E-Rate Update: FCC approves new program to protect students, schools

By: Jim Beaugez on Apr 2, 2024 9:03:21 AM


For two decades, the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program has provided school districts with billions in annual discounts on essential broadband services for schools and libraries nationwide.

Now, the Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program will provide an additional investment of up to $200 million over three years to continue narrowing the K-12 digital divide while stemming the tide of cyberattacks facing K–12 schools. The funding arrives as schools and students have become the top target of ransomware cyber attacks, affecting 647,000 students in 2022 alone.

The initiative would allow the agency to obtain data concerning the cybersecurity and advanced firewall services that would best help K-12 schools and libraries address the growing cyber threats and attacks against their broadband networks.

FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called the measure “an important pathway for hardening our defenses against sophisticated cyberattacks on schools and ransomware attacks that harm our students and get in the way of their learning.”

The initiative is part of the FCC’s Learn Without Limits, which aims to overcome the “homework gap” by providing Wi-Fi on school buses. Studies have shown providing WiFi can help close the homework gap for underprivileged students. The FCC recently approved funding for schools and libraries through the FCC’s E-Rate program for the off-premises use of WiFi hotspots and wireless internet access services.

“Protecting our students is a critically important task and one that touches on the mission of several federal agencies,” Rosenworcel said. “Ultimately, we want to learn from this effort, identify how to get the balance right, and provide our federal, state, and local government partners with actionable data about the most effective and coordinated way to address this growing problem.”

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