Shekinah and Orlandria Lennon were sitting at their kitchen table this fall, taking online classes, when video of their teachers and fellow students suddenly froze on their laptop screens. The wireless antenna on the roof had stopped working, and it could not be fixed.
Desperate for a solution, their mother called five broadband companies, trying to get connections for their home in Orrum, N.C., a rural community of fewer than 100 people with no grocery store or traffic lights.
All the companies gave the same answer: Service is not available in your area.
The response is the same across broad stretches of Robeson County, N.C., a swath of small towns and rural places like Orrum dotted among soybean fields and hog farms on the South Carolina border. About 20,000 of the county’s homes, or 43 percent of all households, have no internet connection.
The technology gap has prompted teachers to