• R. Quinones

NACC to the FCC: Include Advanced Threat Defense Technology in the E-rate Program

Schools across the nation consider Internet connectivity essential to meet their academic goals – a trend that will inevitably proliferate in the years to come. But the funding to connect public schools to online resources often hinges on the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) E-rate Program for schools and libraries, offering districts much needed monetary discounts for the cost of connecting to the commercial internet. 

As part of the program, school districts that cannot ensure compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) will be ineligible to receive E-rate discounts. Keep in mind that the latest, most significant cyber threats – as they pertain to protecting students from harmful online material to remain compliant with CIPA - continue to evade traditional firewalls, which is currently the only security technology districts can discount through E-rate. The point of this blog and the written opinion iboss presented before the FCC is that the current FCC- E-rate Eligibility Services List must be modified to include Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) technologies.

In direct contrast to the increasing dependency on broadband connectivity, the U.S. Department of Education has confirmed nearly 50 percent of all public districts surveyed in 2016 reported spending less than four percent of their technology budget on cybersecurity; almost 20 percent of schools and districts reported spending less than one percent; and only 42 percent of school and district technology leaders believe their organizations take a proactive or very proactive approach to addressing cybersecurity.

What makes these stats so alarming is the fact that in a 2015 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, public education was ranked the number two U.S. target of hackers. This emphasizes the reality that cybersecurity attacks represent a very real and significant threat to public education networks connecting to broadband services.

I believe our efforts to construct and provision a super (broadband) highway without sufficient cybersecurity protections only places a greater risk; to not only our student's safety and that of their identity, but it hinders the degree to which we can fully exploit the power of digital resources to influence teaching and learning. 

I also propose, as public officials comply with outdated Federal mandates, polices, and are challenged by decreasing funding, we will remain at the back of the pack of countries leveraging connectivity in the classroom – including Finland who in 2015 ranked 1stin Reading, Math and Science.  As of 2017 the U.S. came in 17thin the world relative to overall academic performance. 

Of course, there is much we can do to improve our nation's public education system, and I believe one way would be to include in the E-rate program's eligibility services list (ESL) advanced threat protection technologies that are essential to securing inbound and outbound internet traffic.

The NACC supports the FCCs FY2016 order that tied the inclusion of Secure Web Gateways into the provisions of E-rate qualifications, and we’re actively pushing for similar inclusion in the FY2018/19 ESL.

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