When a wildfire burned to within 3 miles of Mary Porter’s home, the power failed and her landline went dead. Porter’s only way to communicate with friends and family was online, using her Viasat Internet service.
“Thank God I had my computer; I hooked it up to my generator and I didn’t feel alone,” she said. “I wasn’t scared because I could talk to people.
“A couple weeks ago, we had a snowstorm that knocked down trees, power lines and phone lines. It was horrible, but it didn’t touch my satellite dish or affect my service.”
That time, she lost power for 16 days, relying on generators and her internet service to see her through the disruption.
Porter, a 78-year-old grandmother, lives in a trailer park in Burnt Ranch, CA with her dogs Caylee and Baylee.
Burnt Ranch is a tiny burg of 250 people tucked into the mountains of northern California. The largest nearby communities are Redding — nearly two hours east — and Eureka, a coastal town more than an hour’s drive west.
For Porter, who moved there from the San Francisco area to be closer to family, the small, unspoiled community of Burnt Ranch is a slice of heaven.
“It’s like looking at a picture with the mountains; it’s just beautiful,” she said. “In the summertime, it’s rare if we get as hot as 100. In the winter, we usually get just enough snow so you can go make a snowman. And it’s quiet; if five cars pass you, you know people are getting off work. I couldn’t ever live in the city again.”
While Porter has family members in the area, she’s also found a second family among her neighbors.
“I’m the oldest one in the park, and that’s nice,” she said. “My neighbors come to me for advice sometimes; I’ve been around this world longer than them, so I know more. And all the little kids call me grandma. I just love it here.”
An important connection
But with minimal amenities close at hand, connectivity is vital. Viasat provides that for Porter. She subscribed to the service five years ago on her granddaughter’s recommendation, switching from a competing satellite internet provider she said did not work well. Viasat has done such a good job for her that Porter recommended it to two of her neighbors, who also now have it.
“I recommend it and I brag about it,” she said. “In five years of having the service, I’ve never called Viasat. I called recently, and the only reason was to upgrade.”
Porter upgraded her service so she can stream Netflix on her newly purchased smart TV. While she looks forward to watching new programs, she doesn’t expect her other online habits to change.
“I turn my computer on between 8:30 and 9:30 every morning, and it’s on until 10:30 or 11:30 at night,” she said. “I play games, go on Facebook and I listen to Motown and the oldies almost every day because I exercise to a couple of songs.”
She also communicates online with her caregiver, who comes by five days each week to check on her and help with small chores.
Porter stays in especially close contact with her grandson, now an adult working in Georgia. The two text each other morning and night, and he plans to move closer to Porter soon — most likely to Oregon. As much as she looks forward to having him closer, Porter said her home will always be in Burnt Ranch.
“He says I’ll have you come and live with me when I move back, and I said, ‘Nope, I would never leave here,’” she said.