In rural NC, students gather at hot spots as state seeks larger broadband fix ::

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There are 37 NC counties on alert, including Cumberland, Wayne, Wilson, Sampson and Edgecombe counties.

Release time: December 20, 2020 06:00:00

Update date: 2020-12-20 06:00:00

Release time: December 20, 2020, 6:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

WRAL State Capitol reporter Travis Fain (Travis Fain)

—Grandma looked at the borrowed tablet and cried.

The local school system now provides free internet, so this is not a problem. Evelyn Parker said the problem is that she doesn't know how to help her 9-year-old grandson or 16-year-old guardian (she is the guardian) log in to the online school.

She said, thank God for providing a learning platform for the First Baptist Church.

Like churches, libraries, and community centers in North Carolina, First Baptist Church works with the local school system to provide students with a place to go to school. Halifax County calls them "learning packages," and teachers there help a small group of students from folding tables to folding tables, from elementary school to high school.

Some people come because they do not have the Internet at home, which is a common problem in this rural county. Others, because they cannot do virtual school assignments, regardless of whether they have internet access.

Parker said this week: "I don't know anything about computers." "This has been a burden on me since (this study box opened)."

In total, the state estimates that 40% of North Carolina homes do not have high-speed Internet access because they are not accessible or affordable in their area.

Among them was Te'Navion Pitts, a housing project adjacent to the Enfield countryside without a study package in the First Baptist Church, and elementary school students saw his black and white reality.

He said: "I can't go to class. I just failed the fifth grade."

He will not be alone. Failure rate



This year attracts more students than at any time in a century.

The challenge of the rural Internet is no secret.

Companies that separate houses in farmland or mountains in sparsely populated areas of North Carolina cannot make money. status,

, Is the second largest rural population in the United States, after Texas.

When local governments tried to build their own infrastructure, Internet companies participated in the conference to suppress so-called unfair competition. legislature

Strictly restrict local authorities from providing the Internet.

The change is so effective that the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission can review its documents this week to say if anyone even asks for a try, the commission can approve new government-supported Internet projects if conditions are met.


Instead, the government's focus has shifted to public subsidies for large and small Internet companies. In 2018, the legislature created the GREAT grant to pay for the last few miles needed to connect rural households. The program has invested $26 million, enough to connect an estimated 22,000 households.

Coming soon, but competition is still fierce. Of the 126 grant proposals submitted, another company questioned 51 of them and tried to block grants. Jeff Sural, director of the state's broadband infrastructure office, said that after the first round of elections, the state adjusted its requirements to make it more difficult.

The federal government also has countless money flowing across the country. Now Governor Roy Cooper wants to borrow $250 million for broadband expansion in North Carolina. This generational change will make high-speed Internet access more like a utility.

The proposal may not be dominated by the disgusting Republican majority in the legislature, but the Republicans in the General Assembly have prioritized broadband expansion for years, and the epidemic only made this focus more prominent.

Statewide, with or without wires, private companies are looking for solutions. East Carolina Broadband provides the Internet via radio signals and has cooperated with the governments of Jones County and surrounding areas to make its equipment work at a level that can work properly.

The Roanoke Electric Cooperative is adding Internet fiber to its service area, a project that may change the landscape of northeastern North Carolina.

Eric Cunningham, the head of the Halifax County Schools, said this week: "It all looks promising." "So, in five years, I have seen a lot. The momentum will not stop. We have already tasted it. After tasting the steak, it is difficult to return to Bologna."

The Halifax County School has more than 300 wireless Internet hotspots distributed around the county.

Most help students attend classes at home. Some powerful learning platforms, such as the platform of the First Baptist Church. Others went to a lot of parks, and they sound alike.

One was on a school bus parked at Dollar General, but the aging power supply of the bus has been cut off, so the county installed a router on the router and hardwired it into electricity.

Statewide, the government and private partners have distributed more than 84,000 hotspots in North Carolina, providing the broadband speeds needed for video chats with teachers who formed the backbone of online schools during the pandemic.

But the change is slow.

It was not until October that five learning pods were established in Halifax County, and the school system plans to add six more soon. Even the free internet is gone. Shelia Lowe, the Technical Director of Halifax County Schools, bounces daily between school buildings and learning pods, which are separated by miles of flat and lonely land.

When WRAL News visited on Thursday, Enfield's service was interrupted.

There are 2,194 students in the county, and the system office said that because of the hotspot, about 80% of them now have access to broadband Internet. Officials said, but some places just don't have cell phone towers, and free hotspots will not do any good to families there.

Assistant Sheriff Tyrana Battle said some students still receive paper bags from school and phone calls from teachers instead of chatting online.

When talking about hot spots, Battelle said: "These are band-aids." "We do need fiber here."

Despite connection problems, schools in Halifax County are only online.

Cunningham said he wanted to reopen but it was not safe. A beloved principal – the former principal of Halifax County –

Cunningham said he was opposed to COVID-19 and he could not persuade enough teachers to let them go back to the classroom to make it all work.

Cunningham said: "We are dealing with waves." Cunningham came to Halifax County from the Nash-Rocky Mountain School System in 2016. "One thing I learned quickly here is that the waves are big."

When Cunningham spoke outside the system office, volunteers distributed a few bags of Christmas gifts in the parking lot. Winter clothes and desks are also provided, and parents drive their children.

Like other school systems, Halifax also dispatches buses to transport meals throughout the county at lunchtime. One of them blocked a trail on NC Highway 125 between Halifax and the Scottish Territory on Thursday. A child rushed out of the house and ran so fast that he stumbled into the grass and gravel in the front yard of his family.

He suddenly popped and crossed the highway, then went home with a bag of food almost half his size.

The dim fluorescent lights in the temporary classroom of Shiloh Baptist Church in Scotland Neck still cannot fully enter the corner of the wooden wall.

Eight students sat in folding chairs, isolated from society, covered with veils, and the teacher and a primary school principal looked up at their shoulders. Some are on the computer. Two people use their mobile phones to make a video call with the teacher and work online.

Kayla Clark, a seventh-grade student, said the phone was not bad. She has the Internet at home, but prefers the Internet in the study pane.

"People," she said. "You have someone."

At the table, the second-year students focused on the computer screen.

"Ah," he said. "Mah-Ice. Mouse."

This is a reading exercise. There is a dial on Ziquanyang’s screen, he can change letters and create new words. The digital dial will click like a digital lock. When Jae Chuan asked Ivory Creecy, the coach of the Scottish Junior Leadership Academy for approval, his eyes were bright.

She gave him a thumbs up-probably a smile, although who could tell him what was under the mask.

When asked about the progress, Creech said: Progress.

She said: "This is a brand new thing." "But we really persevere."

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