libraryUpdated February 4

AT&T and Sprint today said they would donate free mobile broadband connectivity for use by schools nationwide.

AT&T pledged to provide $100 million worth of free mobile access to help middle school students reach educational websites, applications and services over a three-year period.

Sprint said it would provide wireless broadband connectivity for 50,000 K-12 students over a period of four years. The Sprint initiative specifically targets low-income students, but the AT&T announcement does not indicate that the AT&T program is only for low-income students. Schools will be eligible if they are in compliance with E-Rate requirements, the AT&T release states. The E-Rate program is a portion of the Universal Service program that pays part of the communications costs for schools and libraries.

Also this morning, Verizon said it would invest up to $100 million in cash and in-kind contributions to accelerate professional development for teachers on how to use technology to boost student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math — a set of skills also known as STEM.

The carriers’ announcements came just a week after President Obama said that several major companies would help to fund high-speed Internet to 20 million students or 15,000 schools. At that time he mentioned Sprint, Verizon, Microsoft and Apple.

Today’s announcements also come just one day before FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to announce reforms to the E-Rate program that will shift funding away from traditional voice services toward broadband services.

UPDATE- In a speech in Adelphi, Md. today President Obama said businesses have committed a total of more than three quarters of a billion dollars toward the ConnectED initiative. Apple’s role will be to provide $100 million worth of iPads and other devices and Microsoft’s will be to offer deep discounts on Windows software, along with three million free copies of its Office software suite, Obama said.

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