Eight West Michigan schools will receive free wireless internet hotspots to help bridge connectivity gaps for vulnerable students, officials with AT&T and a national and statewide nonprofit announced Monday.
The support comes from $10 million the telecommunications giant first pledged last year to provide wireless internet to 35,000 vulnerable students across the U.S. AT&T is partnering with the state and national chapters of Connected Nation to deploy the internet subscriptions and wireless hotspots to at-risk students.
The latest announcement comes a year after students and teachers were thrust into remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, some Michigan school districts have reverted from in-person back to remote learning as COVID-19 cases spike statewide.
Advocates say the pandemic more broadly has highlighted broadband as a critical service for remote learning and working as well as virtual-based health care.
“I work with communities across the state to improve their access to high-speed internet and one of the most impacted populations is our children — especially since the pandemic forced almost all learning to move online,” Connected Nation Michigan Executive Director Eric Frederick said in a statement. “I applaud AT&T for its commitment to helping those students who are most at-risk. By providing these free hotspots and internet connectivity to schools and nonprofits that are doing good work across the state, AT&T is making it possible for thousands of Michigan students to take part in remote learning.”
The wireless hotspots will be available to more than 4,100 at-risk students at 13 Michigan schools and nonprofits. West Michigan recipients are Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics, Covert Public Schools, Allegan Public Schools, Hesperia Community Schools, Holland Public Schools, Oakridge Public Schools, and Ravenna Public Schools.
Connected Nation is administering the program and reviews applications from schools and nonprofits based on needs. The program primarily focuses on helping students in foster care and people with disabilities, as well as other students without connections to formal educational opportunities.
“Now more than ever, it is important for students to have access to a reliable internet connection,” AT&T Michigan President David Lewis said in a statement. “By helping to expand connectivity for the students across Michigan, we can play a role in narrowing the homework gap and helping address inequities associated with virtual learning.”