School

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel is asking fellow FCC commissioners to support a proposal to invest up to $200 million over three years to enhance school cybersecurity. In a speech before the School Superintendents Association and the Association of School Business officers, Rosenworcel said she would be sharing the proposal with fellow commissioners.

The proposal will come in the form of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks comment on a pilot program to support cybersecurity and advanced firewall-related services for eligible K-12 schools and libraries.

“With the growing number of sophisticated cyberattacks on schools and especially the rise in malicious ransomware attacks that harm our students, now is the time to take action,” Rosenworcel said in a press release

“We’re proposing a significant investment of up to $200 million over three years to harden the cyber defenses and determine the most effective methods to protect our schools and libraries.  Our pilot program will work in tandem with federal agency partners that have deep expertise in this area.”

The proposal is the latest step in Rosenworcel’s recently launched Learn Without Limits initiative to modernize the E-Rate program. But while both the proposed program and the E-Rate program would be funded through the Universal Service Fund program, the pilot program would be separate from E-Rate.

This would enable cybersecurity to be increased without “undermining” E-Rate’s primary mandate of promoting digital equity, the press release said.

Last December, the FCC issued a notice seeking comment on to make advanced firewalls or other network security services E-Rate eligible.

Another change to the E-Rate program that Rosenworcel has recommended is to allow E-Rate funding to be used for Wi-Fi hotspots to be provided to students or patrons of public libraries, school libraries and schools for check out.

She also recommended allowing E-Rate funding to be used for Wi-Fi service on busses. Rural students in rural areas spend long periods on busses and can use the time constructively if the infrastructure is in place — an idea she also proposed last year.

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