Between 2000 and 2001, ten Regional Broadband Consortia (RBCs) were set up under the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) initiative. Their common aim was to realise the promise of broadband technology in education, connecting all learning communities across England. The RBCs are groups of Local Authorities (LAs) that were established to provide cost effective and co-ordinated connectivity between schools and the Internet. They were responsible for rolling out broadband to all schools in their regions by 2006. This project was delivered on time, in budget and in most cases beyond specification. During 2003, the networks they created were joined together by high speed links via the JANET (UK) network (developed originally for the Higher Education sector), creating a single and secure private network, known originally as the National Education Network (NEN), when joined with the Broadband initiatives in Learning and Teaching Scotland, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
This network means that schools can enjoy a range of broadband services without individual pupils going onto the Internet. Many Internet resources are mirrored within the network, offering faster performance to users as well as greater security. Users can also access the wider Internet through NEN’s secure gateways, with access policies managed by the local RBC. NEN ensures that all schools, colleges and universities are connected through a single backbone, enabling a high quality learning experience in a safe and secure networked environment.
Late in 2011 the National Education Network changed to ‘NEN –The Education Network’. NEN is no longer an acronym. NEN continues to support schools and Local Authorities and with the wider choice that schools have NEN are providing a wealth of support and advice. NEN also works with industry and policy makers to provide advice, standards and support that will assist schools in making the right choices in the complicated and competitive arena of broadband provision and its services.