million in grant awards to date.
BLC will continue to apply for more grants of this type. These grant opportunities are aimed at closing the digital divide for rural areas.
Where is BLC fiber? The following areas highlight the latest in fiber technology – the Mountain View Industrial Park (Morrison), downtown McMinnville (with new wi-fi hot spots slated for July), Manchester Industrial Park, Chamber of Commerce building in McMinnville, McMinnville City Hall, and the Warren County building on Locust Street. Ben Lomand is now facilitating free WI-FI downtown and for Main Street Live. There are eight hotspots in Warren County for accessing the internet at no cost. These sites are:
• BLC main office at 311 North Chancery Street
• Covenant Academy at 1079 Country Club Drive
• Fire Station #2 in Smartt Station – 446 Engle Blvd.
• Kids of the Community – 681 Cadillac Lane
• Midway CIC – 5966 Great Falls Road
• Friendship Baptist Church – 11821 Sparta Highway
• Northside Baptist Church – 1574 Yager Road
• Centertown United Methodist Church – 335 W. Green Hill Road
Ben Lomand offers another 15 hotspots located outside of Warren County.
Ben Lomand has experienced significant sales growth over the last five years with its hosted (Voice over IP) phone systems which utilizes cloud based technology to keep communications flowing between employees and offices with voice, video, and chat options. Features like voicemail to email and smartphone to business phone (or vice versa) transition are very popular with many businesses.
Ben Lomand has expanded its cable TV services to boost local Channel 6 for county sports, interviews, and visits. This was particularly popular during the recent pandemic. BLC has added “Restart TV” and “Watch Now” as two new services. Restart TV allows a viewer to restart a TV show that has already begun. Watch Now allows a viewer to go back a few days and watch a program from start to finish that they missed. These do not require a DVR.
Going forward, Ben Lomand has a focus on expanding their security systems for homes and businesses all accessed through customer smart phones for system turn-on, video camera operation, etc. BLC will be soon unveiling a new home managed wi-fi service called Ben Lomand Home. This service will allow greater insight into a home’s Broadband and devise usage. Favorable aspects include parental controls for children digital devices, extra layers of protection vs. viruses, etc.
Ben Lomand offers cloud based technology today for business through its IT management group. Ben Lomand not only offers 5G capability, but has the ability to reach to 10G in the future.
Ben Lomand has made the recent transition with e-mail from blomand.net to benlomand.net. This establishes a clearer platform for future operations.
Ben Lomand unveiled a new company website last November. Included as new features is chat capability 24/7, alternative languages use, a new “alert” feature, etc.
Greg and his team are poised to expand and exploit Broadband technologies for benefit of their multi-county customer base. Warren County is blessed to have Ben Lomand Connect. Most rural counties are not anywhere near the position we enjoy as a result of the progress of BLC. BRAC congratulates this pursuit of technology excellence and leadership.