How T-Mobile Is Bridging the Digital Divide

Oct 6, 2021 11:00 AM ET
Article

The way we see it, we can’t achieve our mission of being the best in the world at connecting people to their world unless we start at the beginning—by working to ensure that EVERYONE is connected and able to reap the benefits of a 5G economy and a digitally-connected world.

Approximately 17 millionviii school-aged children in the U.S. do not have access to high-speed internet at home. That’s a statistic we simply can’t accept. From the formative days of education to participation in our economy and our democracy, to the ways we see and interact with one another, digital connectivity is woven into the very fabric of our lives.

Connectivity is therefore no longer just an option, it’s a fundamental component of today’s world that impacts almost every aspect of how people navigate their daily lives. And today, our success has made possible what was impossible before: a transformative
network experience that works to connect everyone, everywhere, across America.

To ensure that connected individuals have the foundational skills to benefit from today’s digital world, we’re not stopping at access to connectivity. As part of our Equity In Action efforts, we’re also investing in digital literacy programs through partnerships with organizations making progress in this space. We are using our resources to help scale existing efforts and those being undertaken by our External Diversity and Inclusion Council. 

We have zeroed in on a bold goal: help every single disconnected student in the U.S. get access to the internet so they can learn. The need for equitable access to the internet is more crucial than ever.

Project 10Million is our $10.7 billion landmark initiative to provide free and heavily subsidized connectivity and mobile devices to millions of underserved student households over five years.

Our intent is to not just chip away at the digital divide that separates those with connectivity, from those without. It’s to eliminate it. Permanently.

Launched in August of 2020, Project 10Million builds on Sprint’s commitment to provide free internet access to one million underserved and disconnected high school students as well as T-Mobile’s work to provide equal access to online learning to schools and their students.

Through partnerships with school districts, Project 10Million offers free wireless hotspots, free or heavily subsidized high-speed data, and access to affordable laptops and tablets to underserved student households.

And this goal has never been more important. With the onset of COVID-19, an unprecedented 55 million students were learning remotely. Understanding the new urgency, we enhanced the program with additional low-cost data options for schools and increased monthly data plans to provide connectivity to their students for free.

Throughout 2020, we connected more than 2.5 million students across the U.S. 

We have also started working at the state and local levels to help further understand where the greatest need is and deliver connectivity to students. For example, in Texas, we partnered with Operation Connectivity to connect 171,000 students across the state. Operation Connectivity is a statewide initiative to deliver internet connectivity and devices to Texas school districts for online learning. Texas is home to some of the largest urban, and smallest rural, school districts in the country. This partnership allowed state agencies to help ensure all school districts in the state were evaluated and treated equally to identify the areas and students with the greatest need.

Another great example is in Los Angeles, CA where our partnership with the Angeleno Connectivity Trust (ACT) facilitated our ability to get wireless connectivity to students who needed it most. ACT is an initiative to help deliver internet access to vulnerable young people— including students experiencing homelessness, those in foster care, and youth with disabilities. With ACT, Project 10Million is working to provide 100GB of free internet connectivity to 18,000 students for five years. 

See the latest on Project 10Million

BUILDING SKILLS FOR THE DIGITAL ECONOMY

In today’s rapidly evolving economy, there is significant opportunity to equip and empower the current and future workforce through digital skills-building and job training programs that will unlock new employment opportunities. Through programs and partnerships, we’re investing in upskilling the underemployed, directing resources to those who lack access, and accelerating career path progression through hands-on learning. 

NEXTTECH DIVERSITY

In early 2021 we embarked on a five-year partnership with the Learning Alliance Corporation and other telecommunications parters to launch NextTech Diversity. Our aim is to provide career training and placement for thousands of underrepresented candidates to take on roles as 5G network technicians. Black technicians are particularly underrepresented, making up just 10% of the telecom network-infrastructure field. Our initial $750,000 seed funding supports 50 candidates through 2021, with 39 graduating—21 of whom are already employed—with additional candidates set to graduate by December 2021. As graduated candidates are placed in jobs, we aim to annually double our impact through 2025 and hope to see the impact of investments like this for years to come and to encourage partnerships that further unlock skills-building and career opportunities across the telecommunications industry.

WASHINGTON ALLIANCE FOR BETTER SCHOOLS

For years, T-Mobile has partnered with the Washington Alliance for Better Schools (WABS) to improve the way we prepare students for rewarding careers in tech. We have expanded our partnership to provide a two-year program that includes two paid internships and a 59-credit certificate to high school seniors. Since the cost and length of study for traditional STEM degrees often prevents students from lower income families from attending, this program works to reduce those barriers of entry by providing students with classroom learning aligned with employer standards and a postsecondary credential. Providing a pathway to tech jobs for the young people who need it most not only creates more equity and access for students interested in STEM careers, but it also supports our industry’s ability to fill a growing number of tech jobs.

MAGENTA EDGE

In early 2021, we launched Magenta Edge to help small businesses by providing resources and educational programming for entrepreneurs. It has a foundational focus on black-owned small businesses that have been disproportionately impacted during the COVID-19 crisis, exacerbating long-standing systemic lack of access to resources and capital. From marketing to tax, eight foundational themes are covered with free business development advice.

Learn more in T-Mobile's 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report