Joshua Edwards’s eighth-grade paper about the Black Plague came with a McDouble and fries.

Joshua sometimes does his homework at a McDonald’s restaurant — not because he is drawn by the burgers, but because the fast-food chain is one of the few places in his small town where he can get online access free once the public library closes.

Cheap smartphones and tablets have put Web-ready technology into more hands than ever. But the price of Internet connectivity hasn’t come down nearly as quickly.

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