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Broadband: making the right choice

Internet provision is now essential to schools, and over the years it has become very apparent that schools have totally different usage patterns to other sectors. However, what all schools require is a very high level of reliability and performance. We take a look at what schools should consider when choosing a provider.

The essentials:

  • Understand your broadband needs by looking at the size of your school (pupil & staff numbers)
  • Estimate the bandwidth required from the volume of equipment that needs to connect to the internet
  • Investigate options based on connecting to existing infrastructure through a local exchanges or a more personalised solution for schools with a large demand or special circumstances

What to think about

Bandwith: consider the amount of bandwidth available. Bandwidth is normally measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The bandwidth required can be totally down to the amount of pupils, and how many devices you expect to connect to the internet at one time.

Contention: how many users are competing for bandwidth per ‘block’ of download/upload capacity (80Mbps download/20Mbps upload). For domestic users this could be 100 – 200 for every block but for a small business, including schools, the ratios are much less – typically 20-50 per block – much better than domestic ratios.

Latency: how far away you are from the nearest exchange. The further away, the more the speed degrades.

“Uncontended” connections: a connection not shared with other users – do you need this for your school?

Data limits: avoid signing up for a connection with a data limit – this will result in extra costs.

Flexible options: connection needs generally increase over the period of the contract. Signing up with a supplier that offers flexible options to upgrade is paramount for schools to ensure that future needs are met within the contract period.   

Reliability: or “uptime”.  Ideally you need a guarantee of 99%, which should equate to no more than 9 hours downtime per year. It is also recommended that schools look at credit regimes if suppliers are unable to meet these uptimes. 

Safety and security: ensure that the system you choose has adequate monitoring, filtering, firewalls, anti-virus, and authentication and network security systems. Also ensure you can manage the access to online content – emails, social media etc. 

Look for suppliers that hold accreditations such as ISO27001 (Information Security) and ISO9001 (Quality Management). 

Filtering systems: changes to Government guidelines set out in September 2016 by the Department for Education, outlines that governing bodies and proprietors must now ensure they have appropriate filtering and monitoring in place, in order to fulfil their duty of care and safeguard students against any online threats and harmful content.

Choose a provider that adheres to recognised national standards, such as the Internet Watch Foundation list. Find a balance between safeguarding pupils from harmful contact and being able to access websites and materials they need to give the best possible learning experience. 

Value for money and sustainability: compare broadband services on a like for like basis. Check the total cost of the entire contract period and ensure that all components of services are taken into account and procurement agreements are put in place.

Supplier reputation and signing the contract: restoration of your connection in the event of failure is also important. Look at your SLA s/contracts carefully and ensure you are comfortable with the restoration time. Restoration and response can be marketed in very different ways. 

The future of internet connectivity

Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC): Fibre to the Premise

BT Openreach is currently working on the next phase of its infrastructure upgrade, rolling out FTTC where the fibre is delivered to the premises instead using copper for the final stretch.

Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN)

This is part of a national government objective. Providers install their own fibre to the premise and have full control over its operational capability. This offers the ultimate capability in terms of scalable control providing the schools with the bandwidth requirements all the way from the internet to the site as and when they require it. 

Government advice 

There are many broadband suppliers, and the government’s advice is to make sure you go with a provider that knows the education market and has a proven track record in education services. Make sure the supplier understands broadband in schools and can respond to e-learning developments, pupil requirements and e-safety.

Want to know more about Broadband services? Take a look at our offer or get in touch:

T: 01609 533 222



Keren Wild

Service Manager - Schools ICT