Jul 27 2023

FCC Proposes a New Funding Program for K–12 Cybersecurity

The three-year, $200 million program would exist separately from E-rate funding, the Federal Communications Commission’s chairwoman said.

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel recently announced a proposal for a three-year, $200 million pilot program to fund cybersecurity technologies in K–12 schools and public libraries. The announcement comes in the wake of a push for the FCC to include cybersecurity upgrades in E-rate funding.

If adopted, the program would exist separately from E-rate so as not to “come at a cost of undermining E-rate’s success in promoting digital equity,” Rosenworcel said in a press release. 

Organizations including The Consortium for School Networking and Funds for Learning have spearheaded efforts to expand the existing E-rate program, which only applies to technologies for improved network connectivity. Proponents of the change cite the rise in cyberattacks against K–12 institutions as evidence that schools need better cybersecurity solutions. CoSN’s most recent report revealed that cybersecurity remains a top concern for K–12 IT leaders.

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In the wake of the announcement, Brian Stephens, director of stakeholder engagement at Funds For Learning, says, “Funds For Learning applauds FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s pilot program proposal to advance federal support for cybersecurity services for K–12 schools. The increasing number of cyberattacks targeting educational institutions and the rise of malicious ransomware attacks have highlighted the urgent need for enhanced protection measures.”

Other organizations also have shared their support of Rosenworcel’s proposal.

 

“Cyberattacks present a triple threat for our nation’s schools and libraries,” the National School Boards Association’s Executive Director and CEO Verjeana McCotter-Jacobs said in a press release.

“Cyberattacks shut down computer networks, resulting in lost learning time for students and financial losses to districts, but they can also put the personal data of students and school employees at risk, potentially resulting in the theft of social security numbers, birth dates and other private information,” she added.

If adopted, the proposal would be the third phase of Rosenworcel’s Learn Without Limits program, which attempts to modernize E-rate funding for today’s learning environment. The first two phases allow E-rate to support Wi-Fi access on school buses and help public libraries circulate Wi-Fi hotspots.

UP NEXT: Wi-Fi 6 can help K–12 schools outmaneuver bad actors.

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