FCC Approves $200M for Cybersecurity in Schools

Cybersecurity Schools Funding FCC

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a $200 million program aimed at improving cybersecurity in schools and libraries. This pilot program will allocate funds from the larger Universal Service Fund to schools and libraries that are looking to upgrade their data and network security equipment. In return, the FCC will collect data on the equipment to help develop a larger program for cybersecurity rollouts.

The FCC has clarified that the cybersecurity funds will not impact e-rate, a similar program that provides funds for schools and libraries to install or update their internet services and network hardware.

The measure was passed by a 3-2 vote, a common occurrence as the commission often tends to split along party lines. Those commissioners who supported the measure highlighted the ongoing wave of ransomware attacks against school districts, emphasizing the need for more funding for cybersecurity technology in schools and libraries.

High-profile ransomware incidents have occurred in recent years in school districts in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Los Angeles. Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who spearheaded the pilot program as part of a larger technology funding package, pointed to these and other ransomware incidents to highlight that many schools not only lack adequate cybersecurity protections but are also unprepared to deal with the consequences of an attack and subsequent data breach.

Rosenworcel noted, “The recovery time for the school district can take as long as nine months. On top of that, the expense of addressing these attacks may mean millions for districts that never had this kind of thing as a line item on their annual budget.

Commissioner Geoffry Starks, who also supported the program, emphasized that breaches are particularly dangerous for schools due to the potential loss of student data. He said, “Our schools possess massive amounts of data about students, including their Social Security numbers, health records, disciplinary records, and other personally identifiable information. Accordingly, schools are target-rich environments for cyberattacks, such as ransomware, and are low hanging fruit because they are often resource-constrained and lack cyber expertise.”

The FCC’s initiative is a significant step towards enhancing cybersecurity in educational institutions, protecting them from potential cyber threats, and ensuring the safety of student data.

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