Northern Grid's new £8.3m BT network suffers major service disruption

The Northern Grid for Learning, which recently awarded an £8.3 million contract to BT Global Services to provide broadband services to schools and local authorities in the North East, has been experiencing major service issues over the past few days.

Poor experience of internet browsing in most schools on the network was first reported on Monday, September 3, just as children across the country return to school returned to school. Problems have persisted throughout the week, and the root cause has not yet been identified.

BT, which took over management of the network in July, has escalated the issue to Critical Priority Level 1, and has brought in an independent international expert team of network designers and engineers to go over every element of the core network, according to Northern Grid.

Throughout yesterday, the team validated and double checked the core network design to ensure that there were no conflicts or bottlenecks within the core network. The design and functionality of the core network was also thoroughly tested and approved.

BT has done over one million “pings” to all sites linked to the network. Parts of the network have been taken down, tested individually, re-connected and re-tested. All these tests were successful and no faults could be found within the core network.

“Despite these tests and intense scrutiny, we know that the experience of internet browsing for most schools has been poor, although a number of sites reported improvements from early afternoon,” said Northern Grid in a statement issued last night.

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“BT will continue to investigate these problems on Friday 7th September, moving their investigations from the core network to the links with the wider internet. More tests and some changes will happen overnight and during Friday.”

The organisation added that Northern Grid and BT understand the importance of reliable and effective internet access, and promised that everything is being done to rectify the problem.

“A fault within the Northern Grid network is affecting internet services in some local council offices and schools in the North East. Voice services are unaffected,” said BT in a statement emailed to Computerworld UK.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience and are working to restore normal services as quickly as possible.”

Northern Grid is a not-for-profit, regional broadband consortium that is owned by Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton, North Tyneside and South Tyneside.

Under the terms of the £8.3 million contract, BT was commissioned to deliver a regional wide area network (WAN), last mile connections to schools and local authorities, as well as security services. The network was also required to be fully PSN compliant.