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Employment Opportunity – IT Help Desk Specialist

Posted on: June 18th, 2020 No Comments
Hood Canal Communications is seeking a highly motivated, technologically diverse Help Desk Specialist! Must be a fast-learning, multi-tasked individual with excellent communication skills for troubleshooting, resolving, and documenting end user issues with various Internet Access Technologies, including Fiber to the Premise, Cable Modem, DSL, and Wireless. Must have skills in PC ProblemSolving, Troubleshooting, and Repair, as well be knowledgeable in-home router setup and small networks.  Job duties also include ISP equipment recycling, provisioning, and inventory maintenance. To apply, send resume to ISP Manager, PO Box 249, Union, WA 98592 or email careers@hcc.net. Hood Canal Communications is a drug free, equal opportunity employer.

Tips for Supporting Your Local Businesses

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 No Comments

Right now, we’re presented with a unique opportunity to meaningfully support our community by supporting our local businesses. You can benefit by making some great purchases for yourself and the community can benefit by ensuring these local companies have a much stronger chance of returning to normal when the crisis has passed.  It’s truly a case of doing well by doing good.

Here are some ways you can contribute to the local economy and come across some golden finds!

  • Check websites and social media pages for details on how your favorite places are operating, including hours and any special instructions. For example, while restaurants and retail businesses have closed their inside areas, they are offering curbside service, delivery, or drive-thru. Bonus: Some restaurants provide an online menu, which allows you to place your order online or by phone—this provides less exposure for them and shorter wait times for you.
  • Find out if your favorite businesses that are unable to offer a to-go service are curbside delivery. Many local retailers, financial planners, and consultants are making their services available online. Additionally, many tutors, art, and music instructors offer online classes as well.
  • Can you buy locally before resorting to placing an online order from outside the community? Even if your favorite shop doesn’t have a robust online ordering platform, reach out to them by phone—they may have other resources available to meet your request.
  • For waitstaff who rely on tips for a good portion of their wages, consider a larger tip for curbside service or delivery, if you are able.
  • For businesses that are currently unable to provide services, such as hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, and so on, consider purchasing a gift card for later use. Small businesses can use those funds now to stay afloat now and they’ll be ready to serve you when life returns to normal.

How else can you help? Spread the word! Share information with your friends and neighbors about what is available from local businesses.  Leave a great review about a local business. Make a post on social media about that great meal or that beautiful flower arrangement you picked up curbside.

By supporting our community businesses, we’re supporting our friends, family members and neighbors. If we all do our part to keep our community connected and supported, we’ll all come out the other side of this better!

The Best Ways To Clean And Disinfect Your Phone During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted on: May 4th, 2020 No Comments

Think about how often you check your phone. Every hour? Every few minutes? We all touch our smartphones nonstop. And as we cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to think about what might be lurking on your device.

In studies, everything from e.coli to Staphylococcus aureus ― also known as MRSA ― has been lifted from the surface of smartphones. Research from the United Kingdom suggests 1 in 6 phones have feces on it, since plenty of people browse apps in the bathroom, and set their phones down while in there, as well. In other words, your beloved device is a hotbed for germs.

It stands to reason, then, that the surface of your phone could host the coronavirus if you come in contact with it, said Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of health science at Ball State University.

“We spend at least two hours daily touching the phone,” he said. Some statistics suggest it might even be more. “It clearly becomes a vehicle of transmission, especially when people share phones.”

Dr. Neha Vyas, a family medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic, agreed.

“The frequency with which you should wash your phone is probably akin to how frequently you use it,” she explained. “If you are taking it in a place that is germ-y, it is likely you want to wash it.”

If you’ve heard about UV light devices that eliminate germs from the phone, these can possibly work to kill microbes ― but only with ideal conditions.

Do certain types of UV lights work to kill germs? Yes. Could these devices work in theory? Yes. But do they actually? That’s the question, according to Khubchandani. If online reviews are an indicator, the answer is maybe not.

“The challenge is, are these products tested for efficacy?” Khubchandani said.

In general, the lights are probably not the best standalone practice to prevent virus spread. They are not as convenient, not as cheap and not as widely available as other disinfectants. “Wipes seem to be the best right now for cost, portability and proven efficiency,” Khubchandani said.

First, to keep yourself safe, wash your hands frequently ― then think about your phone. Current research on COVID-19 shows it’s most likely to be spread person-to-person through droplets, mucus or saliva.

After that, the virus is more likely to spread via hard surfaces like your phone or a door knob than soft surfaces like carpet.

“Soap and water are still the best,” Khubchandani said. “Hand washing should be done regularly for everyone. For the phone, you can’t really use [soap and water], but something like a Clorox wipe would work. Look for a wipe with at least 70% alcohol.”

Vyas suggested a wipe that doesn’t have bleach in it, so it doesn’t ruin your phone surface. Ethanol wipes can typically disinfect a surface with the coronavirus. Whatever cleaner you use, just make sure it has time to sit and work its magic before you wipe it off.

“You can lightly wipe the surface of the phone, and then make sure you dry it with a microfiber cloth,” in order to get rid of germs completely, she said. Just make sure the cloth is only used once, then wash it before you use it again.

But of course, a lot of cleaning products like disinfectant wipes are selling out at the moment. If you encounter this issue, Khubchandani suggested filling a spray bottle with simple rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, which you could then wipe away with a single-use cloth. (It’s not the preferred method of disinfecting a surface, but fine in a pinch.)

“Those are the two cheapest if you don’t find the wipes,” he said. “Just keep it in the restroom. Wipe your phone with it after you touch it.”

And make sure you’re sanitizing regularly: “Practice cleaning the phone,” Khubchandani said. “Make it a four-or-five-times-a-day ritual. And clean your personal spaces with disinfectants. Clean your desk, your computer, your phone. Everyone’s scared, but they need to pay attention to their own practices [to prevent spread]. Sometimes, we miss the most obvious things ― like cleaning our own desk, washing hands ― when we’re overly anxious.”

So, to recap: Use wipes on your phone, and follow up with a microfiber cloth if you really want the best results. And most importantly, continue to wash your hands when you interact with others and touch surfaces like your phone. Disinfect your personal spaces and office space, too. Practicing good hygiene is one of the best defenses against most illnesses like coronavirus.

(This article is courtesy of Huffpost.)

Staying Alert to Scams

Posted on: April 21st, 2020 No Comments

Many of us are spending more time than normal on our screens, whether we are working from home, homeschooling our children, or binge-watching our favorite shows to help pass the time indoors. While COVID-19 has many of us staying home to help save lives, unfortunately it’s not only outdoors that we need to take care.

Scammers and hackers are taking this opportunity—while the country is vulnerable—to launch new phishing and malware attacks. Phishing is when people try to get you to give them sensitive information, like social security numbers, credit card numbers, and so on. Malware is a program that can get into your computer and damage files, delete them, or give your computer a virus. Here are some things you can do to stay vigilant while you’re on your computer more than usual:

 

Don’t open that attachment or click that link

If you don’t recognize the person who sent the email, don’t click on an attachment or link. Even if you do recognize the sender, if there is no personal information in the email, don’t click. You might receive an email that says “Look at this” along with a link or an attachment. Only open attachments or click on links if they are clearly from someone you know. If you’re unsure, call the person to verify.

 

Watch out for pop-ups

If a pop-up appears on your computer or phone that sounds too good to be true, it is. Pop-ups promising that you have won something or saying there’s a problem on your computer should be treated with skepticism. HCC does NOT use pop-ups to announce that you have won a prize, like an Amazon gift card or an iPad.

 

Don’t fall for a scam

There is no prince in Nigeria who will give you seven million dollars. If you receive a message from a loved one who says they have been kidnapped and need money immediately, take a deep breath and call the person to check before you do anything else. Never give out personal information—bank account or credit card information, social security number, etc.—unless you are certain it is going to the right place.

 

Use a strong password

Just about every safety checklist starts with this simple tip. When you create a password, make sure it is nearly impossible to guess. Do that by creating a long password (8 or more characters) that includes both uppercase and lowercase letters, at least one number, and at least one special character (like ! or @ or $ or %).

 

Double check the address

If you get to a website asking you to download something or input information, check the web address to be sure. If you see a trusted website, like “https://www.hcc.net/” then you’re okay. But if you see something like “hcc.134870xkajg.com” that’s a scam. This advice applies to email addresses, too. A common email scam is an email that appears to be from a friend, family member, or coworker saying, “Can you please open this attachment and print it for me?” A familiar name may be there, but the email address will be wrong.

 

Unfortunately, some people are taking this vulnerable time to exploit people. Stay vigilant and you’ll be fine. If you have questions about something you think may be a scam, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Keeping you connected, now more than ever

Posted on: April 13th, 2020 No Comments

 

 

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’s our 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 an HCC 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
    2. Put the router the main floor of your house
    3. 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. Click here to learn more.
    2. BrainPop offers all kinds of educational programs for small children. Click here to learn more.
    3. NASA has all kinds of online activities for kids in the NASA Kids Club. Click here to learn more.
  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. Click here to learn more.
    2. 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. Click here to learn more.
    3. Let your kids explore TED Talks or take a course on Lynda 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.

 

HCC offers a streaming service called nexTV. With features like full HD and live TV included, home entertainment has never been easier. nexTV also offers up to 200 hours of cloud DVR recording, to watch on your TV, smartphone or tablet with HCC’s nexTV app. Equipment is easy to install – just plug your streaming nexTV device into a power source, your TV’s HDMI port and sign into your nexTV account (provided to you by customer 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 during the pandemic

Posted on: April 7th, 2020 No Comments

 

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:

 

  • Chef Michael Symon is offering daily dinner tutorials via the Food Network Kitchen’s Facebook page. Each video also features a link to the recipe. Click here to learn more.

 

  • Musical groups are streaming live “virtual” shows. NPR compiled a list, sorted by date and then genre. Click here to learn more.

 

  • Many art studios are using Facebook Live to teach free art classes. Artist at Heart Paint Party is one, daily at noon. Previous daily videos are stored under “Videos.” Click here to learn more.

 

 

  • Gyms and other fitness outlets are all closed to the public, including Union Square Fitness. Planet Fitness is offering free classes on Facebook Live at 7 p.m. for anyone. Click here to learn more..

 

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 Wi-Fi or to increase your bandwidth as your needs grow during this time. We’re in this together.

5 Tips for Staying Connected at Home

Posted on: March 26th, 2020 No Comments

Hood Canal Communications Responds to COVID-19 With Internet Speed Increases, Temporary Closures

Posted on: March 16th, 2020 No Comments

All customers will receive access to high-speed broadband internet for six weeks while offices are closed to the public.

To meet the Internet needs of work-from-home individuals and students during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hood Canal Communications (HCC) has increased its minimum internet speed to 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) for six weeks, at no charge to customers.

“We hope that this will offer some relief to our customers who are stuck at home during this pandemic,” said HCCs’ General Manager Mike Oblizalo.

Using the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) guidelines, HCC estimates that families of up to four people will be able to use email, browse the web, video conference and stream simultaneously.

HCC is able to offer this unprecedented broadband access thanks to a major upgrade to its network facilities last year. In 2019, the company expanded its internet backbone, adding two geographically diverse fiber-optic cable connections, each capable of providing 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) of throughput to the public Internet. This network upgrade marked the largest connections to be deployed in Mason County, giving the company the fastest “backbone” Internet connection currently available in the area.

In addition to increasing HCC’s minimum internet speeds, the company has also put into place several relief measures for its customers. All pay-by-phone fees will be waived, to encourage access to the feature and discourage unnecessary contact. HCC is also proud to participate in the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge and will waive late fees for the month of March.

This speed upgrade and other customer relief measures are offered as solutions to the necessary closure of HCC’s offices to the public. Following the advice of the CDC and other government officials, unnecessary contact between employees and customers will be limited until further notice. Additional measures have been put in place to mitigate potential health hazards for technicians in the field.

“Our customers’ and employees’ safety are our top priorities,” Oblizalo said. “We’re proud to offer these relief measures to ensure connectivity and stability in these uncertain times.”

Spring Sun Outages

Posted on: February 27th, 2020 No Comments

Missing a channel? Seeing an error message? You may be experiencing a regular sun outage.

What are sun outages and how do they affect HCC cable customers? In both the spring and fall, the sun passes behind certain communications satellites once per day.

During this time, the energy from the sun will overpower the signal from the satellite, causing loss of signal, tiling and no reception at all on several channels. This can last 2 to 3 weeks and causes channels to go black for a brief period of time.  Initially, outages will be gradual and slight, and can last 15-20 minutes at peak times.

On your television you may see the error messages, “one moment please, this channel will be available shortly,” error code SOAOO, or “no signal” during the time of an outage.

So what is HCC doing about this? Unfortunately, there is nothing that we can do to prevent sun outages from occurring. All cable and satellite companies are affected by this semi-annual occurrence. We apologize for this programming interruption, and appreciate your patience during this time!

Channels that are not affected by sun outages are:

4   KOMO

5   KING

7   KIRO

9   KCTS

10 KZJO

11 KSTW

13 KCPQ

16 KONG

20 KTBW

21 KWDK

22 KBTC

24 Zap2it

31 ION

46 Local

319 Justice Network

321 Azteca

322 KCTS Create

331 Escape

341 getTV

342 CometTV

351 Antenna TV

355 Charge

356 Laff

357 This TV

Watch the brief video below, from another cable operator, that explains sun outages simply.

Tips for Optimizing Your WiFi Signal

Posted on: February 5th, 2020 No Comments

One of the most crucial things you can do is pick the optimal location in your home for your router.

Start with proper equipment

It all starts with choosing the right router or other equipment. Not all routers are made equal and the size and layout of your home will determine what type of wireless network you need.

For homes under 1,500 square feet, a single wireless access point should suffice. That said, if your router is several years old, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer model with support for wireless 802.11ac and dual-band support. This will give you the fastest wireless speeds possible and the best overall coverage. For bigger homes, it’s worth considering making the upgrade to a mesh network to offer consistent coverage throughout the entire house. Once the main access point is installed, if you find a far corner of your home doesn’t have solid wireless coverage, just add another node to that area. Problem solved.

Regardless of whether you have a single access point or a mesh network, where you place the primary access point still matters.

Where should you place your router?

When you first move into a new home or apartment, the modem is usually installed along the wall in one of the far reaches of the house. This is simply because that is where the line comes into the house. It’s tempting to just leave everything where it is, but it’s unlikely that this is an optimal location to have your router.

Pick a central location

Routers send the signal out in all directions, so if it’s left in the corner of your home, a significant percentage of your wireless coverage is being sent outside your home. It’s best to move the router to a central location to optimize the signal. Installing a router across the house from the modem may prove troublesome. It may require manually running a CAT5 cable under the floor or enlisting the help of powerline network adapters. But the improved wireless coverage will be worth it.

Raise the router

Routers tend to spread signal downward, so it’s best to mount the router as high as possible to maximize coverage. Try placing it high on a bookshelf or mounting it on the wall in an inconspicuous place.

Avoid other electronics

Try to pick a location that’s away from other electronics and large metal objects. The more walls, large obstructions and electronics near your router, the higher the chances are that something will interfere with the signal. One electronic to especially avoid is the microwave, which emits a strong signal in the 2.4GHz band, the same wireless band your router operates in.

Those funny-looking antennas matter

Some routers have no antenna at all, but some have up to eight. These antennas help direct the signal. If there are two or more antennas on your router, don’t position them all in the same direction. Instead, make them perpendicular to one another — position one horizontally and the other vertically. Or slightly change the position of all the antennas to cover a wide range of angles.

Try mapping the signal

In worst-case scenario situations, it may prove useful to map out the signal in your home to see where there might be gaps or problems areas in your coverage.

If you’re considering upgrading your router, be sure to call HCC first. For homes with children, make sure to explore the parental controls of your router, too.

This article was originally published by cnet.

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