T-Mobile has launched a $10.7 billion initiative called Project 10Million to make internet connectivity more accessible to underserved student households navigating remote online learning. The company has partnered with school districts across the nation to offer free mobile hotspots, 100GB of free high-speed data for five years, plus access to at-cost laptops and tablets—valued at about $500 per student household. Unlimited data options for school districts to pass on to eligible students at no cost are also available as part of the program’s expansion.
In a 10-minute video posted to the company’s YouTube account, T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert explained how Project 10Million started, noting that even before the pandemic, more than 9 million of America’s 56 million school-age kids lacked access to internet connectivity. As a result, students are unable to complete after-school assignments and receive lower grades. Researchers predict students with poor or no connectivity can lose up to 14 months of learning over time compared to their peers with internet access, also known as the “COVID Slide” effect.
“Just in New York alone, T-Mobile is helping more than 350,000 students with iPads and data as they start their virtual classes. We’ve also partnered with the California Department of Education and Apple to connect another million students as they go back to school and start virtual learning,” Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for business, said in the video.
At the start of the pandemic, T-Mobile observed virtual learners were using about 33GB of data per month. Since then, the company has connected 1.6 million students across 3,100 school districts with free or highly subsidized services, according to Sievert.
T-mobile first announced Project 10Million in November 2019 in anticipation of its merger with Sprint. The initiative marks the third and final element of T-Mobile’s 1.0 5G for Good commitments that the company announced before the merger was approved. In March, the company launched T-Mobile Connect, which offers half-off of its lowest-priced plan. A few months later came ‘Connecting Heroes,’ a program that gives first responders free 5G access for a full decade.