Search the news for “school ransomware” and you will quickly understand why network security is such an important topic these days for schools and libraries. It is why organizations like CoSN are working hard to educate their members as to the risks of not adequately protecting their systems and what all is required to keep them safe.

Network security is a top priority; but the E-rate eligible services list is sadly outdated. The current E-rate rules prohibit network security, management and monitoring functions from being purchased. Only firewalls are allowed -- which is sort of like supporting door locks but ignoring the open windows and discouraging security alarms. An outdated eligible services list should not stand in the way of a healthy network that is up and running, accessible to students and library patrons.

What would it cost the E-rate program to support this critical functionality? A review of recent funding years’ funding commitments shows an average of 3.5% of Category Two project costs are for ineligible functions.
 
Assuming there is an average annual demand of $1.055 billion for Category Two discounts, this 3.5% ineligible fee would translate to $36,925,000 per year in additional E-rate support. Note: the actual math is a trickier than that because once a budget is fully utilized it cannot accommodate an extra 3.5% charge; therefore, the net increase would be less than 3.5%.

Adding security and other functionality to the eligible services list would be a positive step for schools and libraries; it would help them better secure their networks; it would also streamline and simplify the E-rate application process; and, because C2 expenses are already subject to a budget, it is unlikely that these new items would add significantly to the amount of E-rate funding requested each year.