1000 schools connected to full fibre broadband
Full fibre networks stretching for thousands of miles are now supplying lightning-fast gigabit broadband to 1,084 schools and thousands of other public buildings previously stuck with slow speeds.
The next-generation internet speeds enable teachers to use cutting-edge learning technology - such as video conferencing platforms to host joint classes and assemblies with schools anywhere in the world and online tools that bring lessons to life such as films and learning games.
The work is part of the government’s national mission to level up internet access across the UK by investing in fast gigabit broadband and speeding up commercial roll-out.
Most schools in the UK are in urban or suburban areas which already have access to fast full fibre broadband, but this investment focused on schools in around 30 per cent of the UK that currently cannot access speeds of 100 megabits per second and were not in line to receive an upgrade commercially from broadband companies.
Many of them are in rural or hard-to-reach areas, so the government has stepped in to fund their connections and make sure they don’t miss out on next-generation speeds. The areas seeing the most schools upgraded include Norfolk (115), Wolverhampton (81), North Yorkshire (45), the Highlands (37) and Dumfries and Galloway (35).
Work is underway to bring gigabit speeds to even more schools, with 884 earmarked to be connected by March next year."We are levelling up pupils’ and teachers’ access to the fastest future-proofed broadband, giving hundreds of schools better access to important learning opportunities, no matter where they live," said Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries.
The government is also on track to connect around 6,800 public buildings across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by the end of March - including hospitals, GP surgeries, fire stations, leisure centres, museums and libraries.
The upgrades form part of a more than £210 million investment by the government to bring next-generation connections to places where internet speeds are slower, such as in rural areas. This is spread over two programmes:
- £180.8 million has been invested as part of the Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) programme to help roll out the next generation of faster, full fibre broadband connections to eligible public buildings including schools, libraries, medical centres, community shops and village halls.
- The Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme aims to assist the government and partner organisations to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable connections in locations that are unlikely to benefit from commercial investment. £31.1 million was invested in upgrading connections in schools as part of the RGC.
This will help raise efficiency and quality across vital public services. For example - libraries will be able to offer faster connectivity for users, GPs and blue light services will access records and specialists faster, and museums will be able to have more interactive exhibitions.
The investment also makes it easier for broadband providers to extend the network to surrounding communities, with around 1.5 million more homes and businesses now within 200 metres of a fibre optic broadband cable thanks to the investment.
5.5 million premises have so far been connected to full fibre, and this is predicted to rise to 25 million by 2026.
The government is also supporting technology upgrades in classrooms, improving education for pupils and enabling school staff to work better by investing £30 million in the pilot project 'Connect the Classroom'. This aims to upgrade technology within over 1,000 schools, allowing them to benefit from fast Wi-Fi and cloud services.
A survey of 261 schools connected under the government’s Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) found the benefits included:
- Time saving across the whole school including teachers, office staff and pupils
- Increased confidence and creativity in the classroom - for planning and using technology in lessons
- Improved pupil experience and opportunity
- Staff satisfaction and reduced frustration due to lags and slow speeds