All of Ireland’s primary and secondary schools are to receive broadband connectivity funded by around €17m of private sector money with a further €3m coming from the Department of Education.
Sources told siliconrepublic.com that the deal is close to completion and a formal announcement is expected shortly. The funding arrangement is understood to have been put together by the Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF) in response to the Minister of Communication’s plans to put a levy on the telcos to pay for the roll out of broadband infrastructure to schools.
The investment will be made over three years with each telco contributing a proportion based on its turnover. This will mean that Eircom would contribute the lion’s share of the funding, followed by Vodafone and O2.
With the money in place, the building of the infrastructure is expected to be put out to tender as soon as March or April. An essential component of the plan is that every school is connected which means that other technologies, such as wireless and leased lines, would be deployed to connect the schools that are beyond the reach of ADSL broadband.
Speaking last year, Minister for Communications Dermot Ahern TD explained his plans for a levy from the industry that would be mutually beneficial: “I believe the telcos have a role to play here and my officials will be in contact with the sector on how best to deliver broadband to schools and libraries. The sector are aware of my plans and have expressed their misgivings, but I firmly believe that the telcos will benefit in the long term because it will stimulate the development of broadband applications.”
It remains to be seen how the tendering process will work if companies funding the contract are also among the candidates hoping to pitch for it.
By Ian Campbell