The internet is a necessity for many students, and Sprint has a plan to make it more accessible. The network, along with the Sprint Foundation, is launching the “1 Million Project,” which loans smartphones, tablets, and laptops to students in low-income families together with four years of connectivity to get them through high school.
Seven in 10 teachers assign homework that requires an internet connection, according to Jessica Rosenworcel, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. According to the Pew Research Center, 5 million families with school-age children in the U.S. don’t have access to high-speed internet.
To kick-start an initiative to fix this “Homework Gap,” Sprint is working with non-profits like EveryoneOn and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to partner with local community organizations, such as schools, libraries, and other local non-profits. Phones, laptops, hot spot devices, and tablets will be distributed to a million high school students, and Sprint and the Sprint Foundation will work with partners to decide the “best device solution.”
The devices will come with 3GB of LTE data per month, and will revert to unlimited data on 2G network speeds if a student uses up all their data. Students with a smartphone will be able to use it as a hot spot, and will be able to make unlimited domestic calls and texts. These devices will stay connected for students throughout the four-year span of high school.
But 1 million students aren’t going to get devices right away, as the plan is slated to extend from 2017 through 2025. It will begin as a pilot program in January 2017 in seven to 10 cities, and will roll out nationally when the 2017 to 2018 school year begins. Sprint is hoping to connect up to 200,000 students per year for the next five years.
Sprint isn’t the only company looking to bring connectivity to low-income families. Facebook is reportedly in talks with the White House to bring its Free Basics program into the U.S. The program is controversial as it allows for certain websites to not count toward data usage — India banned it after its communications watchdog concluded it violated net neutrality principles.
The White House’s ConnectEd initiative is also looking to bring “next-generation broadband” to 99 percent of students by 2018.