Pilot scheme brings gigabit broadband to rural schools

Pilot scheme brings gigabit broadband to rural schools

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A new pilot scheme will bring gigabit broadband to more than 100 primary schools in rural parts of England over the coming months as part of the government's efforts to improve connectivity in the countryside.

The trial is backed by £3 million in public funding and is part of the wider Rural Gigabit Connectivity Programme, which is focused on connecting the hardest to reach areas in the UK. 

With a total budget of £200 million, this scheme will deliver gigabit-capable connections to key public and business buildings, including schools, as well as encouraging broadband providers to create additional connections to local homes.

So far, three schools have already been connected as part of the pilot and a further 52 have signed contracts and will see work begin in the coming weeks. Discussions are also ongoing with 72 more schools that have expressed an interest in participating.

Minister for digital Margot James commented: "This project is a great example of the government’s new 'outside in' approach to rolling out full fibre broadband, which is taking gigabit broadband to the hardest to reach rural areas first."

She added that as well as making a big difference for pupils at the participating schools, the use of these locations as broadband hubs will also help make ultrafast broadband available to thousands of rural homes and businesses across the country more quickly.

Schools already connected under the scheme have seen their average speeds jump from around 0.5Mbps to 100Mbps, with the potential to increase this even further to 1Gbps should they need extra speed and capacity in the future.

As well as transforming how lessons are planned and conducted - with whole classes now able to access online learning resources on their tablets - improved access to cloud services means staff can go paperless and schools can decommission their local servers, reducing hardware, maintenance and IT support costs.

Mary See, headteacher at Cheselbourne Village School in Dorset, said the technology has "revolutionised" the way it works.

She added: "The much faster and reliable access to the web has allowed staff to work more efficiently; while the children, although still geographically remote, are no longer technologically isolated."

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