Telecoms and internet service provider (ISP) Thus has agreed a three-year contract with City of Sunderland authorities to link up 89 primary and 18 secondary schools to high-speed internet access.
Thus is opening a one-gigabit link between its ICT headquarters and Sunderland's Civic Centre to provide the necessary network capacity.
The ISP's figures show that, although 99 per cent of UK schools are now connected to the internet, the vast majority rely on slower, narrowband connections.
One of the key targets of the government's National Grid for Learning programme is to provide at least 20 per cent of schools, including all secondary schools, with broadband internet connections this year.
Figures from the Office for National Statistic cited by Thus show that nine per cent of primary schools, 66 per cent of secondary schools and 10 per cent of special schools have broadband.
In spite of recent improvements, Sunderland ranks as the 15th most deprived district in the UK, out of 354, according to statistics from the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
The deal will give children from low-income families access to broadband at school.
"Schools without broadband are suffering from a 'connectivity bottleneck' with their internet access too slow and incapable of handling the number of users they have," said Bill Allan, chief executive at Thus.
"There are proven links between the standard of education, pupils' results and the quality of technology provision.
"The government must accelerate its investment in broadband and commit to connecting all schools to broadband by 2004."
David Staples, head of strategy and performance at Sunderland Education Authority, added: "ICT is central to the national curriculum and to children's futures, and broadband will certainly help in raising standards and improving their enjoyment of school."
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