SAT4EDU is a pilot project of broadband satellite access to the Internet for schools from areas excluded digitally, funded by the European Parliament and introduced by the European Commission.
Access to the Internet via satellite could be a successful way to deliver multimedia education materials to schools with limited access possibilities. The European Commission has made the decision to launch a pilot project in order to check the practical aspects of satellite access for schools, and make a real assessment of such an enterprise. As part of the pilot programme, a broadband satellite network will be launched in chosen schools located in digitally excluded areas.
Despite the efforts aimed at providing fast access to the Internet to all citizens, entrepreneurs, public administration bodies and educational institutions in EU countries, there are still the so-called white spots, where nobody offers broadband access to the Internet, and the situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.
Even though the investors could formally get support from public resources for investments in such areas, if such an access is not likely to appear in the next three years, there are still examples of such places staying “permanently white” due to low population density, or demographic and geographic factors (e.g. in villages on small islands or in mountain areas). Still, even in such digitally excluded locations, people have a non-negotiable right to proper education, including and especially primary education. It is extremely important in small, remote schools in places, where the demand is not enough for private investors and commercial operators not only to cover the expenses of building a broadband network (with a possible public help), but also to maintain it later.
The European Union believes that access to the Internet is a human right, not a privilege. The EU wishes to provide broadband Internet equity, this way fighting the digital exclusion in areas which today lack the network access. Thanks to the access to fast Internet we can level the opportunities, taking care of proper development of digitally excluded areas. The European Union wants to systematically fill the white spots on the map of Europe in accordance with the principle of European schools without the digital exclusion!
The Sat4Edu project materialises this idea.
To whom is the programme addressed?
The programme is addressed to schools located in the European Union, which will join the pilot project.
How does it work?
During the pilot, the SAT4EDU syndicate — upon signing proper agreements with schools and/or their governing bodies — will provide satellite access to chosen schools. Providing the access means setting up the equipment (the antenna, proper modems and routers for a two-way transmission), signing a proper agreement by the syndicate with a satellite access provider, and connecting school’s devices (computers, routers, while it is preferred to connect in that way the school’s local network). During 12 months schools participating in the project will not cover any costs. Everything, i.e. renting the equipment and the costs of subscription, will be covered by the European Union.
The syndicate will provide technical support for the schools, including that regarding the network continuity and safety — both during the configuration period, and during the operational period. Schools will also be provided with educational materials. Should a school need it, the syndicate will also provide a basic training for a person chosen by the school as responsible for maintaining operational access within the project. The scope of the project does not involve delivering multimedia content by the syndicate. Schools participating in the project will have a free hand in choosing such content in accordance to their educational programmes, their preferences, law obligations, etc. After the project is completed, the equipment will be uninstalled, and the service ceased. Alternatively, the school will be able to take control of it and finance it itself in order to maintain Internet access.
The pilot programme will include a dozen or so schools from European Union member countries, such as Poland, Greece, and Cyprus.
The pilot’s task is both filling up the white spots with no network access, as well as testing technological solutions and answering the question of whether or not the satellite Internet can be used to level educational opportunities in digitally excluded areas.