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FCC greenlights $200M pilot for school and library cybersecurity | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to kickstart a three year pilot program that would study the use of agency funding to support cybersecurity services and equipment for school and library networks.

The vote allows the agency to devote up to $200 million from its Universal Service Fund toward school and library applicants that request better equipment and services to help stop cyberattacks against such institutions. 

USF is a funding tool that supports internet costs for eligible low-income entities, including schools. The commission has mainly relied on a longstanding E-Rate program to provide funding for schools and libraries, though the funds for the new pilot program are separate “to ensure gains in enhanced cybersecurity do not undermine E-Rate’s success in connecting schools and libraries and promoting digital equity,” an agency statement said.

School and library cyberattacks have plagued headlines for months. Seattle’s public library this week is still recovering from a late May ransomware attack.

The uptrend led to the White House last year convening industry support to move the needle on boosting school cyberdefenses. The private sector at the time announced several voluntary commitments, including grant programs and free or subsidized cybersecurity offerings for schools.

“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. We do not have all the answers. But we can use our authority at the Commission to start asking the right questions,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

The American Library Association strongly backed the vote.

“The FCC’s decision today to create a cybersecurity pilot is an important step forward for our nation’s libraries and library workers, too many of whom face escalating costs to secure their institution’s systems and data,” said ALA President Emily Drabinski in a statement to Nextgov/FCW. “We remain steadfast in our call for a long-term funding mechanism that will ensure libraries can continue to offer the access and information their communities rely on.”

The agency on Thursday also advanced a proposal that would require the nine largest U.S. broadband providers to regularly file plans they’re developing to bolster the cybersecurity of the Border Gateway Protocol, a backbone data transmission algorithm that determines the optimal pathways data packets should take to move across networks.

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