UScellular announced this week it is offering free mobile hotspots and service to nonprofits that support youth after the school day through its After School Access Project.
The carrier plans to donate up to $13 million in hotspots and service to connect up to 50,000 youth in 2022. Organizations that qualify as 501c3 can contact UScellular to apply for funds for the hotspots and related services.
To be eligible, the nonprofits must:
- Operate within UScellular’s service area
- Focused on kindergarten through 12th grade
- Not be a school or government entity
U.S. Cellular cited the “homework gap” as the driving force behind the effort. More than one-third (35%) of low-income households lack any access to broadband service at home, according to published reports.
The After School Project is an expansion of previous hotspot donations that the company made to address connectivity needs during the pandemic.
“Since 2009, UScellular has donated more than $20.8 million along with countless experiences and technology items to nonprofit organizations across the country,” the company wrote in a press release about the UScellular free hotspots.
Beyond those efforts, late last year the carrier introduced its “Learn with US” informational resource microsite.
“When we heard the stories of youth who couldn’t get access to reliable internet for their schoolwork, we knew we had to act,” said Laurent C. Therivel, president and CEO of UScellular, in a prepared statement. “Connecting people and communities is our mission and the After School Access Project is just one way that we’re helping ensure students have the reliable access they need to grow and pursue their dreams.”
Hotspot devices will be shipped to nonprofit organizations within 6 to 8 weeks of an approved, completed application.
“Closing the digital divide will require the involvement of many organizations and that is why we encourage nonprofits working with youth in after school programs to apply and use this resource to enhance the important work they are already doing,” Therivel added.