The world’s leading telecommunications firms have a significant interest in seeing students and educators use computers. As would be expected, they have been among the most generous and earliest supporters of educational projects to bring technology into the classroom, especially the wiring of schools to the internet. Today, they are leading explorations into the next generation of school technology use—from distance learning to handheld and wireless devices.

In this, our second “K-12 Giving Index,” we’ve looked at these telecommunications giants and assessed both what they give and how they give it. As we found with our first K-12 Giving Index in September, which analyzed the grant-making of computer manufacturers, company size and profitability do not necessarily correlate with generosity.

The first reason is the very nature of the telecom industry today. The term “telecommunications” groups together widely different companies. AT&T, one of the world’s most established companies, is on the same list as WorldCom, an upstart that has grown through more than 80 acquisitions and mergers in less than 20 years. Both of these companies are considered in the same breath as Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks, which make sophisticated technology they like to call the “backbone” of the internet.

STFB would like to caution that it wouldn’t be fair to describe our latest Giving Index as an “apples-to-apples” comparison of corporate support for education. The main reason is that it’s difficult to get detailed information on K-12 technology-related funding. All of the companies responding to our survey do support education, especially technology in education. But many were unable to differentiate their giving to K-12 districts from their giving to higher education. In other cases, companies were able to provide raw data on the number of items they gave to schools, but they didn’t think it was appropriate to put a dollar figure on those gifts and in-kind support.

Despite these difficulties, several trends did emerge in our survey. First, we found these companies often offer multiple grant programs. Cisco, for example, created the Education Empowerment Program last year, in which disadvantaged schools can apply for equipment and funds for teacher training. It also makes upwards of $100,000 per year in Internet Access grants, some of which go to educational institutions. And it also provides Community Grants, which are $10,000 each, to programs that bring schools (and other institutions) access to the arts, computers, and other services.

AT&T provides millions of dollars in grants to youth and education programs (though it could not provide exact figures for K-12 technology support). Grants in New York City and Los Angeles have created technology community centers serving under-resourced youth and adults. Meanwhile, AT&T’s Safe Schools Program provides free AT&T Wireless service (phones supplied by Ericsson) to selected schools. And AT&T has created a free online resource used by students and teachers who are new to the internet. Known as the AT&T Learning Network, this award-winning web site teaches use of the internet, provides online professional development courses for K-12 teachers, publicizes successful lesson plans that incorporate technology, and more.

“Teacher professional development remains a priority, with an emphasis on helping teachers master the new educational technologies,” said Joan Fenwick, national director of the AT&T Learning Network. She cited support of the “Leadership in New Technologies” summer institute, created by Harvard University and the Education Development Center, and the Teacher’s Network IMPACT II program, as two examples of AT&T reaching out to school district leaders and educators who are seeking to use technology.

One reason some of these companies support multiple programs is that they have purchased other large telecommunications firms that had their own corporate giving programs. In most cases, the purchaser has retained the old program, rather than shifting resources into just its own former projects. AT&T is one example, as it continues to support the COOL Grants program initiated by Media One, which it purchased last year. A similar blending of programs has taken place at Verizon Communications, which is the name GTE and Bell Atlantic took when they merged officially on June 30. The foundations created by GTE and Bell Atlantic gave approximately $70 million in 1999, and $13 million of that amount went toward education (including higher education).

SBC Communications, a fast-growing conglomeration of long distance and cellular phone companies in the Plains states and the Rockies, reflects a similar pattern. A few years ago, the “original” SBC, then known as Southwestern Bell, wired more than 6,000 classrooms in Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas and provided free internet service. At the same time, Pacific Bell wired almost 3,500 California schools and libraries and gave them free Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) service; now PacBell is part of SBC. Today, SBC supports schools in both areas with free extension services and internet application workshops. In addition, the company is expanding its giving programs.

The second similarity across many of these companies is the fact that they have been increasing their giving. Cisco’s and SBC’s giving in 2000 was well ahead of their support in previous years, and company representatives say these new levels of support are likely to be sustained or increased.

The third trend is that these givers are focusing their generosity on underserved communities, in large part. It’s clear the call for bridging the “digital divide” has spurred their giving.

K-12 Giving Index: Telecommunications Companies

AT&T Corp. 2000 Grants: $11 million per year for the past several years through the AT&T Foundation’s Education program. Additional support comes from equipment donations and AT&T employees working as volunteers.
2000 Revenue (first three quarters): $20 billion
2000 Earnings: $1.3 billion

BellSouth Corp. Has given nearly $19 million in education grants since 1996, of which 40 percent has been directed at K-12. Also supports activities of PowerUP. 1999 Giving (latest available): $6 million in education grants, but not exclusively for technology-related projects.
1999 Revenues: $25.2 billion
1999 Earnings: $3.4 billion

Cisco Systems 2000 Giving: Started a program, worth up to $1 million, to support up to 300 schools in empowerment zones with equipment and connections worth $30,000 per school.
2000 Revenue: $18.93 billion (fiscal year ended July 31)
2000 Earnings: $3.91 billion

Lucent Technologies 2000 Grants: The Lucent Foundation has extensive programs focused on improving use of technology in the classroom, including “train-the-teacher” programs, outreach to universities that are training tomorrow’s teachers, and highly-regarded science literacy programs. The foundation could not provide a dollar figure for its support, but it is clear that support annually exceeds a $1 million.
2000 Revenue: $34.5 billion
2000 Earnings: $1.5 billion

WorldCom 2000 Grants: WorldCom continues to expand the Marco Polo program to provide educators with sophisticated online educational tools in a wide variety of disciplines. The company also supports Marco Polo with grants to “train the trainer,” so educators can help peers improve their internet skills. However, the company could not provide a dollar figure to represent its support.
2000 Revenues (first three quarters): $29.5 billion
2000 Earnings: $3.6 billion

Nokia (based in Finland, but has large U.S. presence) 1998-2000 Giving: Contributed 6,000 wireless phones and “millions of dollars” of wireless air time through the Wireless Foundation.
1999 Revenue (lastest available): $19.8 billion
1999 Earnings: $3.9 billion

Nortel Networks 2000 Giving: $16.5 million to science, math, technology programs (most giving is in Canada, where the company is based)
2000 Revenue: $30 billion (projected)
2000 Earnings: $2.1 billion (projected)

SBC Communications (now also owns Ameritech) Since 1996, the SBC Foundation has awarded more than $89 million in grants to support improved student achievement, teacher preparedness, minority student success, and increased use of new technologies in the classroom.
2000 Giving: not available
2000 Revenue (first three quarters): $39.2 billion
2000 Earnings $5.8 billion

Verizon Communications 2000 Giving: Approximately $13.5 million to education. No breakdown of percentage to K-12 or technology-related programs.
1999 Revenue(latest available): $57.1 billion
1999 Earnings: $5.0 billion