Every day, Vanessa Viers watches as her son Jeremy tends to his chickens and collects eggs from the coop he constructed in their rural West Virginia backyard. Jeremy, who has autism, began raising chickens when he joined Future Farmers of America (FFA), and Viers is overjoyed to know he’s found something that he’s passionate about.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Viers said. “He’s just blossomed.”
Jeremy learns how to tend to his chickens and conducts research for his FFA presentations using online resources. Using the Viasat satellite internet service recently installed at the Viers’s home, he’s become quite the entrepreneur in his area, running a fresh egg business at the local farmers market so he can order his favorite Lego sets on Amazon.
“He sells his eggs and saves his money,” Viers said. “Legos are his world. To watch him get so excited over the little things – it’s just so great.”
Having internet connectivity at home is a relatively new thing for the Viers family. Before they discovered satellite internet, they suffered from the setbacks that came with living on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Life before internet
Viers, who was born and raised in West Virginia, lives with her family only a half mile from her childhood home. She stayed in the area because she wanted her kids to have the same experience growing up on a farm as she did.
“It’s quiet here,” Viers said. “The kids can explore – they can be kids. It’s really good for them. And I don’t have to work as much.”
Viers, who works weekends at a local pharmacy, cut back hours to best care for Jeremy and ensure he has access to all of the resources available to him. While her husband works a highway maintenance job during the week, Viers drives Jeremy to school, doctor’s appointments and special classes.
But even though Viers is dedicated to getting Jeremy where he needs to be, the weather in West Virginia is unpredictable, and when it snows, they’re stuck at their remote home.
“When the kids have snow days, they have to make the time up at home,” Viers said. “The kids are supposed to email teachers and get their work to stay caught up. Without internet, Jeremy couldn’t do that.”
Jeremy’s high school provides its students with Chromebooks, but without connectivity at home, he wasn’t able to make good use of the technology to keep up with the other kids at school.
This isn’t the first time the Viers have run into a school-related connectivity issue. Veirs’s oldest son was in one of the first classes given Chromebooks at the high school. When it was time for him to start applying to colleges, he struggled with getting to places with free Wi-Fi in time to meet application deadlines.
“He missed out on a lot of scholarships because he couldn’t be online all the time to work on them and submit them,” Viers said. “Libraries are only open for so many hours a day.”
With cellphone service being spotty at their home, it wasn’t a viable option for home internet.
“There’s one spot in the yard where you can stand to get service,” Viers said. “But if it’s snowing, I can’t really even do that.”
Life with internet
With Viasat internet, not only can Jeremy do his research for FFA, but he can get the resources he needs to excel.
“Having the internet, he can stay caught up with the other kids and get the special programs he needs,” Viers said. “He can interact better and learn new things online to talk to kids about at school.”
Additionally, satellite internet allows Viers to help with Jeremy’s medical conditions by saving the family some extra cash.
“With internet, I can look into things to help Jeremy,” Viers said. “He’s insulin-dependent – we need coupons for his medicine. I can get those online.”
But most of all, Viers is thankful that her son can experience so much more of what the world has to offer and use the internet to pursue his passion.
“He just loves it,” she said. “He can search anything in the world he wants to.”