CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In an effort to bridge the homework gap, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced that 5,000 students will receive free Wi-Fi hotspot devices and high-speed wireless internet service this fall.

In a press release, CMS officials said ninth graders who don’t have internet connectivity at home will receive the devices with 3 GB of data per month of high-speed internet and unlimited 2G speed at no charge. Officials cited research that indicates at least 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires internet access despite the fact that 5 million U.S. families with school-aged children don’t have home internet.

The technology donations are part of a national project by wireless carrier Sprint and the Sprint Foundation Over the next five years, Sprint pledges to donate wireless devices and service to over 1 million students nationwide. CMS is one of more than 118 districts in 32 states participating in the nationwide rollout.

West Charlotte High School was chosen as the pilot school for the project and distributed 250 mobile hotspot devices in January.

“This technology will extend the learning process beyond the classroom and increase student engagement,” said Dr. Clayton Wilcox, CMS superintendent. “CMS is excited to see what our students create and learn with access to this state-of-the-art technology over their four years in high school.”

Other North Carolina districts participating include Guilford, Forsyth, Cumberland, Buncombe, Nash, Rockingham, and Pitt counties.