Game On

Posted: January 24, 2022

Fiber internet takes connections to the next level for Henry County family

young boy sitting on couch playing a game with headphones onWhen Eli Palmer learned WK&T would bring fiber internet to his home in Henry County, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he was the happiest 8-year-old on the planet — well, in West Tennessee, at least.

WK&T announced in 2019 that it received a $2 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to bring fiber broadband to the area of Henry County that lies east of Highway 79 and west of Kentucky Lake.

For the past four years, one of Eli’s favorite pastimes has been playing the video survival game Fortnite with a handful of friends and with his cousin Cash, who introduced him to the game. But until last June, when WK&T finished routing its fiber broadband service to the Palmer family’s home in the Elkhorn community, Eli’s Fortnite experience was often frustrating.

“We live out in the country in the middle of a cornfield, which we love,” says Eli’s mother, Allyson Palmer, who’s an assistant principal at Rhea Elementary School in Paris. “But there were no internet companies that offered service at our address. We would turn our hot spot on and give Eli a 30-minute time limit on how long he could play. He had to tell his buddies that was all he was going to play, because it would suck the data out of our hot spots. That’s how he played Fortnite for about four years.

“We would hear how unfair it was, but he knew there was nothing we could do,” she says. “He was old enough to understand it wasn’t that we were choosing to not have good internet, it was that it was not offered. When WK&T extended internet to our community, he was 100% supportive of it.”

Improving the Game

Eli did get a taste of the full Fortnite experience when he visited friends or relatives who had high-speed internet, but that just made it all the more frustrating to have to play using a mobile hot spot and his mother’s iPad at his home. “It was pretty annoying, because sometimes I would be in a game and my mom made me have to get off before I could level up,” Eli says, referring to earning Fortnight Battle Stars needed to advance to the next level.

He did graduate from the iPad to a Nintendo Switch handheld console two summers ago, but without fiber internet he couldn’t take advantage of all its features. Limited by the mobile hot spot, he couldn’t use the microphone on his headset, instead having to use the chat function to communicate with other players. His gaming was also hampered by his connection’s high lag time, measured as ping rate. “It’s a lot easier now,” he says.

The arrival of high-speed fiber internet to the Palmer home brought Eli a better ping rate, which represents the reaction time of the internet connection. A low ping rate provides an advantage when playing against others. “If your ping is better than theirs, then you can do it easier,” Eli says. In addition to the all-important ping rate, Eli, now 10, is no longer subject to hot spot limits and gets to spend more time engaging in the game’s signature “Battle Royale” mode with his Fortnite “squad.” “Now, I can get home from school and play before sports practice,” says the Paris Elementary fifth grader, who is a shortstop for the area’s travel baseball team, the Paris Thunder. He also plays for the local recreational football and basketball teams.

Productive Services

The arrival of WK&T fiber broadband in the Palmer home and the surrounding area has not only maximized Eli’s gaming experience, it’s made the working life of Bob Palmer, his dad, much more productive.

Bob is the preaching minister at Sulphur Well Church of Christ, located about a half-mile from the Palmer residence. In fact, the Palmers enjoyed their first encounter with WK&T’s fiber broadband when the church received the service in July 2020 in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The pandemic created a major hurdle for the church, Bob says. “We had satellite internet, and our speeds were such that livestreaming and uploading digital content for our people was basically an impossibility. I had to travel off-campus each week to a member’s home who had high-speed internet just to be able to provide our people with digital resources.”

That situation changed in early summer 2020 when WK&T connected its fiber service to the church. “It radically changed what we could provide for our people,” Bob says. “We began creating a lot more digital content, hosted virtual classes and worship services, and our youth ministers would host weekly group meetings over Zoom.”

Once it was safe to resume meeting indoors, the church was able to host for the first time in its history a livestream option for members who chose to stay at home. “We are very grateful for all that WK&T has provided for us,” Bob says. “Not only did it put us in a position to better serve our people, but it has allowed us to dream about future ideas and offerings for our congregation.”

Content provided with permission from WK&T.