UK broadband schools may boost overall use

Easynet Ltd. and UK Online Ltd. launched a Broadband for Schools initiative in London Thursday, and said that the educational push will boost overall availability of broadband services.

The U.K. government has said that it wants all schools to have 2M bps (bits per second) broadband Internet access by 2005, according to Justin Fielder, Easynet’s director of business development.

Easynet and UK Online have set up a voucher scheme whereby businesses and parents buying services from either company will receive vouchers, called Splats, that they can save toward getting a free broadband connection and year’s rental for a school of their choice.

The size of the connection purchased will affect the value of the vouchers purchased, Fielder said. For example, 10 high-speed business connections would be enough to get a free 500K bps connection, as would 25 standard business broadband contracts.

“There are many parents who are making these decisions within companies, and if we can get them to choose us because they get the Splats vouchers, that’s great.”

For schools in areas that do not yet have broadband access, Easynet has developed a 256K bps flat-rate ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) service, Fielder said.

While 99 per cent of U.K. schools now have Internet access, 72 per cent have ISDN connections, 8 per cent are still on dial-up and only 10 per cent use broadband, Easynet Chief Executive Officer David Rowe said.

Currently only two-thirds of the U.K. has access to broadband services, according to Keith Todd, chairman of the Broadband Stakeholders Group, an independent advisory panel set up to assist the U.K. Government in broadband planning.

Easynet’s education initiative will help to boost that availability, Fielder said. “The numbers are very similar-it takes 10 high speed connections, or 25 basic ones, to make it worth us unbundling a local area loop and providing innovative services to businesses and consumers in that area.”

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