The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to launch a $200 million Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program to better protect K-12 infrastructure from cyber threats.
The program – part of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s Learn Without Limits initiative – would allow the commission to collect valuable data on cybersecurity and advanced firewall services that would help K-12 schools improve their cyber posture.
“This pilot program is 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,” Rosenworcel said in a press release.
“Protecting our students is a critically important task and one that touches on the mission of several federal agencies,” she added. “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.”
The Learn Without Limits initiative looks to expand connectivity for online learning and help put an end to the “Homework Gap” so that all students have broadband access.
The proposed pilot program calls for an investment of up to $200 million over three years, and it would be established within the Universal Service Fund (USF), but would be separate from the FCC’s E-Rate program.
The FCC said the program “would seek to learn more about which cybersecurity and advanced firewall services will have the greatest impact in helping K-12 schools and libraries protect their broadband networks and data, while also ensuring that limited USF funds are being utilized in the most effective manner.”
Additionally, the program would provide funding to help K-12 schools pay for the cybersecurity and advanced firewall services needed to protect their E-Rate-funded broadband networks and data.
This announcement comes after the FCC proposed allowing schools and libraries to apply for funding from the FCC’s E-Rate program for Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless internet access services that can be used off-premises.
It also comes after the FCC announced that it will allow E-Rate funding to be used for Wi-Fi on school buses starting in the funding year 2024 as the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program is set to sunset.