Ambitious plans to expand the fibre footprint at eight high schools in the Scottish Borders

New high speed fibre broadband is to be introduced at eight Scottish Borders high schools at the cost of £1.7m, it has emerged.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 9:55 am
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 9:55 am
Jedburgh High School. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

A report under emergency powers will come before members of Scottish Borders Council next week which proposes a major enhancement of the current capacity and resilience of the Wide Area Network (WAN) that carries both internet and corporate connections for eight of the nine Borders high schools.

The work proposed will align the capacity of the whole network with the technology blueprint already implemented at Jedburgh Education Campus.

A report to the committee says the investment proposed “will ensure that the network remains fit to meet the increasing network requirements of secondary digital education for all students in the new academic year.”

The move comes after Scottish Borders Council’s Digital Strategy, approved by elected members in February, set out a vision for the Borders to become the UK’s first smart connected rural region, supporting better outcomes for everyone who lives and works locally.

This project, part of the realisation of that vision, will be delivered with CGI and Commsworld and will put new high speed fibre infrastructure into eight towns and unbundle two additional exchanges, enabling up to 10Gb/s connections to be made in all nine high schools in the Borders.

The report says: “While this will primarily support school connectivity, the capability to

access these higher speed, lower cost services will be opened up for other council and non-council premises in each of the towns benefiting from the investment and this proposal will deliver reduced service charges and increased bandwidths (10x current capacity) for 20 additional council premises located on or near to the proposed fibre routes.

“This report is an emergency powers paper. If this project is to be approved, the timing of that approval is critical to ensuring work can be completed in a suitable timescale to strategically address the capacity management requirements under the council’s agreement with CGI. There is a current window of opportunity to complete the work in the schools in alignment with other technical works being undertaken by CGI which is reflected in both the implementation cost and timeline proposed. As ICT works in schools are scheduled to cause minimal disruption to teaching, and as this will require outage time for the schools networks, this work should ideally be done during the holiday period.”

The report says taking the action now would save the local authority considerable funds over the next two decades.

It adds: “Doing nothing at this point would leave 70% of Scottish Borders Council’s current secondary school estate running close to, or at the physical limitations of the existing fibre provision.

"A capital investment of £1.699m returns a direct revenue saving against current revenue budgets of £407,000, £21,420 per year for the remaining term of the CGI contract through to 2040. The cost of not making the investment now, but instead applying the network upgrades tactically following the Jedburgh model, would be up to £3.3M in non-budgeted revenue costs which will be avoided under the proposal described in this report."