FCC Issues Final Rules on E-rate Filtering Requirements
The Federal Communications Commission April 5 released its final regulations
for implementing the E-rate portion of the Children's Internet Protection
The rules will first apply to schools and libraries that receive support
for Internet access and internal connections in the fourth funding year, which
starts July 1, 2001. Schools and libraries that receive support only for
telecommunications services are not subject to the law, which was passed
by Congress last December.
Under the law, and the regulations now put in place by the FCC, schools
and libraries must certify by Oct. 28, 2001 that they are in compliance with
the law. The certification will be added to the Form 486, which applicants
file when their services have been delivered and they are ready to receive
support. The FCC said that even though the certification does not have to
be filed until October, schools and libraries will be required to be in
compliance with the law at the time they begin receiving discounted
services, which could be as early as July 1, 2001. However, in the program's first
year, schools and libraries will be permitted to certify that they are
merely "undertaking such actions" to put in place "an Internet safety policy and
technology protection measures," rather than having to have those things
in place already.
The FCC adopted the suggestion of commenters, including Funds For
Learning, who argued that the Form 486 was the appropriate place to make any
required certification, rather than the Form 471, as had been proposed for future
In the rules, the FCC provided no further guidance on how a "technology
protection measure" should be defined. It also said that it was prohibited
by the language of the law from extending universal service discounts to
technology protection measures or other costs associated with the law's
It put the adoption of an Internet safety policy on the same time schedule
as the adoption of technology protection measures. In addition, it specified
that if schools and libraries, "after reasonable public notice and at
least one public hearing," had already adopted an Internet safety policy that
complied with the law, they would not be required to adopt a new one. Such
policies, usually known as Acceptable Use Policies, must address a number
of issues, including hacking, the unauthorized disclosure of personal
information regarding minors and the safety and security of minors when
using electronic mail.
However, it said that because the law made no distinction between school
and library computers that are used only by adult staff, and those used by
children or the public, it had to impose the requirement on all
Internet-accessible computers used by the schools and libraries. The FCC
also left it to local communities to determine how to implement the law's
provision that permits technology protection measures to be disabled for
adults for bona fide research or other lawful uses.
Passage of the law will result in the creation of yet another new FCC
Form, the Form 479. Consortium members who are subject to the law will be
required to submit this form to the billed entity that leads the consortium. The
FCC also stipulated that if a consortium member is found not to be in
compliance with the law, it would not jeopardize the funding commitment of the rest
of the consortium.
Entities that are found not to be in compliance with the law would be
required to reimburse the Universal Service Fund for discounts that were
received during the period they were not in compliance with the law.
Unlike other E-rate disbursements, the FCC would permit schools and libraries to
reimburse the USF directly in these instances, rather than requiring
service providers to collect the money as the government's agent.
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