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BT Does U-turn to Offer Unlimited Mobile Data to UK School Kids

Friday, January 8th, 2021 (2:02 pm) - Score 9,504

A couple of days ago BT and EE pledged to help support children’s education in the UK during the COVID-19 lockdown by giving 20GB of free mobile data (mobile broadband) per month to “disadvantaged families” (here), but now they’ve decided to boost this to “unlimited” and there’s more..

The additional support is being provided through their new “Lockdown Learning” scheme. All of the features it offers will be provided to customers eligible for the Department for Education’s (DfE) Get Help with Technology programme.

The welcome change means that both BT and EE will now provide eligible mobile customers with an “unlimited data” allowance (as opposed to just 20GB), which matches what Three UK has done. On top of that they’re also offering “free WiFi vouchers” to schools and charity partners for access to BT’s national network of WiFi Hotspots across the UK.

At the same time BT intend to adopt zero rating on educational websites. “We will also aim to remove all mobile data charges, for some of the most popular educational websites before the end of this month, while schools remain closed,” said the operator (more details on this are expected next week).

Marc Allera, CEO of BT Group’s Consumer Division, said:

“As a national champion, we want to ensure no one is left behind while face-to-face teaching is on hold.

That’s why we’re launching our ‘Lockdown Learning’ support scheme, which offers a number of different ways for disadvantaged school children to get connectivity support, across both our fixed and mobile networks.

We’ve been working closely with the DfE since the start of the pandemic, to help get kids connected, and we’re now stepping up our partnership to offer unlimited data, as well as working harder on getting free WiFi passes into the hands of those families and kids that need them.

We’re also aiming to zero rate some of the most popular learning portals this month, to ensure critical learning can continue even when data access runs out. We’ll reveal more on this in the coming week.”

On top of that BT say they’ve updated their online educational resources, tech tips and digital skills via their BT Skills for Tomorrow programme (here). All of this is no doubt going to be quite costly for the operator to do, but it’s a hugely welcome improvement on what they initially announced.

UPDATE 2:30pm

A separate article on the BBC reports that BT began offering Wi-Fi vouchers to disadvantaged children from June 2020, but “unfortunately the Department of Education struggled to distribute these vouchers effectively and handed them back to us.” In response the DfE said a pilot of the scheme had not provided a “reliable and consistent” internet connection.

In our view the challenge here is that most homes won’t be covered by one of BT’s premium WiFi hotspots and might thus only be able to get a BT WiFi signal if they live right next door to somebody with an existing BT Broadband connection – the shared WiFi for that is often distributed from the ISP’s router using FON technology.

However, only a small amount of bandwidth is made available for FON and the WiFi signal would be extremely weak by the time it reached inside the next property, which would indeed make it quite a poor solution for modern educational needs. Lest we forget that disadvantaged children often also live in areas were local fixed broadband connectivity is poor. Given all this, WiFi vouchers are not terribly useful solution.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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21 Responses
  1. Whizzy says:

    yeah – true colours N all – scumbags!

    1. Whizzy says:

      Oops read it wrong – but they are STILL scumbags

    2. Aelx says:

      Thanks for your helpful contribution Whizzy.

  2. Gavin says:

    This is good that they realised putting a limit on an Internet connection, one so vital, is bound to run in to issues later on.

    All this might be expensive. But the value of the good PR might make it worth it.

  3. BigM says:

    There were a lot of tweets about the most expensive network giving the least amount of free data. PR backlash.

  4. JItterPinger says:

    Let’s see how much of a negative impact this has shall we,

    I’ve already seen the affect on one sector of a Vodafone mast where a school handed out sims to locals.

    1. Name says:

      I just changed from Vodafone to O2 as Voda became slow as hell in my town. A day before swapping sim cards, Vodafone 11Mbps, O2 19Mbps.

    2. JItteryPinger says:

      That’s not exactly what I’m referring too,

      A sector of a mast is one of the cells that points in a direct from the mast, most in most cases there is 3 sectors pointing in different directions,

      A mast close to me has 3 sectors, 1 of them that points in the direction of and covers a predominantly social housing estate is only performing at around 20-30mbps,

      In comparison, the other two sectors pointing at predominantly private/owned housing are performing at 100-200mbps on 4G.

      This something that has only started to occur in the last few months and seems to coincide with the Vodafone sim giveaway and Voxi’s unlimited £10 sim for Jobseekers.

      FYI: The Voxi sim is applicable to anyone on Universal Credit so even those not receiving anything due to being in work or those on Furlough are able to order and use the sim for 6 months (unless extended)….

      (Remember that anyone can claim Universal Credit, but whether they get paid or not depends on what flows through PAYE systems.

    3. Whizzy says:

      Voxi £10 offer was bad. I mean slower than 3 who have the record of 1.1mbps.

      I had it for 2 months and canned it Went to 1p mobile as they are EE based but don’t charge the earth for PAYG or bundles

    4. JItteryPinger says:

      It’s amazing how performance with data varies from place to play, Voxi performed very well for me, achieved 300mbps in Kings Heath, Birmingham, just over what EE pushed out in that area too.

      EE has slowed down for me in the past year, I saw over 400mbps heading into central London on the M4 last summer but since I would say EE seemed to changed configs on the masts and speeds while still fast are not as fast as they used to be.

      I’ve since left EE, I now have sims with Virgin, Voxi and O2 (O2 2G Voice Only)

    5. Adam says:

      That sounds to me like its most likely to be due to the number of users, the total output is probably the same in all sectors but i expect theres now an awful lot more people sharing it in the housing estate part meaning slower speeds individually.

    6. Buggerlugz says:

      They realised a week of google classroom would exceed 20gb is why. I think this is seriously going to test the under-invested, generally slow and clunky UK broadband infrastructure.

  5. Michael V says:

    Didn’t expect that from BT! Not to be out done by Three!

  6. Adam says:

    Not sure you quite understand the concept of a U turn.

    Which is odd because the shape is right there in the letter. This is BT improving an offer (under very little pressure to do so) not them changing from an opposite postion.

    Clickbait from this website is very unusual, I’m disappointed.

    1. WebGuy says:

      Why describe this as clickbait ?

      The headline says it all, so no need to click unless you wish to see the full details…

      I only came across it as a headline on news topics on phone as my various computers are being moved around, else I’d routinely know about the £20 offer.

    2. Adam says:

      @webguy because the headline says its a U turn, it makes it out that theyre going back on something they already said, that’s clearly not the case. This an improvement on an existing offer.

  7. Global Britain says:

    Pah! Their parents shouldn’t have had’em if they can’t afford to give’em Broadbands!

    Always wanting stuff for free! Bet their Parents smoke, have widescreen tellys and SKY and eat pot noodles whilst wearing stained track suit bottoms!

    Makes me sick!

    1. Peter khen says:

      There is a difference between disadvantage and junkies.

      Unfortunately not everyone can have things that you may take for granted.

    2. Fred says:

      If my kids school is anything to go by, those parents are normally allowed to keep sending they’re kids because they’re at less risk at school than at home.

    3. Molly says:

      That’s not very ‘modern’ thinking, today everyone gets to have everything for free, didn’t you know?

  8. Ron Martin says:

    With bandwidth being offered like this, why can’t our children be taught via something like Zoom. Australia has been home schooling for years and they did it over a radio service. Current technology would allow teachers and children to take classes in safe isolation.

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