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East Midlands Broadband Consortium (EMBC) Thread, EMBC Schools in Regional Broadband Consortiums (RBC); As some people may be aware the next round of planning for the RBC in the East Midlands has started. ...
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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    EMBC Schools

    As some people may be aware the next round of planning for the RBC in the East Midlands has started.

    To give some background for the uninitiated, the EMBC (East Midlands Broadband Consortium) is the RBC for the East Midlands. Presently the lead LEA is Northants and this is where the project team abide. EMBC is not a seperate company but is made up of the 9 LEAs and each helping to do something with providing content and service (some more than others). The service is provided via Fujitsu who then sub-contract things out. EMBC has it's own helpdesk, but some LEAs (Northants for example) make you go through their support team before you get to the EMBC helpdesk.

    On 31st March 2007 the present contract with Fujitsu finishes and the 9 LEAs are starting to think about what to do next. The Steering Group (containing a rep in a senior position in each LEA as well as the EMBC execs) will get together in early December to decide on which of 3 proposals to go for.

    The options are to keep the status quo, for NCC to ditch the ide of the EMBC as we know it now and source a new ISP for connectivity and then worry about connecting to the NEN, or for the EMBC to be made a Company Limited by Guarantee.

    This will then go out to tender as usual (the Prior Information Notice has already gone out to the EU noticeboard on this)

    I say all this because I was at a meeting tonight about it ... one aimed at Heads or other Senior Manglers (notice it was done whilst some heads will be at the SST conference ... poor timing methinks).

    It was shocking to see how little some of them knew about who controlled what and who talks to whom.

    Don't get me wrong, there were some very informed people there, but these are usually the people that are already involved with steering groups / committees within the LEA.

    I had a number of concerns (yep ... me at the front ... heckling and sticking my nose in again ... what's new!) including -

    1 - Are there going to be decent SLAs between schools and the resulting group?

    2 - Will this be decided by the Steering Group, the lawyers, by Heads or by people technically capable of saying what an SLA shold be?

    3 - If the resulting group is a seperate entity to the LEAs will they then have the power to tell schools that they must do things a certain way on their networks otherwise they can bugger off? (an off shoot of a discussion on the common digital infrastructure for every school ... it has been misread as someone will tell schools that networks should be set up a certain way ... it was pointed out to them that Becta give technical specifications for schools to work to, but never say it has to be done a certain way ... this needs to be clarified)

    4 - Will the technical stuff end up over-ruling the education stuff ... again!

    Most of these were answered in a positive manner (Brenda Scoble doing most of the talking, but also some stuff from Jamie Clarke, Head of Sponne School) but the obvious concerns of cost and reliability came up time and time again.

    There is a chance that schools will be dictated to about how to run things, and if you don't want that to happen then you need to speak to the relevant person in your school to get the put in the General Comments that you will accept advice and specifications about your network / systems, but not dictation.

    The other noted thing was the lack of option 4. A school ditching the EMBC and going on it's own. This was apparently left out for a few reasons. Cost (more schools together drive the cost down), technical expertise in schools (there is still to much variation in the levels of technical expertise in schools), time (the steering group and their minions do the running around findong prices for you ... learn to accept what is offered) and then there is the connection to the NEN ... only one ISP is accredited atm. You have to go via an RBC, Redstone or UKERNA to get onto the NEN ... and even then you may not get everything at the moment.

    What are the general thoughts on the above? Are we confident that Heads / Manglers are informed enough to be able to set out what some of the goals of the resulting group should be?

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    russdev's Avatar
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    Re: EMBC Schools

    ok will post full repy later but how about preparing document that outlins these things that can be presented to head/lea giving advice like this.

    Russ

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    Good post Tony.

    I think you have hit the proverbial nail on the head with your points (and your questions). I would love to see a big contender to EMBC appear as if by magic. Don't know if that will happen though. Seems to me this round of dicussions is really aimed at making management feel there really is no better option than maintaining the way things are. It'll be EMBC who get the contract again :-)

    Paul

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    embc will get it...

    But this gives us the schools/ict support staff a chance to say demand some of thing we have wanted from them defined sla and the suggested technical network setup but nor being forced upon us.

    I still think if we at edugeek can come up with a document thats says as ict support staff this is what we would like to be seen written into any new contract. We info on heads ways heads/leas can voice the views as i suspect our head dosnt know how to do that. It gives the views across....

    anybody want to write something then?

    Russ

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    I am trying to get permission for the LEA people about sticking something on paper along these lines ... something that will be useful bits of knowledge that NMs / Techies can tell Senior Manglers to help them work out what would be the right decision.

    I have to get permission first because a) I have only seen the side from the Lead LEA in the EMBC project, and b) I *am* a Mangler ... I *have* to play the game that way ... sorry.

    Also, please remember that the EMBC is not a company as such at the moment ... it is a groups of 18 employees who manage and work with schools and the contractor (Fujitsu) to make sure a series of services are provided.

    Also remember that this is not regarded as a technical issue ... it is a monetary/political/educational issue. But we need to make sure those who make the decision are informed of all the aspects.

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    russdev's Avatar
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    Re: EMBC Schools

    once weh ave something on paper and people agree then we will release it as edugeek Bulletin which as tony says you take this to lea/heads and say this our our view.

    Russ

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    Oh don't get me wrong- I agree!

    I think we do need to have something concrete from EMBC in the way of an SLA etc. If they are going to start operating as the supplier in the way they hope, then there needs to be some accountability and some communication. If Tony can muster up a document outlining these things I will certainly take it to the head and let him raise those things for us (and he would do that).

    I'm not anti manglement at all- though it probably seems that way to many of you. Carry on with the good work- it might seem we aren't interested or behind it, but that's not the case at all.

    Paul

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    I'm glad we in the North West (Lancashire and Cumbria) don't have the problems you face. We created our own ISP and own all of our own equipment. All of our high schools are an a minimum of 11Mbps, most on 50+ Mbps and some in cabled areas on 100 Mbps. There are no multiple levels of contracts, no third party contractors doing support, and by the sounds of it no problems such as those you face.
    Our responsability ends where the connection arrives at the school. Everything in the school is their responsability and they are free to do whatever they want within their schools and any requests for ecxtra services or facilities are passed directly by them to us to see what we can do. We keep all of our schools informed by making sure that eveyone knows our numbers and who is responsable for what. I wish you the best of luck in getting the service you need.

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    We were with EMBC, but found the service to be very unreliable and the SLAs, well eh there werent'y any in my opinins because on some days we found that we didn't have any internet access and we weren't informed of anything.

    Migrated this half-term to NTL and yes its is only about £700 expensive than the EMBC so called brilliant 10mb service. We're very happy and had no problems at all with NTL. They even let you manage your own router etc.

    Ashok.

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    Here in Brum we have a similar setup to Dos_Box. We give the schools a suggested technical standard which most stick too as it makes their and our lifes easier support wise. That said they are free to do as they wish on their networks our responsibility ends at the NTE.
    A

    s for the RBC we now route a large chunk of our traffic via our RBC WMNet. This will only increase as more content & facilitys such as Video Confrencing are made available via the NEN & RBC's.

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    @ashok: How easy was the migration to NTL?

    Paul

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    yes but problem is ntl not part of national network(as far as i amaware) so going to cause problems down the line.



    Russ

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    Correct Russ. You have to be connected to the national educational grid and JANet. I doubt NTL does this, amd with many facilities coming to the fore tieing into these such as video confernacing etc it would leave a school looking very silly when they cannot carry out required curriculum activities because you cannot connect to any of the end sites.

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    At the moment there is only one ISP that is accredited to connect to the NEN and that is Redstone ... and there are a number of hoops to jump through to get to it ... and even then you only have access to some areas because RBCs are still not completely open to the NEN until Shibboleth is sorted.

    The other option to an RBC is to go directly to UKERNA and ask them for a pipe. Irregardless of what some RBCs may tell you, they do not just do universities ... they can also supply to schools, museums, libraries, prisons, courthouses ...

    They are a nice bunch and if they can do it they will do it. The issue is actually with the cost of installation. Because only one school is having it the cost is high ... if a number of schools get together the cost is lower ... and so on ...

    Again, there is the issues of accessing resources too ... SSO/Shibboleth is the stumbling block. Let's face it, most of us are still going to have to talk to someone about Shibboleth ... how many of us here can honestly say that they can reliably set up SSO on their systems to talk with anything else on the NEN?

    The bonuses of accessing an RBC instead of going your own way are pretty much educational ones. Schools collaborating together to produce and share resources, and because they are local to one another it can be managed and focussed by an LEA ...

    Anyway ... I'll let people know more when I have it.

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    Re: EMBC Schools

    Quote Originally Posted by kingswood
    @ashok: How easy was the migration to NTL?

    Paul
    Hi Paul,

    The migration was quite easy really they installed all their kit, and we only had to connect the serial cables to our router. IN our case we have 4 x 2mb serial lines (8mb in total) that utilises Point to Point protocol so the router config is easy as well.

    They wavied the install cost as well and we only had to pay a £500 odd one of fee for installation and we went for a non managed service so we can use our own router and control it.

    We had enough time to carry out testing because to get out of the contract with EMBC we had to give them a year's notice so we are still infact paying EMBC now and i think the contract will end in May 06. It was not an easy thing to pursuade embc or the LEA to allow us to go on our own but in the end the headteacher outlines some real problems that we had with embc and they backed down.

    Now i do understand that if you do go out of embc you lose the ability to connect to NEN and all that stuff but NTL are soon to becom Becta accredited and will then work with relevant parties to join NEN or partly join NEN (where they supply connections to schools).

    Having recently installed ISA Server 2004 to control net access and provide firewall services we have not seen the traffic going over 3mb where as with embc it was flatlining all the time. With isa we have been very strict on what kids can do and what they access. Only allow access to HTTP and HTTPS to students and that it.

    HTH,

    Ashok.

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