The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking public comment on using its E-rate program to pay for school and library cybersecurity improvements, such as advanced or next-generation firewalls, according to a report from K12 Dive.

FCC is asking for input in five areas: The definition of next-generation firewalls and services; the specific equipment, services to be used and costs affiliated with next-generation firewalls; how these firewall services should be categorized under the E-rate program; any measures to ensure cost-effective choices when applicants purchase advanced firewalls; and the FCC’s legal authority to extend coverage of these services in the E-rate program.

The agency’s announcement follows requests and issues raised in recent months by The School Superintendents Association (AASA), the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), communications technology provider Cisco and E-rate consulting firm Funds For Learning, among others.

Recent calls to the FCC to include upgraded firewalls in its E-rate program come as schools continue to grapple with growing cybersecurity threats and struggle to find resources to combat these concerns.

A letter to the agency from U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-California, in December said basic firewalls “fall far short of adequately addressing the threat landscape schools face today.”

Matsui urged the FCC to collaborate with other federal agencies to help protect schools against cyberattacks. In an October report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found the Department of Education and Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency “have little to no interaction with other agencies and the K-12 community” over cybersecurity in schools.

Over a year has passed since the K-12 Cybersecurity Act of 2021 directed the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a study examining K-12 cybersecurity challenges. Because of this legislation, the FCC said it did not move forward to include advanced firewalls and additional network security services in the E-rate program for fiscal 2022. Specifically, the agency said the results of that study will “provide invaluable insights into what cybersecurity services will be most impactful for K-12 educational institutions.”

To submit a public comment to the FCC on the matter, visit Feedback must be shared by Feb. 13, and reply comments must be filed by March 30.