High-speed broadband for all secondary schools 'by 2014'
EVERY secondary school in the country is to get industrial-speed broadband to allow for interactive teaching within two-and-a-half years as the Government plays catch-up with our international neighbours.
The rollout of 100Mb per second broadband in all 650 secondary schools is scheduled to be completed in September 2014 -- although just 200 schools will be connected by the start of the new school year in September.
There will be a further 200 connected next year and the remaining 250 by 2014 -- meaning thousands of children will finish three full academic years before their school is connected.
The entire scheme will cost a little over €40m and will be jointly funded by the Department of Communications and the Department of Education.
In addition, there are no plans to extend the scheme to primary schools, the Irish Independent has learned.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, who launched the scheme yesterday, admitted Ireland has yet to reach the same standard of schools broadband as other countries, like the UK.
"They are ahead of us, that's true," Mr Rabbitte said, but he insisted Ireland is doing well by "international comparison".
A spokesman for his department also insisted there is adequate broadband infrastructure in place to install the system in every secondary school, no matter how remote.
Although many schools have some sort of broadband connection at the moment, the new 100Mb per second system will allow for much heavier usage -- essentially allowing an entire school to be online at once, with no slowdown in connection speeds.
The first schools to benefit will be those in counties furthest away from larger population centres like Dublin and Cork, such as those along the west coast and in border areas.
The full launch follows on from a pilot scheme introduced by Mr Rabbitte's predecessor, the Green Party's Eamon Ryan, in October 2010.
Some 78 schools were included in the pilot and students and teachers at one of those, Colaiste Bride in Clondalkin, Dublin, yesterday demonstrated what the broadband scheme could be used for.
Students in the school write and submit English essays online, use the technology in interactive science classes to learn things like how electrical circuits work and also solve maths problems on interactive "white boards".
Mr Rabbitte said the faster broadband is a "win-win" for students and teachers.
"It's absolutely essential in terms of the digital economy, in terms of the knowledge economy, that we put this investment in at this stage," he said.
Mr Rabbitte also defended the national broadband scheme, which was set up to extend general broadband coverage to all areas of the country.
The Comptroller and Auditor General's report last year said it may end up costing substantially more than expected because of poor uptake. The taxpayer is expected to pay €1,180 per subscriber -- up from an estimate of €635. But Mr Rabbitte said a value for money test does not show its true worth.
"If the national broadband scheme had not been installed, you would have huge tracts of the country that wouldn't have had basic broadband," he said.