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BT wins £26m deal to deliver gigabit broadband to schools
Tue, 12th Mar 2024

BT has been awarded a £26m contract to provide gigabit broadband to over 650 primary schools in hard-to-reach regions across England, under the auspices of the government's Project Gigabit initiative. For some schools, bandwidth will be boosted up to 500 times their current speed, and all will be gigabit-enabled by December 2025. The joint initiative from the Department for Education and Department for Science, Innovation and Technology seeks to enhance children's access to online resources and ensure high-quality video streaming.

This major deal requires BT to link up hundreds of primary schools, situated in both rural and urban areas which existing commercial broadband rollouts struggle to reach, with state-of-the-art broadband connectivity. Collaborating closely with infrastructure provider Openreach, BT will provide the schools with a substantial digital upgrade, granting them access to full fibre broadband that can deliver over 1,000 megabits per second. The beneficiary schools are spread throughout South West, North, South East and East England, including London.

In isolated areas, schools might experience speeds up to 500 times faster than before. Pupils will be able to use the internet without interruption, even when several classes are online simultaneously. They'll be able to communicate with peers worldwide and explore an ever-expanding range of online resources, designed to make their lessons more engaging. Furthermore, implementing new, more efficient ways of working will generate savings and reduce the workload for frontline professionals. This project has been made possible through government investment, covering the costs of connecting rural schools not likely to be included by commercial rollout.

Ashish Gupta, Managing Director, Corporate and Public Sector at BT, stated, "This project marks a milestone moment for hundreds of schools across England, and we're proud to play such a central role in making it happen. Nowhere is access to high speed, reliable broadband more important than in education. This investment will transform the learning experience for thousands of pupils, opening up opportunities for interactive lessons, collaborative projects with other schools and pupils anywhere in the world, as well access to an expanding online library of educational content and video."

Schools Minister, Baroness Barran emphasised the importance of high-speed, reliable internet for educational environments, stating, "Whether it's through seamless access to digital resources or video streaming, this welcome investment will unlock new possibilities for hundreds of settings in rural and hard-to-reach areas, bringing ultra-fast broadband to those who wouldn't otherwise have access to it."

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez highlighted the transformative role of internet technology in modern classrooms, adding, "We're investing millions to bring top-of-the-range broadband to schools in places that would otherwise have been stuck in the digital slow lane. This is just one way our £5 billion Project Gigabit programme is putting a stop to buffering broadband in hard-to-reach communities, with more than a million mostly rural premises already able to access lightning-fast gigabit speeds thanks to government subsidy."

Enhanced gigabit connectivity will also contribute to government efforts towards achieving net zero emissions, as schools switch from inefficient local servers to more efficient and secure cloud data storage, services and devices.