Wednesday, 3 March 2021
Department of Education and Skills
484. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary schools outside the remit of the national broadband plan with no access to broadband services by county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11810/21]
The policy of my Department is to offer the best quality connectivity to all schools in line with the technical solutions available in the market and within financial constraints. Currently investment of some €13m is allocated annually for the provision of internet connectivity to schools. As you will be aware, broadband capacity can vary across geographical locations and is dependent on local infrastructure which can impact on the service that can be provided in individual schools. The primary broadband scheme operates off existing infrastructure on the whole and the providers on the Primary Broadband Framework access this infrastructure to deliver the service to the schools. The Department does not put in place such infrastructure.
All recognised primary and post-primary schools are eligible for inclusion in my Department's School Broadband Access Programme, comprising a high speed programme for post-primary schools and provision of services through retail providers for primary schools, connecting to HEAnet's school network. At any given time, it is not possible to provide broadband connectivity through the programme for some primary schools as local infrastructure does not allow for same, with less than 30 schools generally in this category. These are kept under review and are regularly subject to tender competitions through the Framework of Providers of Broadband Services to Primary Schools to see if services can be provided. The schools impacted and the number involved, are subject to change.
A further small number of schools opt out of the Schools Broadband Programme, choosing instead to remain with other providers. Currently less than 50 schools are in this category.
Schools that currently cannot be provided a services due to infrastructural deficits in industry provision seem to be in the National Broadband Plan Intervention Area, based on current information available from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.
My Department is working closely with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications on the implementation of the National Broadband Plan Intervention area, which will see almost 700 primary schools provided with high speed connectivity by the end of 2022. This includes the School Connection Points under the Broadband Connection Points programme implementation currently underway.