Policy & Funding
New Push Made for FCC to Add Funding for Cybersecurity to E-rate
- By Dian Schaffhauser
group of K-12 organizations has banded together to urge the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) to incorporate
cybersecurity purchases into the E-rate
program. The goal of the 35-page
petition is to help school districts protect their
networks and data by expanding E-rate in three ways:
By defining all
firewall and related features as "basic" beginning in
funding year 2021;
E-rate's five-year Category 2 budget cap in future funding years to
support additional cybersecurity investments; and
agency's definition of "broadband" to include
filing was done by the Consortium
for School Networking (CoSN); the State
Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA);
E-rate Coordinators' Alliance (SECA); the Alliance
for Excellent Education (All4Ed); Schools,
Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB); and
of the Great City Schools (CGCS).
cyberattacks threatening the broadband networks and data of schools,
including the school systems serving some of the country's most
economically and academically vulnerable students, the Commission
must update the E-rate program to cover firewalls and related
features," the petition noted. "Achieving broadband equity
for students will not be possible if school networks and sensitive
student and employee data remain at the mercy of cyber-attackers. The
Commission should address this need expeditiously to help schools
prevent further attacks during the expanded remote learning required
by the pandemic."
and Funds for Learning published a report in January 2021, providing
estimate for E-rate cybersecurity. Adding
next-generation firewalls to every district supported by E-rate would
cost about $738 million annually. Building in endpoint protection as
well would boost that yearly total to $1.6 billion. And adding
"advanced+ security" (such as multi-factor authentication)
would take the annual price tag up to $2.4 billion.
cost estimates were based on an analysis of five-year price models
for third-party hardware, software and cloud-based services used to
guard schools from online attacks. Cost data was provided on a
confidential basis by leading cybersecurity manufacturers.
reality is that, nowadays, school districts are home to a vast amount
of valuable personal data that cybercriminals are interested in
stealing--that is why the FBI has warned that K-12 education is the
most targeted public sector for ransomware attacks. But schools lack
the federal funding required to effectively combat these intrusions,"
said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, in a statement. "We provided a
comprehensive report that lays out the key elements of how to secure
these vulnerable school networks, including costs, so that the FCC
can take action on this critical issue."
cyberattacks on school networks have expanded, so, too, has the need
for more robust firewalls and other cybersecurity devices. We are
regularly asked by school technology officials whether and when
E-rate funding will be made available for this purpose," added
Debra Kriete, SECA chair. "We hope the FCC will agree that
E-rate funding should be made available to help pay for sufficient
E-rate program is relied upon to provide financial aid for internet
connections to 95
percent of K-12 students. E-rate offers the most
practical, efficient and cost-effective infrastructure to mount a
strong defense against prolific cybersecurity attacks in K-12
education," noted John Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning.
"We encourage the FCC to leverage E-rate to administer aid for
cybersecurity measures outlined in this report."
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.