It’s E-Rate Prep Season — Shore Up Your Cybersecurity Defenses

Over the coming weeks and months, many districts and libraries across the U.S. will begin the long process of applying for E-Rate funding. E-Rate, also known as the FCC’s universal service Schools and Libraries Program, provides discounts of up to 90% to schools and libraries for eligible IT and telecommunications goods and services. With the publication of the proposed Eligible Services List, August marks the opening salvo of the process for many organizations.

Despite the promise of significant discounts on critical network services, the process can be complicated by due diligence and competitive bidding requirements. E-Rate requires organizations to select the solution that best meets their needs with cost being the most heavily weighted factor in their evaluation of the products that meet their specified requirements. But, best-of-breed cybersecurity products need to be selected, or organizations can be putting themselves at risk for a growing number of cyber threats.

Threats to K–12 Are on the Rise

On September 6, 2022, in the wake of a high-profile ransomware attack, on one of the largest districts in the U.S., the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a joint cybersecurity advisory warning about an increase in cyber attacks on schools and libraries during the 2022/2023 school year. According to the report, “K–12 institutions may be seen as particularly lucrative targets due to the amount of sensitive student data accessible through school systems or their managed service providers.”

In fact, an astonishing 56% of K–12 schools reported being hit by an attack in the last year and, with limited requirements to report per state guidelines, it is safe to assume that the true number is actually much higher. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has found that student academic records, and records containing personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, are the most commonly compromised information.

In response, organizations like CoSN, along with over 1100 different entities, are now pushing the FCC to make cybersecurity infrastructure 100% eligible for E-Rate funding. As of this moment, no decision has been made by the FCC, but many network and cybersecurity goods and services, such as firewalls, are currently eligible for reimbursement.

Strengthen Your Cybersecurity Posture

As your cybersecurity partner of choice, we are here to help. Palo Alto Networks provides value beyond our industry-leading technologies. Our field chief technology officers and architects are available to help K–12 leaders plan cybersecurity roadmaps, lock on strategic goals and apply industry best practices.

If you’re in the process of preparing your Form 470, account teams can assist in architecting a cybersecurity solution that helps keep students and data safe in all locations. They can also help you clearly define your requirements before you go out to bid.

Make E-Rate Easy

Palo Alto Networks can also help simplify the E-Rate application process with our best-of-breed, E-Rate eligible products, services and support. Palo Alto Networks ML-Powered NGFWs and associated SD-WAN and malware prevention services, like Wildfire and DNS Security, are all eligible for E-Rate discounts.

Ready to get started on your 470? Visit our website for more information about policy and technology considerations, detailed explanations of the E-Rate submission process and a complete list of E-Rate eligible products from Palo Alto Networks.