News that the Department for Education has agreed to continue to fund schools sector access to the JANET network for 2011/12 somehow passed me by when it was announced a couple of weeks ago. This is a great example of how procuring something at scale offers fantastic value and quality. Schools who use an Internet Service Provider that makes use of JANET for the Internet “transit” (route to the Internet) benefit through reduced Internet costs as a result of JANET’s buying power and technical expertise. This means most schools that use their local authority or Regional Broadband Consortium for their Internet connection.
Not only does this include Internet transit for schools, it also provides access to other JANET(UK) services, including the JANET Video Conferencing Service and the UK Access Management Federation, though it is not entirely clear from the announcement how this ties in to the change of operator for the Federation in August, when it moves to JISC Collections and EDINA.
As JANET(UK), who run the JANET network, point out in their announcement of this great news, the approach of funding this centrally was recommended in the recent James review on capital spending in the schools sector:
“In addressing ICT provision the Review makes the point that there needs to be a clear set of relevant ICT services from which individual schools can select and pay only for what they need. It urges the Government to capitalise on the value of existing public-sector broadband networks, aligned with other Government initiatives, such as the superfast broadband initiative to build the UK’s broadband capacity in general. It also recognises the needs for appropriate standards and procurement assistance in achieving this. It makes the observation that smaller institutions in particular may benefit from a relatively high broadband capacity, to enable them to use remote services to reduce their costs and gain the most from any central investment”.
I am delighted that this service continues to be funded in this way, having previously been responsible for securing the funding while working at Becta, and in a previous life having had to procure Internet transit for a large network delivering Internet access to well over 400 schools. It offers value, flexibility, quality and it is great to see a service like this available on a national basis. I do wonder, though, how many local authorities and Regional Broadband Consortia are aware of it, and how many use it.