Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Questions (196)

Peter Burke


196. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a solution will be provided for a school (details supplied) that is experiencing significant connectivity issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48635/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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 financial constraints. Broadband capacity can vary due to geographical location and local infrastructure, and thus impact on the service that can be provided. 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. All post-primary schools and some special schools are now included in the 100Mbps programme. 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.

The school referred to by the Deputy was recently included in mini competition run by my Department and the service to that school has been awarded to a provider of high speed broadband. The provider is currently working to provide this service to the school. The school will be contacted by the provider in due course to arrange the installation.

Under the current primary schools programme the Department continually reviews the availability of services and upgrades schools where the opportunity arises, in line with contractual and budgetary requirements. A recent drawdown from the Framework of Providers of Broadband Services saw some 1,600 primary schools awarded download speeds of 30Mbps or greater (the baseline download speed required under the National Broadband Plan). Those schools have now been upgraded to that connectivity. This represents more than one third of all primary schools. This is a significant improvement over recent years, given that less than 100 primary schools were on those speeds in 2012. Further schools are likely to be upgraded to those speeds in 2019 and 2020, through EIR's 300K Rural Deployment commitment, and planned industry provision.

The need to improve broadband connectivity to primary schools is recognised in the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020, and as noted access to high speed broadband is one of the indicators identified in the Digital Strategy Action Plan. My Department continues to liaise with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to ensure that the needs of primary schools are prioritised in the implementation of the National Broadband Plan.