BT announces free unlimited mobile data for families with no internet access amid calls for tech firms to do more to support students in lockdown
- BT says it will provide free mobile data through its EE network for students
- It is also offering Wifi vouchers to more than 5 million wireless data hotspots
- The firm will also ‘zero rate’ some educational websites making them free to visit
- The move comes amid calls for technology firms to do more to help pupils
BT will provide free unlimited mobile data to families that have no internet access to help children access online learning tools during the latest coronavirus lockdown.
The move follows calls from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and others for technology firms to do more to support students suddenly home-learning due to coronavirus lockdown measures and school closures.
As well as unlimited data, a number of educational websites will be ‘zero rated’ – requiring no mobile data – as part of the new ‘Lockdown Learning’ support scheme.
The telecom firm, which owns mobile operator EE, confirmed it would now offer free unlimited data to pupils in remote learning as part of a Government scheme.
BT is one of a number of providers offering an amount of mobile data allowance to pupils learning from home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
BT will provide free unlimited mobile data to families that have no internet access to help children access online learning tools during the latest coronavirus lockdown. Stock image
Technology firms have pledged to work with the Government to ensure schoolchildren are able to adequately study remotely after coming under pressure to improve access to data and devices during England’s latest lockdown.
The Government has said that more than one million laptops and tablets will be provided to pupils by the end of the academic year to help with remote study.
The BT scheme will also see free Wifi vouchers provided to schools and charities to allow disadvantaged pupils to access mobile hotspots around the country.
Internet and technology firms have been urged to do more to support schoolchildren forced to study at home during England’s new national lockdown.
There have been particular concerns raised about those from disadvantaged families who lack access to internet connections and devices.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for political pressure to also be brought to bear on tech firms to provide more free or subsidised data for children studying at home.
‘Data is a big problem. Everybody needs to try and make this work and that includes the companies that can take away the charging for data,’ he said.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said it was down to the Prime Minister to push network operators to make data more affordable.
On Thursday, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said every child has the right to a good education.
Adding: ‘It is not acceptable that some children are unable to learn, through no fault of their own, because of a lack of technology, or because their home circumstances prevent them being able to work effectively.’
In recent days, a number of network operators who are part of the Department for Education’s (DfE) Get Help with Technology programme – which offers free mobile data to students – have taken steps to increase their allowances.
BT is one of a number of providers offering an amount of mobile data allowance to pupils learning from home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Stock image
Marc Allera, chief executive of the BT Group’s consumer division, said the firm wanted to ensure nobody was left behind while face-to-face teaching was on hold.
‘We’ve been working closely with the DfE since the start of the pandemic, to help get kids connected, and we’re now stepping up our partnership to offer unlimited data.;
He added that they were also working harder to get Wifi passes in the hands of families and children that need them the most.
‘We’re also aiming to zero-rate some of the most popular learning portals this month, to ensure critical learning can continue even when data access runs out. We’ll reveal more on this in the coming week.’
BT says it will also enhance its ‘Skills for Tomorrow’ service that provides free support and information on key digital skills to school children from 4-11 years old.
The firm also confirmed it will continue with its ‘social tariff’ aimed at low income families called BT Basic – a £10 a month fixed broadband and phone line service to help those on low incomes manage and meet their data needs.
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