Like many living in rural areas without good internet options, April Vanderford was constantly searching for Wi-Fi – literally chasing a signal around Burton, Mississippi.
“We’re constantly on the move, worrying about where we could go for internet,” Vanderford said. “We don’t have time to sit and do stuff together because we’re always in a hurry.”
Despite such an inconvenience, Vanderford stays in Burton because she loves the lifestyle it provides. She appreciates how safe her neighborhood is, enjoys her job as manager at the Burton Quick Stop and admires the beautiful scenery she wakes up to each day.
“The whole community is just one big, happy family,” Vanderford said. “Everybody helps everybody. There are no strangers. Once you’re in, you’re in.”
But even though life is good in Burton, Vanderford knew it could impove with better connectivity. That’s why she got Viasat satellite internet – so that her family could continue to enjoy the perks of small-town living while also being in touch with the greater world.
Before getting their Viasat service, the Vanderford family experienced daily setbacks as a result of living on the wrong side of the digital divide.
“We’re out in the middle of nowhere,” Vanderford said. “We don’t have internet because it’s very costly to have it hooked up, and out here it’s really hard to get a connection. Even with cellphones, it’s hard to get a good signal.”
Vanderford moved to Burton after meeting her current husband. She started working on her business degree in 2012, but couldn’t complete it when she moved to the country with him.
“I had to drop my degree because we didn’t have internet or the money to spend on getting the equipment for it,” Vanderford said.
For Vanderford, completing that business degree means the chance to make a better life for her family, dedicate more time to her kids and land her dream job.
“My goal is to own a restaurant,” Vanderford said. “I would love to have my own business. That way, I could have more time with my kids – and that’s what means the most.”
Prior to getting connected with Viasat service, even on her days off, Vanderford had to leave the house in search of internet to make sure orders for the Quick Stop have sent via email.
“My kids beg me to stay at home,” Vanderford recalled. “But I have to do it — it’s my job. It’s how I put food on the table.”
When they were chasing internet, most of the time the Vanderfords were just trying to complete school assignments.
“We have to go 15-20 miles in either direction to find a fast-food restaurant with internet, or go to my mom’s house to get Wi-Fi for projects and assignments,” Vanderford said. “My kids – they get so worried.”
And even though many homes in the area are without internet, homework assignments still require it.
“For school, it’s basically a requirement now – notebooks and internet,” Vanderford said. “Teachers know a lot of people are in our position, but that doesn’t change the assignments. It makes me feel like it’s our problem – like they don’t care. We just have to figure something out.”
Life with internet
The Vanderfords’ lives changed drastically when they discovered satellite internet as an option for their family. In just a few hours, a technician was able to install Viasat satellite internet at their home, and they were able to achieve connectivity for the first time.
“It’s been wonderful,” Vanderford said. “My kids aren’t fighting all the time, and they don’t feel left behind. They can sit down and look up the information they need.”
The Vanderfords have also been able to spend more time at home.
“The internet has brought us closer,” Vanderford said. “We can sit down and watch movies together — and that’s something we haven’t been able to do in a long time.”
And even though Vanderford can now be more efficient at her Quick Stop job by checking emails from home on her days off, she has her sights set on achieving her dream of one day owning a restaurant.
“Having access to internet is making my life better, and now I can finish my business degree,” Vanderford said. “I’m excited about my future. It’s going to be great.”