Access to the internet has become a practical necessity for anyone looking to enter the job market today, but its equal importance in schools can be overlooked. Homework assignments and research papers can be done faster and better using an almost infinite storehouse of information. That’s great, but it puts students who don’t have internet access at home at a huge disadvantage. Lack of universal access to the internet is still a problem in the United States, partly due to socioeconomic inequality and partly due to a lack of corporate investment in rural and mid-size cities in huge areas of the country.
While Sprint can’t help much with the latter problem (their network is almost non-existent outside of large cities), they’re about to do a lot to address the former. This week, they announced The 1 Million Project, an initiative that will see Sprint provide one free device and free connectivity to their 4G LTE network to 1 million students who lack an internet connection at home. Sprint will provide 3 GB of 4G LTE data per month for free, after which they’ll allow free unlimited use of their 2G network. Devices will include network-connected smartphones, tablets, laptops, and hotspots. Their release cited a Pew research study that found 5 million U.S. households with children lack reliable internet access at home, so what Sprint’s doing isn’t insignificant.
In order to find those 1 million students, Sprint will work with EveryoneOn and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to find community-level organizations that can help distribute information about the program, and, eventually, the devices themselves. When the program gets underway, Sprint will provide free service to each student for all four years of high school.
Of the program, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said, “Education is the foundation for our society to prosper, and the internet is an incredibly powerful tool for learning. But it’s a huge problem in America that we have 5 million households with children that lack internet connections. Those kids have a huge disadvantage and we are failing them. All of us at Sprint are committed to changing this by providing 1 million students in need with free devices and free wireless connections.”