April 27, 2020
COVID-19: The Wireless Industry’s Commitment to Connecting America’s Students .
As schools around the country work to mitigate the risk of coronavirus, we’re proud to see wireless providers quickly stepping up to make sure homebound children have the tools they need to participate in distance learning and stay engaged with their classmates and teachers from afar. Schools, teachers and parents are working hard to keep kids learning in these unprecedented times, and there are lot of challenges in shifting from the classroom to remote learning.
Partnering with schools.
One of the core challenges is that not all children have access to broadband connectivity at their homes. The wireless industry connects millions of kids to the internet and in almost 1 in 5 households, the only broadband connection is a smartphone. During the course of the pandemic, providers have intensified these efforts, helping connect more than two million students, so they can continue learning, with more added every day.
- AT&T announced a new partnership with qualified schools to offer free unlimited data plans for 60 days to students for new school-issued tablets, laptops and hotspots for homework and internet connectivity. Schools can also protect their students with free access to AT&T’s AccessMyLAN security and filtering software.
- Among many other collaborations with schools, T-Mobile partnered with the Palm Springs Unified School District, ensuring coverage to more people and even making modifications to cell towers and providing 1,510 hotspot devices. More than 86% of PSUSD students were on free or reduced-price lunches, often an indicator of a lack of internet or computers at home.
- Verizon made an agreement with the LA Unified School District to offer internet connectivity free to students who do not have access at home. Over 80 percent of LA Unified’s students are considered low-income, and with the district’s schools closed until at least May, home connectivity is key for student engagement. Verizon is partnering with the state of California to provide 250,000 students with unlimited internet service at a discount.
- Since April 1, Smith Bagley, Inc., which serves rural areas in northern Arizona and New Mexico, including the Navajo Nation, has delivered more than 1,300 access points to 10 schools (either MiFi or smartphones as needed), with 6,600 more devices in the pipeline. It also introduced an unlimited data plan at a significantly reduced cost for schools.
- Ericsson partnered with the Vermont Telephone Company and Rutland City Public Schools to equip students in rural Vermont with access to free high-speed Internet and Google Chromebooks.
Enhancing existing initiatives.
The wireless industry has long partnered with schools to expand opportunities, particularly in underserved communities.
- T-Mobile is making 20GB of data free per month to schools and students who use their EmpowerED digital learning programs, which provide discounts on mobile data-powered hotspots, laptops, tablets and other wirelessly enabled devices to students who may not have access to high-speed internet at home.
- Verizon has tripled its monthly data allowance through June for their Verizon Innovative Learning middle schools. Since 2012, the program has contributed over $400 million to under-resourced communities to foster digital inclusion, by offering free devices, data access and STEM-focused lesson plans that improve academic outcomes for over 200,000 participating students.
Expanding existing offerings.
Many smartphones have the capability to act as a hotspot, effectively using your mobile wireless connection to make a Wi-Fi network in your living room. This helps kids access school programs on a laptop, tablet or directly from the smartphone. You should reach out directly to your operator to learn more.
- U.S. Cellular announced it is providing its Unlimited Everyday and Even Better Plan customers with an extra 15GB of hotspot data.
- AT&T is automatically increasing mobile hotspot data by 15 GB a month for each line on unlimited plans that currently includes a monthly tethering allotment.
- Verizon added an extra 15 GB of data to most mobile hotspot plans to support increased connectivity needs.
- T-Mobile, in a partnership with Google, is donating 100,000 hot spots to the state of California, in addition to over 5,000 hotspots provided to students across the country, from Seattle to Frederick County, Maryland. T-Mobile is also shifting consumers on metered data plans to unlimited data, plus 20GB of mobile hotspot data.
Fighting student hunger.
Nationally, over 29 million children are eligible for low-cost or free school lunches, a critical support system under threat with the closure of so many American schools. The wireless industry is doing our part to provide meals for students and their families in this time of need.
- Verizon committed $13 million to nonprofits, including $5 million in support of No Kid Hungry Responds: Coronavirus, which will help feed low-income children who are impacted by school closings.
- T-Mobile expanded their partnership with Feeding America, donating additional funds to help the organization’s quest to end hunger through relationships with manufacturers, retailers and other partners to collect and distribute healthy food that would otherwise go to waste.
- Qualcomm donated $1 million to their hometown San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, with $500,000 going directly to a local food bank that is seeking to fill the food gap for residents caused by school closures and other COVID-related events.
Supporting educational programming.
Providers are also investing in educational programs and services that will help engage children in new forms of immersive, online learning.
- AT&T announced a new $10 million Distance Learning and Family Connections fund, including contributions to Khan Academy, an innovative online library of educational lessons, and funding 60 free days of Caribu, a video-calling app to connect family members in bonding and educational activities like reading, drawing and playing games.
- Verizon is offering customers 60 days of free educational games and tools including, Quizlet, which helps students practice language, science, math and history skills, Bookful, which uses AR to create an immersive reading experience for children, Chegg, a study aid and Epic!, an accessible, safe, digital book library of over 40,000 titles.
- U.S. Cellular’s JASON Learning partnership allows students to explore STEM learning topics through their “Storm Sanctuary” module, which is available for free for students to download.
- Intel announced the Intel Online Learning Initiative which will provide funding to education-focused nonprofits and partners to connect students to devices and online learning resources.
- CTIA also developed a comprehensive tool to help educators and parents understand what wireless services and products are available to help kids use them appropriately, safely and securely at Growing Wireless.
Easing the transition for teachers.
The industry also knows how hard teachers are working to adapt their lesson plans to distance learning and keep their students engaged and we’re supporting them by offering new tools and services to make the transition easier.
- Verizon’s Innovative Learning Schools Connection site offers teachers tools, use cases and tips on how to best teach their students remotely.
- AT&T is underwriting the State Educational Technology Directors Association’s Coalition for eLearning, an online resource center to give teachers the help they need to navigate this new digital learning environment.
- And Apple’s new Education Learning Series shows teachers how to use technology to most effectively communicate with their students from afar.
We understand many students are relying on their broadband connections today to keep learning, and our #1 job is to keep those networks running smoothly. We take that responsibility very seriously and are working around the clock to keep our networks going. We’re also proud to offer schools new online tools and educational services to keep students engaged in this time of need.
Keeping Us Connected Through COVID-19
Learn how the Wireless Industry is working to keep us connected.