Member Profile: SkyLine Membership Corporation

CEO:
Jimmy Blevins

Year Established:
1951

Number of Employees:
144 full-time

Number of Access Lines:
30,700

Exchanges Served:
Shady Valley in Tennessee
11 exchanges in North Carolina

When most people think of SkyLine Membership Corporation or SkyBest Communications, they think of it as a North Carolina telco. But thanks to one exchange in Johnson County, SkyLine is also a Tennessee telco — and a proud TTA member.

Industry members also associate a history of innovation with SkyLine. The company, which operates as its subsidiary SkyBest Communications in its CLEC, began building out its fiber network in 2004. It serves 98 percent of customers with fiber. They continue  to develop new services like Weekender Internet and The Video Exchange, as well as innovative solutions like remote workers and a smart home demo cabin.

Appropriately, SkyLine CEO Jimmy Blevins was recognized by the NTCA with a Management Innovation Award in 2016.

“We keep moving forward,” said Karen Powell, public relations administrator for SkyLine. “Our board and our management staff have that ability to be thinking ahead. When opportunities present themselves, we capitalize on them.”

Believed to be the eighth largest telephone cooperative in the United States, SkyLine serves four counties in western North Carolina, with SkyBest offering service in the cities of Boone, West Jefferson, Jefferson and Lenoir. The Shady Valley Exchange in Johnson County, Tennessee, was its first all-fiber exchange.

SkyLine’s most visible development in recent years has been its retail center and the home automation built into a log cabin near the West Jefferson Walmart. The company has also opened a new Boone Customer Center in the area’s largest city. The customer center will demonstrate to customers the latest technology, including an iBeam robot and a 3D printer.

“We’re all about technology, but because we’re a cooperative, we’re member-driven and member-focused,” Powell said.

That focus is apparent with products like SkyLine’s Weekender Internet Service aimed at part-time residents. Reduced-rate service is cut on at noon Friday and deactivated at noon on Monday. “Being in the mountains we have a lot of folks who are only here part time,” Powell explained.

SkyLine managers have also turned their innovative thinking inward with a pilot program allowing some employees to work from home over their broadband connections. So far, supervisors have been very pleased with the results of allowing several members of the Support Services department to work remotely. “If you talk to any of those ladies, they love working from home,” Powell said.

But whatever projects the SkyLine and SkyBest teams are working on, it’s only possible because of their network connecting their communities in rural Tennessee and North Carolina.

“The underlying connection to everything we do is that fiber broadband service,” Powell says. “It’s allowed us to offer those cutting-edge products and services.”