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!?