NSBA joined ten other organizations in filing comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to the Wireline Competition Bureau’s request for public input regarding the use of E-rate program funds to enable schools and libraries to combat cyberattacks.
“Congress established the E-rate a quarter century ago because leaders recognized that without expanded universal service investments the emerging digital economy would leave many schools and libraries behind,” the organizations write in the filing. “Today, the same community anchor institutions that Congress helped in 1996 are once again on the wrong side of a national digital divide. This time, community anchors – namely our schools and libraries - are falling into a cybersecurity gap that threatens students’ and library patrons’ private data and prevents them from fully realizing the learning, workforce, and other benefits that broadband connectivity conveys.”
The organizations, which represent schools, school districts, state education agencies, libraries, and other institutions responsible for delivering secure broadband access to schools and libraries, urge the Wireline Competition Bureau to:
- Make advanced or next generation firewalls and related features eligible for E-rate Category 2 support beginning in 2024;
- Increase Category 2 funding levels, within the E-rate program’s existing aggregate cap, to cover modern firewalls; and
- Provide this limited E-rate cybersecurity support in a manner that is minimally burdensome to applicants and permits schools and libraries to select the modern firewall technology most aligned to their needs.