Thursday, December 04, 2008

Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act

October 1st, Congress passed S.1492: Broadband Data Improvement Act. Although the bill has not yet been signed by the President, his signature is expected. Title I of this bill is aimed at increasing the federal government's understanding of broadband metrics, standards, speeds, and prices. It also aims to encourage state initiatives to improve broadband deployment. This was the initial purpose of the bill when drafted and may ultimately be of interest to E-rate applicants.

Title II of the bill, however, will have a small, but more direct, impact on E-rate applicants. The short name of Title II is "Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act." Its aim is to promote safe Internet use by children and to enhance enforcement of child pornography laws. Specifically, Section 215 imposes an additional CIPA requirement for E-rate applicants' Internet Safety Policies. Such policies must include "... educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response."

Although it may be several months until either USAC or the FCC provides guidance on the new CIPA provision (including effective date, requirement for public notice of Internet Safety Policy revisions, etc.), applicants who are currently writing or rewriting their Internet Safety Policies should plan to incorporate a component dealing with online behavior education.

The text of the full bill is available at S.1492.

Based on the likelihood of a Presidential signature and the bill becoming a law, information will be sent out to all Superintendents and RESC Executive Directors indicating the new requirements, along with an amended CIPA compliance document that will supersede the existing CIPA agreement in the Technology Plan template.