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Wired Up and Ready to Go: NC Students Offered Free Technology

A new program from the Sprint Foundation will provide Internet access to thousands of students in North Carolina. (Dennis Skley/Flickr)
A new program from the Sprint Foundation will provide Internet access to thousands of students in North Carolina. (Dennis Skley/Flickr)
November 28, 2016

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Having access to wireless Internet is becoming just as important as access to pencils and paper, but millions of students lack online access once they leave the school grounds. It's referred to as the "homework gap," and a new initiative from the Sprint Foundation is aiming to change that.

One million low-income students, spanning North Carolina and the rest of the country, will be given access to wireless hot spots and free mobile devices, in an effort to bridge the homework gap.

Michael Miess, Sprint's regional president for North and South Carolina explained why the initiative is so important.

"You've got more and more school children that are needing to have internet access for just normal school work, and there's a large percentage of students that are having to either rely on going to public hot spots or in the parking lot of the schools at night to complete homework projects," he said.

The Sprint program is in support of the White House's Connect-Ed Initiative, which aims to provide students and teachers with access to technology to level the playing field and transform the classroom experience for all students.

According to Pew Research Center, five-million households with K-12 students do not have Internet at home. Pew also found that 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires Internet access.

Jim Spillane, Sprint's director of public sector strategy, said telecommunications companies like his have an obligation to help children advance.

"We feel as an organization that this is an area that we can help solve a big problem and we've got the assets to do this, so we recognize the challenge," he said. "So, we're very proud as a company to be able to do this."

There are 10 pilot programs in the Greensboro area and Sprint has provided the Charlotte library system with 150 hot spots for students to check out and take home. Miess said the response has been significant.

"Last week, in fact, a library staff member was told by a mom how important the hot spot was and had been to her child, and that the child was much more focused doing her homework at home than trying to do it somewhere else," Miess added.

Low-income, minority and Spanish-speaking households are disproportionately affected by the "homework gap."

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC