HL Deb 16 June 1997 vol 580 c104WA
Lord Lucas

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect British Telecom and the cable companies to have fulfilled their promise to "wire up schools, libraries, colleges and hospitals to the information superhighway free of charge" (to quote from the Labour Party manifesto); whether this promise will allow those being connected to choose the data capacity of the link without restraint; and how they intend to judge whether access charges are "as low as possible".

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis)

The Government are developing plans to implement a National Grid for Learning. As part of these plans, they are in discussion with BT as to how it may best fulfil its commitment to wire up schools, libraries, colleges and hospitals to the information superhighway. BT has bought forward its first proposals to Oftel, who will be undertaking the necessary consultation as quickly as possible. The cable companies already cable up all schools passed by their networks, free of charge. They also offer schools a competitive flat monthly fee for unlimited Internet access. ISDN or equivalent high-speed 64k connection is available for as little as £1 per pupil per year, and this can be upgraded to cable modem connection—allowing true broadband capacity when the technology becomes available in the next few months. An estimated 17,000 schools will be able to benefit from this service by the turn of the century, when build in current cable franchise areas is complete. A thousand schools have already been cabled.

Oftel will continue to work in consultation with the Government and the industry to ensure that access charges remain as low as possible.