T-Mobile Rolls Out Free Limited Internet for Millions of Students

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As part of T-Mobile’s controversial megamerger with Sprint, the “un-carrier” promised to provide up to 10 million low-income households with free broadband internet access in order to help children navigate the growing “homework gap” that’s become a problem as classrooms incorporate digitized lessons. On Thursday, T-Mobile announced the launch of the program at a time when the covid-19 pandemic has compounded the problems of remote learning.


We don’t have a definitive tally of the number of kids who lack high-speed internet access in the United States, but before the pandemic, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 9 million children lack the connection necessary to handle homework assignments. (One 2018 survey found the number of students in need of a better connection to be closer to 16.9 million.) Now, schools across the country are using remote learning to mitigate the coronavirus spread, and all schoolwork has become homework. Suddenly, T-Mobile’s agreement to provide internet access for the country’s most vulnerable students is more necessary than ever.

In a press release on Thursday, T-Mobile said that Project 10Million is now live. Schools should contact T-Mobile if they want to participate, and the company said that applications can be approved in a matter of hours. Students who participate in the national free- and reduced-price lunch program for low-income families will qualify for the offer. Approved households are eligible for a couple of options:

  • A free hotspot and 100GB of data spread out across a full year (about 8GB per month.)


  • A free hotspot and faster broadband internet at a discounted price. Specifically, the upgraded plan costs $12 per month for 100GB of data or $15 a month for unlimited data.

Schools are encouraged to apply here, and parents should get in touch with their school administrators to inquire about participating in the offer.

Those data limits aren’t going to be great for kids who need to watch their classes over video chat throughout the day but could be sufficient for mitigating the homework gap in the short term. The program is scheduled to last for 10 years. Surely we’ll be done with covid sometime in the next decade, right? Right!?

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Spamfeller Loves Nazi Clicks

This isn’t going to do jack shit which is exactly what it’s intended to do.

100GB a year? If you’re attending classes by Zoom, you literally will blow through that in less than a month, period.

Zoom uses 1.5Mbps for group video calling, constant over the call, or slightly more. 1.5Mbps = 0.1875MB/sec. Assume a student is in class for 7 hours per day. 3600 seconds in an hour, 7 hours in a day, 25,200 seconds/day.

A student on this plan attending remotely will use up their entire mythically limited bandwidth for the year in less than 21 days. Even dropping that to low quality video where they won’t be able to read a whiteboard or clearly see a screen share (due to downsampling) only extends that to about 35 days. That’s best case.

I selected 7 hours based on the national average (6.5 hours) which allows approximately 30 minutes @ 1.5Mbps (about 337.5MB) for visiting websites related to the class or coursework. That is not a lot of websites at all. 

Gizmodo, without an adblocker running, is well over 5MB not even including those stupid autoplaying videos. A single high resolution photo taken with a typical phone camera will be several MB. And so on. So they’ve got about 100 web pages or photos, or one OS update, per day, 5 days per week. (Meaning: zero use outside of school.)

The Chapter 2, Season 4 update for Fortnite? 19.7GB or 20% of their data for the year.