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ISP BT Gift 6 Months Free WiFi Access to Disadvantaged UK Kids

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020 (12:01 am) - Score 3,502
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The UK Department for Education and ISP BT have today announced that they will provide in-need families with six months’ of free access to the their network of WiFi access points, which extends to 5.5 million hotspots across the country. It’s not quite the free broadband that some have been clamouring for (here), but it’s welcome.

The announcement follows a new proposal by a group of cross-party MPs, which is seeking to tackle the current COVID-19 fuelled education crisis by calling for up to 1.3 million school children (i.e. those eligible for free school meals) to gain free broadband in order to help them learn. The group claims that around 700,000 children have been left stuck in a “digital divide” and are allegedly unable to complete “any” school work due to a lack of adequate internet connectivity at home.

At present BT runs several thousand premium WiFi hotspots across the country and, on top of that, their fixed home broadband subscribers also share out a WiFi hotspot from their HomeHub and SmartHub routers using FON technology (this has been enabled by default since 2009 but customers can opt-out).

Under the new scheme – launching today – BT will offer “those who are most in need” access to these hotspots via a “voucher-code system,” which will provide kids with the ability to access the internet on up to 3 devices at a time, for six months. As this is only intended for education then BT’s vouchers will only allow access with comprehensive content filtering (this is normal for education services).

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, said:

“Supporting children’s education in these difficult times is a major priority for BT. Through our Skills for Tomorrow programme, we already have a whole raft of fun and engaging online resources to help children learn at home.

Offering up our Wi-fi hotspots estate will ensure that thousands more children will ultimately be able to keep up with their important digital learning and online schoolwork for the rest of term and over the Summer holidays as well as into the Autumn.”

Nick Gibb, School Standards Minister, said:

“The Government will do everything possible to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus. We have committed over £100 million to support pupils with remote education, including to provide laptops, tablets and 4G wireless routers to disadvantaged children and young people, and this initiative will build on that work.

High quality internet access will continue to play an important role for children and families as we work towards pupils returning to schools in September, and I am hugely grateful to BT for their support in delivering this scheme.”

The DfE also confirmed that it has already provided over 50,000 4G based mobile broadband routers to children in secondary school with a social worker or care leavers and children in year 10 without access to the internet.

At the same time BT is also announcing direct support for a number of key initiatives, offering access to the BT Wi-Fi network as a pilot for the DfE scheme. These are:

Schools Home Support has partnered with Raspberry Pi via the Bloomfield Trust to quickly provide devices for learning at home to the families they support that don’t have them. These will now come with Wi-fi connectivity for 6 months.

Kids Out’s ‘Kids In’ initiative to support families who are self-isolating in women’s refuges after escaping domestic violence.

Barnardo’s support for vulnerable children and young people who may be locked down in homes where they suffer from ‘digital poverty’ and so do not have any access to fixed internet at present.

Otherwise BT will fund the free Wi-Fi voucher scheme itself, while distribution is being handled directly by the DfE, which will issue families with the necessary voucher usernames and passwords. Local Authorities and Academy Trusts will now be invited to request vouchers, working with their schools to identify those children who are most in need (more info. can be got by emailing COVID.TECHNOLOGY@education.gov.uk).

However, while BT’s offer is welcome, it should be said that FON hotspots only have access to a small portion of customer bandwidth and thus they tend to be fairly slow. Likewise related WiFi signals can be quite weak, unless you’re sitting almost right outside the window of a BT connected neighbour. In that sense it will be interesting to see whether or not this idea sees any significant take-up.

Sadly BT has rarely ever released any information on the use of their FON service, so we’ve no idea how popular it is (i.e. when faster premium non-FON BT hotspots are excluded).

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar Sylvia Bwibo says:

    I too have a problem with internet please help out

  2. Avatar Sylvia Bwibo says:

    Please help internet access

    1. Avatar Sylvia Bwibo says:

      If you find this information send whatever amount to 0727526241

  3. Avatar StevenM says:

    Ideas like this from BT is what the government should be doing to ensure everyone not just the entitled mob have access of some kind.

  4. Avatar Amira Aulds says:

    Me and my kids are in need please and yes the government should be the one providing people with this that can’t afford it thinks and God bless yall

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