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All4Ed Flash: FCC Cyber Proposal

Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed $200 million to strengthen cybersecurity and protect school networks. Funding would be available over three years through a pilot program within the Universal Service Fund, but separate from the E-rate program, which currently funds internet connections within schools and libraries. This new investment would help school districts address the growing numbers of cyberattacks, which have caused learning loss, expenses, and headaches for district leaders. It’s also a direct response to pleas from over a thousand school districts and formal requests from a coalition, including All4Ed, asking the FCC to help “schools and libraries struggling on the wrong side of the cybersecurity poverty line.”

This proposal is one part of the Chairwoman’s Learn Without Limits initiative, announced last month. In addition to strengthening cybersecurity, Rosenworcel is proposing to expand internet access by funding Wi-Fi on school buses and Wi-Fi hotspots that students could check out just like a book from the school library. These policies are needed now, because federal funding for home internet access will dry up by the end of this year unless Congress replenishes the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). While they wouldn’t replace the supporty 17 million students currently receive through ECF, these proposals are a step in the right direction.

But will they actually be implemented? That depends on the U.S. Senate. In order for Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s proposals to take effect, she needs support from a majority of FCC commissioners. The FCC is supposed to have five commissioners, but today, it only has four because President Biden’s initial nominee for the fifth position – Gigi Sohn – withdrew due to opposition from Senate Republicans and Senator Joe Manchin, who said he wouldn’t vote for her.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved Biden’s new nominee, Anna Gomez, along with the reappointment of two sitting Commissioners – Geoffrey Starks, a Democrat, and Brendan Carr, a Republican.

If the full Senate approves all three nominations, the FCC will have its full slate of commissioners, including a 3-2 majority for Democrats. That would give Rosenworcel the votes she needs to push through her Learn Without Limits agenda. We’ll keep you posted once these nominations hit the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

Thank you for reading our follow up blog. We will be back with a new All4Ed Flash next week. To listen to our latest All4Ed Flash, click the link below and be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast service and social media. You can find all of our socials on linktree by clicking here.