When James Meador called Cookson Hills Connect to see how much longer it would be until fiber was available at his home, the conversation was familiar to the fiber team.
Employees at the Cookson Hills Electric Cooperative fiber subsidiary get the opportunity to speak to members each day who are extremely excited to find out when they will get fiber to their home or business.
As the team learned more about James’ situation, it became clear that he wasn’t calling because he was eager to stream his favorite TV program or because he needed to use his computer to do business from home. In fact, James doesn’t even own a computer, nor does he have much interest in gaming or streaming movies. He has a much more serious reason for inquiring about the service timeline for his home.
James’ health depends on a reliable lifeline to emergency services. James, like many other Oklahomans, lives in a remote, rural location with limited or no cell phone service; therefore, he relies on the internet to connect to Wi-Fi and call for help on his cell phone.
Unfortunately, the only thing worse than his cell service is his internet options which make calling on a cell phone nearly impossible. James lives alone and has some serious health issues. He is a heart patient with a history of suffering from three heart attacks, among other health related issues.
The problem is when he needs to place or receive a phone call, he has one small “sweet spot” where his cell phone signal is strong enough to communicate. He has strategically positioned a phone cradle in a precise location, so he knows exactly where his phone needs to be when he uses it.
“I just don’t have any other reliable and affordable options since I live this far out in the country,” Meador said. “My need for the internet is much more than fun and games. I have to be able to call for help if something happens, and as of right now there is only one small location outside my home where calling out is even possible.”
While other providers have business models that exclude building fiber to rural areas, Cookson Hills and other electric co-ops throughout Oklahoma have committed to building the critical infrastructure that provides internet and phone services for those who live outside of the typical geographic boundaries in which other companies provide service.
“James’ story is a sobering testimony as to why we must continue our efforts building out fiber to every unserved and underserved household throughout Oklahoma,” says Juli Orme, CEO of Cookson Hills Connect.
The story of James Meador is only one of the hundreds of thousands among the citizens of Oklahoma who are facing the consequences of a digital divide between urban and rural areas. However, with each passing day and every new connection to rural homes and businesses, co-ops in Oklahoma are working to help bridge the digital divide.