Thousands of public school students in Victoria without a home internet connection will receive Telstra SIM cards and dongles to access the internet free of charge, as the state moves to adopt a remote learning model.
Premier Daniel Andrews and education minister James Merlino announced the agreement with Telstra on Tuesday to allow students to continue learning from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The agreement is part of a broader Telstra initiative to provide 20,000 disadvantaged students and teachers across the country with free internet access to support online learning and teaching.
All Victorian primary, secondary and special public schools will move to remote learning when term two starts next week, with on-site learning only available to students whose parents can't work from home or those who are vulnerable.
Telstra will provide 4000 SIM cards for primary and secondary school students to access 4G, while the government will loan a further 1000-SIM enabled dongle devices that it has purchased.
It comes less than two weeks after Merlino said the state’s Department of Education and Training was working with ISPs to give students without a home internet connection access to 4G.
The SIM cards and dongles will be prioritised for senior secondary students, particularly VCE students, students affected by the recent bushfires and families who cannot afford an internet connection.
Victoria will also join NSW in loaning thousands of laptops and tablets to students without access to a device at home.
More than 6000 laptops and tablets will be loaded to students by the state government, with additional classroom devices will be distributed by schools.
Last week, the federal Labor Party cited the last Australian Bureau of Statistics household internet survey in 2018 to highlight that 55,600 households are without an internet connection.
It has called on the federal government to grant those households a rebate to connect to the NBN during COVID-19.