April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014

In This Issue

Meetings and Events

MTA Updates

>> MTA and Allies Score Victory in Reinstatement of Sales Tax Exemption on Telecom Equipment

>> MTA Foundation Selects Scholarship Winners

>> USDA Announces Telecom Infrastructure Loan Application Process

>> 2014 Customer Service Peer Group Spring Conference

>> MTA Peer Group 2014 Investment Opportunities Are Now Available!

>> Severe Weather Awareness Week: April 21-25

People and Companies

>>Ace Communications Group Rebrands as AcenTek, Rolls Out Multimillion-dollar Fiber Network Expansion

MTA Staff

MTA President/CEO:
Brent Christensen
Team Leader:

Jacquie Durant
Event Planners:
Julie Cygan
Carissa Wolf
Member Services:
Chris Swanson
Janey Duntley
Administrative Assistant:
Anne Christensen

Stay up-to-date on daily happenings at the MTA offices by following us on Facebook. From peer group meetings to annual conferences and everything in between, get the scoop on what’s happening at our offices!




Meetings and Events

April 24-25, 2014: 2014 Office Manager/HR Peer Group Spring Conference

May 14-15, 2014: 2014 Customer Service Peer Group Spring Conference

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MTA Updates


MTA and Allies Score Victory in Reinstatement of Sales Tax Exemption on Telecom Equipment

In a last-minute deal at the end of the 2013 Legislative session, lawmakers repealed the upfront sales tax exemption on central office equipment. The MTA worked with a wide coalition of stakeholders to educate lawmakers on how this was a mistake and would adversely affect the deployment of broadband in Minnesota. “They took away the only incentive the State had for providers to deploy more broadband”, commented MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen, “basically this means that it will now cost 7% more to get service to those truly unserved.”

After countless hours of educating legislators, commissioning a tax study to show the impact on the economy, and participating in the MN Chamber's United for Jobs coalition, the MTA and our allies were successful in re-instating the sales tax exemption on telecom equipment. The new exemption went into effect for purchases made after March 31, 2014. While it was expanded to include more than central office equipment, the exemption still does not include wire, cable, fiber, poles, or conduit. Here are the highlights:

1. Effective for telecom equipment purchases made after March 31, 2014.

2. The sales tax exemption applies to telecommunications or pay television services machinery and equipment purchased or leased for use directly by a telecommunications or pay television services provider primarily in the provision of telecommunications or pay television services that are ultimately to be sold at retail, regardless of whether purchased by the owner, a contractor, or a subcontractor.

3. Telecommunications or pay television machinery and equipment includes, but is not limited to:

a. machinery, equipment, and fixtures utilized in receiving, initiating, amplifying, processing, transmitting, retransmitting, recording, switching, or monitoring telecommunications or pay television services, such as computers, transformers, amplifiers, routers, bridges, repeaters, multiplexers, and other items performing comparable functions;
b. machinery, equipment, and fixtures used in the transportation of telecommunications or pay television services, such as radio transmitters and receivers, satellite equipment, microwave equipment, and other transporting media – but not wire, cable, fiber, poles, or conduit;
c. ancillary machinery, equipment, and fixtures that regulate, control, protect, or enable the machinery in clauses (1) and (2) to accomplish its intended function, such as auxiliary power supply, test equipment, towers, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment necessary to the operation of the telecommunications or pay television equipment; and software necessary to the operation of the telecommunications or pay television equipment; and
d. repair and replacement parts, including accessories, whether purchased as spare parts, repair parts, or as upgrades or modifications to qualified machinery or equipment.

4. Effective July 1, 2015, the sales tax exemption will be upfront. Until then, companies must apply for a refund. Click here for form ST11.

The reason the Legislature makes you apply for the refund, instead of giving it to you up front, is because they know not everyone will apply for the refund and that will leave taxes collected in the State’s general fund. DON’T LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE FOR YOUR COMPANY! Apply for every refund you are eligible for and get the money returned to your company! Contact your tax professional for more information.


MTA Foundation Selects Scholarship Winners

Recently, members of the MTA Foundation’s Board of Directors met to score 131 scholarship applications. To be eligible, applicants must be attending post-secondary education at a university, college, or technical college, be a Minnesota resident, and the applicant’s family must subscribe to at least one service from an MTA member company. The panel reviewed each application and scored the applications based on applicants’ grades, academic achievements and extra-curricular activities. Preference to receive the scholarships is given to students who have an interest in telecommunications technology and rural communities. Five scholarships of $2,000 each were approved by the Board to be awarded this year. The top applicant is awarded the Bud Morrow Scholarship each year. This year, there was a tie for the top score, so both applicants will receive a $2,000 Bud Morrow Scholarship. There was also a tie for 5th place. Because of this, the 5th place scholarship will be split and each of those two applicants will receive $1,000.

The 2014 MTA Foundation Scholarship winners are:

Kathryn Gray, Paul Bunyan Communications
Lauren Usherwood, Emily Cooperative Telephone Co.
Brittany Bloch, ARVIG
Sheila Poepping, Albany Mutual Telephone Assoc.
Christina Loonan, Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co.
Samantha Mathias, KM Telecom

Congratulations to all of the 2014 MTA Foundation Scholarship winners!

Since its inception in 2008, the MTA Foundation has awarded $58,000 in scholarships to customers of MTA member companies. The scholarships are funded through private donations, fundraisers at the MTA Convention and golf outing, and the Pinnacle golf outing. The MTA Foundation Board of Directors thanks all MTA members who contribute to the Foundation and make these scholarships possible. The MTA Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit. Contributions to the Foundation are tax deductible.

USDA Announces Telecom Infrastructure Loan Application Process

Recently, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service released the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Application Guide, which is now posted on its webpage: www.rurdev.usda.gov/utp_infrastructure.html. For more information, click here to see the letter from RUS Assistant Administrator Keith Adams.

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Peer Group Bulletin
All MTA members are welcome to join a Peer Group

2014 Customer Service Peer Group Spring Conference

May 14-15, 2014
Le St-Germain Suite Hotel
St. Cloud, Minnesota

MTA is excited about the upcoming Customer Service Peer Group Conference, to be held May 14 and 15 at Le St-Germain Suite Hotel in St. Cloud, MN. This event is for any and all individuals who deal with customers in the telecommunication industry. This is a great opportunity to attend (or send your staff) for very little cost.

We will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday evening with an icebreaker meet and greet in the hotel bar & lounge. Chair massages will be available. On May 15, the morning of learning will include a message from MTA President Brent Christensen and a representative from Independent Emergency Services (IES).

Back by popular demand will be our “Peer to Peer Breakout Sessions”. We will work on some great team building skills. These are totally interactive and informative. Come ready to participate and share.

After lunch, Steve Gasser will present “Growing Bigger EARS!” – 10 steps to using social media to increase sales and customer loyalty.

There is plenty of time to meet old and new friends and share your customer service experiences in the telecommunications business. Register now to attend this learning conference. The MTA registration fee is only $99. Le St-Germains’ room rate is $89 until April 25. You and your staff won’t want to miss this conference! Find the full agenda and registration form on the MTA calendar. You will register with MTA and then make your own hotel reservation. We look forward to seeing you on May 14 & 15.

P.S. Please consider joining the planning committee. Our committee consists of 4 people with 1 leaving each time. You would help plan 4 conferences. We communicate with each other through email and conference calls. It is a great way to get involved. If interested, please let one of the committee members know. We would like to have someone onboard before the end of this conference.

MTA Peer Group 2014 Investment Opportunities Are Now Available!

MTA’s core purpose is to enhance the success and viability of its telecommunications industry members. You are an important part of helping us fulfill this mission. Here is your opportunity to maximize the impact of your event sponsorships for 2014.

Sponsor a Peer Group: Download the PDF or Sign Up Online!

Would you like to be added to a Peer Group listserv?
Email Jacquie at jacquied@mnta.org to be added – please specify which listserv(s) you would like to join:

Administrative Assistant (AA)
Customer Service (CSR)
Office Managers (OM)
Human Resource (HR)
Plant Superintendents (PM)
Telco Marketing (TMG)

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Safety Corner

Severe Weather Awareness Week April 21-25

As I sit looking out at our newly fallen snow, I find it hard to believe that next week, April 21-25, is Minnesota Severe Weather Awareness Week. This statewide information campaign is designed to inform and refresh our knowledge about severe weather threats. The aim is to enable citizens to be better prepared to take appropriate action when necessary. This is the perfect time for companies to take a look at their Emergency Action Plans to be sure they are up to date and to remind employees what to do in case a weather emergency should occur.

Did you know that among the most common natural hazards in Minnesota are floods and flash floods?  Or that a lightning bolt can be 5 miles long and strike ten miles from the center of the storm and your chance of being struck are 1 in 10,000 and rubber shoes provide no protection? 

Find Severe Weather Awareness Week resources for the workplace and home on the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) website, including information about the statewide tornado drill on Thursday, April 24. The drill is held in all counties at 1:45 p.m. to allow businesses and other organizations to practice their emergency plans. A second drill is held in most counties at 6:55 p.m. so second shift workers and families can also practice.

Take advantage of Severe Weather Awareness Week to review your company's and your family's emergency procedures and prepare for weather-related hazards. Each day of the week will focus on a different topic:

As I looked at my own home severe weather shelter area, I found that I would be hard pressed to get my family into it; I definitely have some cleaning and organizing to do. Take a look at your company and home shelter areas and make sure they are of sufficient size and are clean so your staff and family will enter without hesitation.

Employees who are away from the office traveling or working in the field can now stay in touch with weather conditions by being alerted on their phones. Personal and localized electronic weather alerts are available across the Midwest from the National Weather Service or local media outlets in a variety of formats. Check your local television or radio station for apps to download.

Four simple preparedness steps you can take:

  • Make a Workplace and Family Emergency Plan
  • Have an Emergency Supply Kit
  • Get Informed
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio

If you have any questions about the Safety Program or if we can be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me for more information. I can be contacted at 612-219-4503 or dberg@mnta.org.

Take Care,

Dan Berg, M.S.
MTA Lead Safety Consultant

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People Companies

Ace Communications Group Rebrands as AcenTek, Rolls Out Multimillion-dollar Fiber Network Expansion

Integrated communications service provider Ace Communications Group has announced that it is rebranding itself as AcenTek and extending the breadth and capabilities of its already expansive three-state fiber network.

AcenTek’s service area encompasses southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and northwest and southwest Michigan, where the company provides local and long distance telephone service, broadband Internet connectivity, wireless and video services to business enterprises and residential customers. Ace Communications has been serving communities since it was founded as an independent cooperative communications company in 1950.

The technology expansion and AcenTek rebranding marks the evolution of both the company’s network capabilities and the advanced services it provides.  

“We are no longer just a local telephone company—we’re a technology company,” said Todd Roesler, CEO of AcenTek. “We’ve evolved, and we want our name to reflect that. We operate a state-of-the-art network that allows us to deliver cutting-edge technology and services to our customers.”

As part of its expansion, AcenTek is in the process of extending its fiber network in the La Crescent, Minn., region, as well as in Allendale, Mich. In addition, AcenTek has started construction on a new building in Allendale that will house advanced new network switching and video headend gear to enhance the services the company provides. Construction on the building is scheduled to be completed in October.

More fiber across the three states the company serves means all AcenTek services can be delivered faster and more reliably.

“We are technology-proofing our network as well as our customers,” Roesler said. “They’re not ever going to grow out of the capabilities we’re able to provide. No matter what kind of bandwidth they require, we can provide it.”

The company’s new name is derived from the words “ascending” and “technology” and signals the company’s commitment to its ever-evolving network and services. AcenTek is also committed to maintaining close-knit relationships with the customers it serves—a major differentiating factor for a company with local roots and strong community relationships.

“We have a local presence in every one of our markets,” Roesler said. “We are involved in the community, and all service and support is local.”


Do you have an announcement for People & Companies? Send an email to MTA at info@mnta.org or fax to 651-290-2266.

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Minnesota Telecom Alliance
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