Breaking Down Barriers

Kelly and Lori Reed have been breaking down barriers their entire lives.

But sometimes, they say, it’s nice to have a little help. The hearing-impaired couple recently received a heaping helping hand of assistance from FASTnet, 4-County Electric Power Association’s broadband subsidiary.

The Reeds are the first customers in the Adaton area of Oktibbeha County to receive high-speed broadband service from the 4-County subsidiary. High-speed internet from FASTnet allows them to make video calls with a clear, fast, reliable connection – things very valuable to hearing-impaired people using sign language. “This allows us to be more independent, and enables us to have our own way to communicate,” Lori said. “We’re not always so dependent on anyone else.”

She and Kelly, however, definitely depend on each other. They met 40 years ago at the Mississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson. “We were high school sweethearts,” Lori said, patting Kelly on the shoulder. They have been married for 36 years. Kelly, a Jackson native, and Lori, a native of Oktibbeha County, are both deaf. Lori is also blind in one eye. “We need a reliable service. That’s so important if, for example, we have to call 911. It greatly helps our communication needs. It’s more efficient,” Lori said. “We’re so excited about FASTnet. I thank God for this technology.”

4-County and FASTnet officials were recently on hand to celebrate with the Reeds, giving the couple a gift basket of high-tech goodies. “It warms my heart that we’re here today with the Reed family. They are hearing impaired, and providing this service that they can use really aligns with our mission of improving the quality of life of all those we touch,” said 4-County/FASTnet CEO Brian Clark. High-speed Internet is a must-have service today for most people, Clark said. “Years ago, we thought everybody used the internet for entertainment. Now, you can use it for working at home, healthcare, education and, of course, the ability to communicate with friends, family and the outside world.”

Cheryl Thomas, a translator based in Louisville who retired from the Supreme Court of Arkansas, was on hand to assist with the celebration. She said reliable, high-speed internet like FASTnet also gives family members of hearing impaired individuals a newfound peace of mind. “I had a hearing impaired family member. Having a reliable way to communicate for your hearing impaired family member is a life-changing thing for all involved.”

Kelly and Lori are the first FASTnet customers outside of the co-op subsidiary’s CARES Act pilot areas. “This is the first area outside of those CARES grant areas where we’re serving customers solely on the funding of FASTnet,” Clark explained. “If you’re in 4-County’s footprint, we’re coming.”

Communication with family, friends and others is “much clearer” now, the Reeds stress. “And before, it was so slow. We can communicate better. It really helps bring down barriers.”