Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Schools Broadband Programme
189. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to the increased broadband needs at schools arising from Covid-19; if she will put forward plans for upgrading the broadband and HEAnet capacity at (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30743/20]
Through the Schools Broadband Access Programme the Department provides for the supply of internet connectivity for all recognised primary and post primary schools, and some 98% of schools are included in this scheme. The Department's High Speed Broadband Programme, provides all recognised post-primary schools, high speed broadband with a minimum broadband speed of 100mbs. There are 58 special schools also included in this programme, managed for the Department by HEAnet.
The school referred to by the Deputy has a high speed broadband connection of 100 Mbit/s which is uncontended and symmetrical, meaning this is a dedicated service to the school. Given that this is an uncontended service the school should have 100Mbp/s connectivity. HEAnet is currently conducting an extensive upgrade programme for post-primary schools that has already seen some 47% of schools upgraded to speeds greater that 200Mbp/s. A further 380 post-primary schools are now due an upgrade to that level of connectivity. That will see over 80% of post-primary schools with connections of 200 Mbp/s or higher. This school has already been identified as part of the cohort to be upgraded in the current school year, with work underway to procure that upgraded service. The Schools Broadband Service Desk will engage with the school on this in due course.
This upgrade programme is based on demonstrated requirements, and in the current circumstances the system is being closely monitored to prioritise those most in need of the higher speed connectivity, in line with contractual and procurement regulations.
The delivery of high quality internet connectivity for all schools is a key objective of my Department, to support the embedding of digital technologies in teaching and learning. The Schools Broadband Programme is operated by my Department at an annual cost of some €13m.