Last year, T-Mobile CEO John Legere promised free internet for 10 million US homes in an effort to eliminate the “homework gap” — provided its merger with Sprint went through. Now that merger has happened, the combined company has opened up applications for its “Project 10Million” plan and revealed how it will work.
T-Mobile has allocated $10.7 billion over the 10-year life of the program and made it available to all students who are part of national school lunch programs for low-income families. School districts can apply for a grant, sharing only student ZIP codes so that T-Mobile can confirm service availability. The schools will take care of hotspot distribution, with T-Mobile service chipping in help for setup and tech support.
The company said that once an application is approved (which can take mere hours), the school can give each student a free hotspot and 100GB of data over a year, or around 8GB per month. That’s not a lot for doing Zoom calls, but school districts can also take the grant money (around $500 per student per year) and apply it to discounted T-Mobile plans that offer 100GB of monthly data for $12 per month, or unlimited data for $15 per month. The company can also provide tablets or laptops at cost.
Not every school district will conduct classes online, but 13 of the nation’s largest school districts plan to open the school year with online learning only, according to CNN. T-Mobiles effort might not help every child, however, as one organization estimates that 16.9 million kids don’t have the connectivity required for online classes.
The $10.7 billion figure likely involves some creative accounting and T-Mobile will certainly reap public relations goodwill with the move. However, the benefits to low-income families in the US are tangible, and will be exponentially higher now than when the program was announced late last year. “It wasn't just about connectivity before and after school and correspondence with their teacher via email,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Katz told CNET. “Now it's literally, if you don't have connectivity, you can't do school." If you’re a school administrator or parent/guardian, you can sign up for the program here.