Sprint Wants To Help Close The 'Homework Gap' — Starting In Kansas City

Oct 11, 2016

As more teachers assign homework that requires going online, students without internet access at home fall farther behind. Sprint's new program, the 1Million project, aims to give access to one million students across the country.
Credit woodleywonderworks — Flickr CC

Students who don't have internet access at home are at risk of falling further behind at school as more teachers assign homework that requires web access. 

That trend has been called the "homework gap," and Sprint wants to help close it.

On Tuesday, the Overland Park-based company announced a new initiative, the 1Million Project, which will put mobile devices and free wireless service into the hands of one million students across the country. 

Dave Tovar, vice president of corporate communications at Sprint, says the company has an opportunity and an obligation to help solve some of society's biggest problems. 

"There are just too many students that when they leave school, don't have the technology available to be able to complete their home work and they're falling behind and that's just not fair," Tovar says. 

Under the program, each student will receive either a free smartphone, tablet, laptop or hotspot device and 3GB per month of high-speed LTE data and then unlimited data at 2G speeds after that. 

They estimate giving 200,000 devices out per year for five years. 

Sprint hopes to officially roll out the program for the 2017-2018 school year. In the meantime, they'll pilot the program in seven to ten different markets, one of them being Kansas City, Missouri. 

"We felt that as one of the largest employers in Kansas City... that it made sense to have our hometown as one of our markets that we focus on really helping students close that homework gap," he says. 

The pilot program will help Sprint identify specific student needs, like whether smartphones or tablets would be more useful for homework assignments.  

No other test markets have been announced so far. 

Tovar says Sprint expects almost all of the devices for the program to be donated from the manufacturers. 

As far as the service, he says adding 200,000 students per year to the network will come at very little cost to the company. 

Tovar says they've already been in contact with several schools in Kansas City, but other area schools who want to be involved in the pilot project can apply online. 

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig