The Federal Communications Commission recently announced modernization updates to its E-rate program to help small and rural schools improve and maintain access to reliable high-speed internet connections. But while the updates addressed many school leaders’ concerns, funding for cybersecurity still isn't included, EdScoop reports.
The changes specify funding will be provided for the program’s Category 2 services, which include internal school connections, and the minimum subsidy for those services rose to $25,000 for a five-year funding cycle, up from $9,200.
A request by educators to deliver funds to districts — rather than schools — was also included in the changes, and while funding to boost cybersecurity was left out this time, stakeholders are hopeful for future updates.
Earlier this year, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) urged the FCC to include network security as one of E-rate’s eligible uses. The organization's Fall 2019 K-12 Cybersecurity Cost Report finds schools are at higher risk of data breaches and cyber attacks but have little money to invest in systems to prevent the attacks.
In a statement attached to the updates, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Riley said adding cybersecurity services may still happen. Meanwhile, the number of hackers stealing data continues to grow.
The National Education Association says the E-rate program has successfully connected most schools to the internet and allowed for in-school WiFi. However, critics of the program suggest the internet speeds are still too slow. The State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) recommends schools provide at least 250 KBPS per student to support blended learning or flipped classrooms, but the FCC goal set in 2014 was only 100 KBPS.
To further the reach of the program, a report by the Government Accountability Office said the FCC would look into the cost of making the E-rate program available to students living in households without wireless internet access.