CoSN, SETDA, SECA, All4Ed, SHLB & CGCS Submit E-Rate Cybersecurity Cost Estimate to FCC


Petition for Expanded Use of E-Rate Funds for K-12 Cybersecurity Needs

CoSN, SETDA, SECA, All4Ed, SHLB and CGCS have submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) an estimate outlining the cost to provide much-needed cybersecurity protections to U.S. K-12 school districts and a petition for declaratory relief and rulemaking urging the agency to expand the E-rate program to cover these protections. Cybercriminals are targeting K-12 schools, leading to ransomware attacks, student and teacher data theft, and the disruption of remote learning activities.

The E-rate Cybersecurity Cost Estimate, developed by CoSN and Funds For Learning, organizes industry standard protections into three key categories and estimates the average cost for each bundle:

  • Next-generation firewalls: $0.738 billion
  • Next-generation firewalls and endpoint protection: $1.606 billion
  • Next-generation firewalls, endpoint protection and advanced+ security: $2.389 billion

The cost estimates are 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.

“The 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. “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.”

“The 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,” said 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.”

The petition for declaratory relief and rulemaking urges the FCC to help K-12 school districts protect their networks and data by expanding the E-rate program’s cybersecurity coverage. Specifically, the groups call on the agency to strengthen the E-rate by:

  • Defining all firewall and related features as “basic” beginning in funding year 2021;
  • Increasing the E-rate’s five-year Category 2 budget cap in future funding years to support needed additional cybersecurity investments; and
  • Updating the agency’s definition of “broadband” to include cybersecurity.

Read additional comments regarding this FCC filing from SECA, All4Ed, SHLB and CGCS. The recording of a recent webinar about K-12 cybersecurity funding and the E-rate Cybersecurity Cost Estimate report is available to watch here.

Learn more about CoSN’s advocacy efforts and review a new policy report on 2020 cybersecurity legislation. CoSN also has other resources to help school district leaders learn about cybersecurity. Check out additional E-rate resources and news from Funds For Learning here.

The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.

Current issue of Equity & Access:

Equity & Access - Issue 28

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