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iboss 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I also propose, as public officials comply with outdated Federal mandates, polices, and are challenged by decreasing funding, we will remain at the back of the pack of countries leveraging connectivity in the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 1st in Reading, Math and Science.  As of 2017 the U.S. came in 17th in 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.

iboss 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.

With the threat landscape more complex and aggressive today than ever before, security solutions that don’t feature advanced threat prevention capabilities are simply inadequate and only increase the risk districts face. Rather, iboss believes all districts, no matter their size requires a layered defense that only robust gateway solutions can deliver verses one-off solutions like firewalls – which only provide baseline data scanning – put academic networks in harm’s way while eating up budget that could be allocated to more comprehensive solutions.

To learn more about how iboss effectively secures students against a wide range of threats, watch our case study with the Boston Public Schools.  Also, to view the entire iboss response to the FCC advocating for the inclusion of Advanced Threat Defense in to the ESL, please visit the PDF document here.

Be sure to also visit Richard at the iboss booth 1056 at ISTE.

Richard Quinones has spent over 20 years taking on important IT leadership roles at the county, state and national levels. His past experience includes being appointed Los Angeles County’s first chief education technology officer, where he led the delivery of IT services across 80 school districts and five community colleges. He was also appointed senior IT advisor to the National Advisory Council on Education Technology (NACET), and commissioned to advance the roll-out of the U.S. President’s National Public Schools Broadband Initiative. He has also served as senior technology advisor to Los Angeles Unified School District officials, including the office of the chief information officer, and chief executive officer of strategic planning and digital innovation. Richard holds a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in e-government from University of La Verne.