Kent builds £24m broadband network for schools

Please sir, can we have high speed internet access?

Please sir, can we have high speed internet access?

Kent's Local Education Authority (LEA) is spending £24m over the next three years to give schools in the county high speed internet access.

The fibre-optic wide-area network with 40 hubs will support more than 500 primary schools with around 260 users each and more than 100 secondary schools with 1,000 pupils each, creating what is probably the largest LEA network in the UK.

The total cost of the network, which will provide schools with 10Mbps connections, will reach £24.3m over three years. Half a dozen schools are already on the new network and the rest are due to be connected by August 2006.

Peter Banbury, ICT project manager at the LEA, said originally schools were sceptical about whether they needed broadband. "But by last year the situation was that if there was a difficulty with the broadband we'd have headteachers on the phone in 20 minutes," he said.

Web pages, video and video conferencing are all increasing bandwidth requirements, he said.

In the county's schools there are five or six pupils for every PC.

"Pupils come into school and just expect high quality broadband. It's quite different to the commercial [world]. In schools these machines get hammered from morning until night," he explained.

The network uses services and technology from BT, Cisco and Microsoft, with Unisys providing managed services and security in a £3.7m deal.