Increase Mobile Data Allowances to Support Disadvantaged Children Learning from Home – Sherlock

06 January 2021

In response to the Government’s decision to close schools, Senator Marie Sherlock has called for increased data allowances to support disadvantaged children to continue learning online.

Senator Sherlock said:

“We need telecoms providers in the Irish market to follow the lead of their counterparts in the UK, many of whom operate here as well, to provide increased data allowances to disadvantaged students. A deal has been struck in the UK to provide additional mobile internet access to children without fixed broadband connections through several data providers including Three, Virgin and Tesco Mobile.

“There is an assumption that everyone can easily switch to learning from home, but the reality is that not every student has access to a reliable, affordable internet connection. Data from the CSO’s Household Information Society Statistics report for 2019 tell us that, unfortunately, not every household with school-age children has reliable internet access. Meanwhile, among families which the CSO designates as “very disadvantaged”, only 80% have a fixed broadband connection.

“While learning from home will be straightforward for some students, Government needs to step in and ensure equal access to remote education for those without high-speed broadband access at home. It’s essential we get this right as soon as possible, so that no children are forced to start the school term at a profound disadvantage.”

Senator Sherlock continued:

“I urge the Government to examine the work being done right now in the UK, where a deal has been struck with six of the major telecoms providers to provide increased mobile data allowances to students without fixed broadband at home. This scheme will provide vital assistance for students who would otherwise face considerable disruption to their education, by providing reliable internet access at no extra cost.

“I am calling on the Government to sit down with the telecoms providers active in the Irish market to work out a similar scheme for disadvantaged Irish students. Time is clearly of the essence here to ensure that students do not lose out on any more of their education. The Government should seize this opportunity now, especially given that several providers active in Ireland have already signed up to the UK programme, including Three, Virgin and Tesco Mobile.”

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