FCC Spending $200M on K-12 Cyber Help


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to spend $200 million over the next three years to send much-needed cybersecurity help to K-12 schools and libraries, and then to evaluate the effectiveness of those investments to shape further security assistance to schools and libraries going forward.

The Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program approved by the FCC on June 6 will be funded with money generated by the agency’s existing Universal Service Fund (USF) – and will not depend on appropriations approved by Congress.

The FCC uses USF program funds to support access to services at reasonable rates for people living in rural and high-cost areas as well as income-eligible consumers, and to support providing services for rural health care facilities and school and libraries.

The FCC said the Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program, “will allow the Commission to obtain actionable data about which cybersecurity services and equipment would best help K-12 schools and libraries address the growing cyber threats and attacks against their broadband networks.”

“From this program, the Commission aims to learn how to improve school and library defenses against sophisticated ransomware and cyberattacks that put students at risk and impede their learning,” the agency said.

“The pilot program will allow the Commission to gather the data needed to better understand whether and how universal service funds could be used to support the cybersecurity needs of schools and libraries and to share lessons learned with our Federal partners to jointly combat this growing problem,” the FCC said.

Funding from the pilot will be used to defray the costs of eligible cybersecurity services and equipment used by schools and libraries that participate in the program.

The pilot program is another component to Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s Learn Without Limits initiative. That initiative aims to reduce the “homework gap” in the U.S. by ensuring connectivity in schools and libraries so that all U.S. students have access to high-speed Internet services.

In a statement in support of the FCC’s vote to approve the pilot program, Rosenworcel cited the high rate of cyberattacks against K-12 schools in 2023, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) findings that disruptions to victimized schools can last for weeks and cost millions of dollars to remediate.

“This situation is complex,” she said, “but the vulnerabilities in the networks we have in our Nation’s schools and libraries are real – and growing. So today we are doing something about it.”

“We also know this is a multifaceted problem and there are many others at the local, state, and Federal level, including the Department of Education and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, that need to be part of the solution,” the FCC chairwoman said.

“We do not have all the answers,” she added, “but we can use our authority at the Commission to start asking the right questions.”

“Ultimately, we want to learn from this effort, identify how to get the balance right, and provide our local, state, and Federal government partners with actionable data about the most effective and coordinated way to address this growing problem,” Rosenworcel said.