T-Mobile Puerto Rico rolls out Project 10Million to bridge digital learning gap
Wireless carrier T-Mobile Puerto Rico announced the launch of Project 10Million in Puerto Rico, an unprecedented initiative aimed at delivering internet connectivity to thousands of public school students on the island at no cost to them.
With a companywide commitment of $10.7 billion, Project 10Million will address the island’s growing need for internet access for educational purposes, the carrier said.
Through the initiative, T-Mobile will provide free wireless hotspot devices — one per family — to eligible homes across Puerto Rico, Vieques and Culebra, to enable K-12 public school students access broadband connections free of charge, Jorge Martel, general manager of T-Mobile Puerto Rico told this media outlet.
The initiative is already underway to deliver hotspots with 100GB per year of free high-speed data for five years, he confirmed.
“It fills me with great pride to be able to announce this important initiative for the education of our children and youth,” said Martel. “At T-Mobile we have an unwavering commitment to Puerto Rico and with Project 10Million we contribute to closing the digital divide on the island, especially in these times of virtual education.”
According to the US Census, 35% of Puerto Rican households do not have a computer and 44% do not have internet at home. There are about 276,000 public school students in Puerto Rico, the Department of Education has publicly confirmed.
To participate in the program, the student’s parent or legal guardian must register and learn the details and eligibility requirements, which include uploading an image of their student’s report card or their “Certification of Enrolled Student” from the Puerto Rico Department of Education.
The equipment will be sent by mail, Martel said, noting that the carrier has reserved hotspot devices for this initiative capable of connecting multiple devices at a time — which means that households with more than one student will be able to use the hotspot simultaneously.
T-Mobile announced that the Project 10Million program would kick-off once its merger with Sprint was complete, when it would put its combined resources and network capacity to work.
“These are hotspots that will connect over the air. This is a product that’s exclusive for students,” he said.
In Puerto Rico, Martel said the network’s signal and capacity have been tested in remote rural areas to ensure access is available.
As COVID-19 forces students out of the physical classroom and into part- or full-time remote learning, the need for connectivity and greater bandwidth has dramatically increased.
“What was a homework gap has turned into an even more massive schoolwork gap, when students without internet access are completely left out of learning. T-Mobile has worked closely with schools, state governments and technology partners since the pandemic started to address this issue.
The expanded reach and capacity of T-Mobile’s network plays a crucial role in its ability to make reliable connectivity truly accessible to students across the U.S. and Puerto Rico who do not have high-speed home internet service. Future Project 10Million users will also benefit from T-Mobile’s expanded 5G over time with faster speeds and even broader coverage.
“Puerto Rico is one of the jurisdictions in the US with the lowest access to fixed broadband. This will reach areas where fixed fiber isn’t available. There are very few options to reach those who need it most and this is a precursor to more things we want to do in the future, but we decided to give priority to this to reach people who need it during the pandemic,” Martel said.