T-MobileT-Mobile Project 10Million, launched today, aims to close the education gap as students embark on a school year that in many cases will involve at least some at-home learning.

The COVID-19  pandemic is driving T-Mobile’s $10.7 billion investment in Project 10Million, which targets students who can’t afford to go online and which will be distributed through partnerships with school districts nationwide. School districts can get a free wireless hotspot and 100GB per year of free high-speed data per eligible student, and students will be able to obtain laptops and tablets at cost. The districts will also have the option of applying the value of the free offering toward an unlimited or 100 GB per month plan.

T-Mobile says that the pandemic is turning the homework gap into a broader schoolwork gap. “This issue is even more critical as the COVID-19 pandemic has completely shifted learning for many from the classroom to online,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said in a press release. “Big issues need big solutions, and that’s exactly why we’re not just launching but significantly enhancing Project 10Million and giving flexibility to educators so they can best address the unique needs of their students with plans that offer more data,”

T-Mobile and Sprint had connected almost 500,000 students before the pandemic hit, according to T-Mobile. Since the crisis began in March, the carrier claims to have connected more than 1.6 million students in more than 3,100 school districts. Two high profile examples are efforts to connect 350,000 students in New York City with iPads and data for virtual classes and a partnership with the California Department of Education and Apple to connect as many as 1 million students to virtual learning.

Other service providers also are stepping up to help prepare for what certainly will be a school year like no other. Last month, for instance, Verizon partnered with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the state’s Operation Connectivity to provide discounted service plans for unlimited LTE access, mobile device management and security for 18.9 million K-12 students.

In late July, Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee said EPB of Chattanooga is providing network infrastructure for EdConnect, an initiative in the greater Chattanooga areas that will provide broadband for free to about 28,500 economically challenged students. Participating households in EPB’s service area will get a router and 100 Mbps or faster symmetrical services with no data cap.

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