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FCC adopts $200M cybersecurity pilot program for schools and libraries

The program explores how Universal Service Fund support could help protect against cyber threats.

The Federal Communications Commission last week adopted a three-year, $200 million Schools and Libraries Cybersecurity Pilot Program, through which it seeks 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.

The agency’s program includes Puerto Rico’s schools and libraries.

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

The pilot program will allow the federal agency 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 federal partners to jointly combat this growing problem.

Modeled after the Connected Care Pilot Program, the pilot program will make $200 million in Universal Service Fund support available to participating schools and libraries to defray the costs of eligible cybersecurity services and equipment.  

These funds are separate from the Commission’s E-Rate program, to ensure gains in enhanced cybersecurity do not undermine E-Rate’s success in connecting schools and libraries and promoting digital equity, it stated.

This pilot program is part of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s Learn Without Limits initiative to address the Homework Gap by ensuring connectivity in schools and libraries “so everyone, everywhere” has access to high-speed internet services.  

This initiative includes Wi-Fi on school buses, E-Rate support for libraries in tribal communities, and funding from the FCC’s E-Rate program for the off-premises use of Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless internet access services.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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