Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (402)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

402. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Education her plans for primary schools outside of the primary schools broadband connection programme that are not in the intervention areas of the national broadband plan and are experiencing difficulties accessing broadband. [6431/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Under the current primary schools programme, my Department continually reviews the availability of services and upgrades schools where the opportunity arises, in line with contractual and budgetary requirements. A framework of providers of Broadband Services was put in place in 2017 which has ensured improved solutions are available to primary schools. The Schools Broadband Service Desk providing first line technical support for schools in the broadband programme is managed on behalf of my Department by the Professional Development Service for Teachers - Technology in Education (PDST-TiE). Where schools are experiencing broadband difficulties with their current schools broadband connecting, in the first instance schools should make contact with the Broadband Service desk team at broadbandservicedesk@pdst.ie or by phoning 1800334466 in order to identify any potential issue and also to record their bandwidth upgrade request.

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 are no doubt 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.

In operating the Schools Broadband Programme, my Department is obliged to adhere to procurement regulations, and must engage with the selected providers on the DES Framework of Providers of Broadband Services through a tender process to award services. Having awarded a school service to the highest placed tenderer, my Department is then required to work with that provider to install the service. This is the basis on which all state-funding is utilised to ensure transparency and equal treatment for all schools and providers, and adherence to regulatory requirements. 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 requirements of primary schools with poor/no connectivity, will be kept under review by my Department with a view to addressing requirements, including through continued engagement with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.