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Digital hubs to extend connections beyond the school gate

28 Feb 2014

It is now possible for schools with ultra-fast broadband to share their fibre connections with their local communities.

“Connecting to ultra-fast broadband provides opportunities not only to learners, teachers and school administrators, but also to the wider community around the school,” says Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye. “This is especially the case for remote, rural communities or communities that struggle to afford access to the internet.”

With policy and guidelines now released by the Ministry of Education, Kaye says that more students will be able to take advantage of learning with digital technologies outside of the school environment, irrespective of whether they have ultra-fast broadband in their home. Under the initiative, schools may operate under one of two models.

“Under an ‘extended school wide area network’ model, a school’s wireless hub extends access to the school network beyond the physical boundaries of the school, creating opportunities for students and teachers to take advantage of the school’s network while at home,” explains Kaye. “Alternatively, schools may operate under a ‘school as a community internet hub’ model, where the board chooses to share the physical fibre connection with a retail service provider. The retail service provider can then use the fibre to provide a commercial public internet service to the community.”

While Kaye acknowledges the arrangement will not suit every school, she says for those rural and less connected communities who have not had broadband or reliable connectivity there may be benefits.

“If a school board allows the ultra-fast broadband infrastructure to be used in ways that benefit more than the school, they become a community digital hub,” Kaye says.

The Ministry is also providing school boards with access to expertise if they are contemplating entering into digital hub arrangements, and to assist with finalising contracts as required by the guidelines.

“This initiative is well aligned with other Government initiatives supporting digital technologies in schools,” adds Kaye. “For instance, the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband to schools, the School Network Upgrade Project and the implementation of the Network for Learning managed network.”