The widely anticipated and well promoted initiative to to provide an up to the minute internet service to schools, to accompany the government’s ultra fast broadband service, is now a reality.
The Network for Learning website says that “the government created Network for Learning (N4L) to build a managed network specifically designed for New Zealand’s 2500+ schools and create an environment that encourages the uptake of digital learning in a seamless way. This managed network will ensure all schools have equitable access to safe, predictable, uncapped and fast internet as well as high quality teaching and learning resources.”
The recent announcement by Associate Minister for Education, Nikki Kaye indicates that the company is well on the way to bringing this to a reality. The agreement that has been reached with Telecom to be the support partner for the network is a significant step forward. What really counts is that the government, through the Ministry, is going to provide the base level network access and support at no cost to schools – estimated at costing the government $211m.
Depending on each school’s current internet service provider and the size of the school this could save schools between $150 and $2500 a month from their operations grant. This really is the killer for almost any other internet service provider.
It’s not the full story of course as the service being offered is simply a connection to the internet, including national and international traffic, plus filtering and security. Quoting again from the N4L website, “The network will provide schools with safe, predictable, uncapped and fast internet; content filtering and network security services. Schools will also receive guaranteed high-speed access to a growing collection of teaching and learning resources directly connected to the network”.
Schools who receive “access to a growing collection of teaching and learning resources” means those that are available on the internet or those that may become available through the Ministry or through commercial providers. Schools should understand that while access to these services will be free, many services have some form of licence or subscription and this will still be payable by schools.
What all schools should do immediately is to register their interest on the N4L website. This is on a no obligation basis but gives every school the opportunity to keep up to date as the project develops. In the meantime they should continue with their current internet service provider and, if they have had fibre recently delivered, sign up to a suitable provider in the interim. They should not sign any contract that has a commitment period of longer than twelve months.
Any school finding difficulty with understanding what they are being offered should seek advice. Their first contact should be N4L, however for those attached to various loops around the country they should contact their loop organisation. In Auckland schools should register at http://www.neal.school.nz – select ABOUT and email one of the team.