SAN FRANCISCO – When the Google Chromebooks, but an estimated quarter of them didn’t have access to reliable internet connectivity at home — something that was vital for attending classes virtually.forced California schools to close in March, the West Contra Costa Unified School District knew it had a problem. Most of its 29,000 students had school-provided
Cities like Richmond and San Pablo, which make up the WCCUSD, are nothing like the tech hub of San Francisco, despite being just across the bay. About 90 percent of the students are Black, indigenous or people of color, or BIPOC (including 54 percent Latino), and many of the district’s families can’t afford home broadband connections. Students would normally cope by doing their homework in a library or restaurant offering free Wi-Fi. Another lifeline: Sprint’s charitable 1Million Project, which offered free cellular hotspots to about 1,500 WCCUSD students.
The pandemic changed everything. When the WCCUSD turned to Sprint’s program to secure 1,300 more hotspots for low-income students, it had to buy the devices for $70 apiece. Worse yet, the program would soon end because of T-Mobile’s acquisition of the carrier. The combined company’s new program, called Project 10Million, will offer free internet service for 10 million US households, but it hasn’t yet launched, leaving the district in a lurch. (T-Mobile says it’s coming “soon.”)
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