7th October 2015
A NEW report has revealed that Wicklow primary schools are being deprived of available broadband speeds. A study obtained by the Wicklow Voice has revealed that some primary schools in the county currently have access to only 1% of the broadband speed available in certain area.
When the internet connections of the schools were measured the average speed was just 6MB while an increasing number of homes have speeds of 100MB to 250MB. One of the primary schools receives just .5MB – the Wicklow Voice has seen the report but cannot name the schools due to the Data Protection Act. This measurement programme, which is the first of its kind in Ireland, was conducted by Wired Wicklow, which was set-up by Stephen Donnelly TD and Councillor Jennifer Whitmore of the Social Democrats. Restricted speeds such as these reduce the amount of work and activities primary schools can undertake online. As superfast broadband technology begins to roll out across the country, companies such as UPC, Eir and Wicklow Broadband are offering up to 1,000MB broadband speeds. The Department of Education and Skills has completed a round of tendering to improve internet connections for Wicklow’s primary schools but in the meanwhile many schools will be forced too use substandard speeds. Some schools will reportedly be brought up to 100MB connections, while others will still get no more than 5MB.
When contacted by the Wicklow Voice, a representative for the Department of Education said, “Under the Schools Broadband Access Programme, the Department provides for the supply of internet connectivity for all recognised primary schools.
“The current framework involving more providers was put in place in 2012 and this has led to improved solutions being made available to schools.
“Under a recent tendering competition 82 schools in Wicklow are due to be awarded new contracts, 37 of these schools will be awarded solutions with an expected maximum download speed of between 30 and 100Mbit/s.
“Sixteen schools will get solutions with an expected maximum download speed of 8 Mbit/s or less with the remaining schools getting speeds of between 9Mbit/s and 30 Mbit/s.”
The Wired Wicklow team joined forces with UK company, SamKnows, to measure connectivity in Wicklow.
“Part of the problem is that there was no reliable data available for broadband speeds in Wicklow,” Stephen Donnelly told the Wicklow Voice. “We decided to start with the primary schools – it’s vital they have good access to the internet and they make good hubs to build out the network from”.
Looking to the future, Cllr Whitmore said that it could take years to upgrade the schools as part of the government’s National Broadband Plan.
“The Wired Wicklow team is calling for 100MB connections for all primary schools, which is what is in place for secondary school,” she told the Wicklow Voice. The cost to do this for every primary school in Ireland would be about €25m.”
This article originally appeared in the Wicklow Voice on October 7th, 2015.
If you would like more information on Wired Wicklow and our projects, click here.