Image: Taylor Flow / Unsplash

FCC launches $200 million program to bolster cybersecurity for schools and libraries

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday announced it is funding a $200 million pilot program for schools and libraries intended to help the agency better understand the education sector’s cybersecurity needs in the face of growing cyber threats, particularly ransomware attacks.

The program is designed to help the FCC gather “actionable” data it needs to inform how a “universal service fund” can be used to support K-12 schools and libraries, as well as to glean information to share with other federal agencies as they jointly combat the threat posed to the institutions.

The $200 million price tag for the pilot program will provide financial support to schools and libraries seeking to reduce their costs in maintaining cybersecurity service and equipment. 

The FCC noted in a press release that the funds are separate from those included in its E-Rate program to help schools and libraries to obtain affordable broadband, and are meant “to ensure gains in enhanced cybersecurity do not undermine E-Rate’s success in connecting schools and libraries and promoting digital equity.”

The new program was approved by a 3-2 vote at a Thursday FCC meeting. 

The effort is part of a larger initiative to address the so-called homework gap by bolstering connectivity in schools and libraries so all students have access to high-speed Internet services, the agency said.  

At least 48 U.S. K-12 school districts have been impacted by ransomware this year through June 5, according to Emsisoft analyst Brett Callow.

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