E-Rate Funding in Jeopardy - CIPA Rules Require Your Attention

Congress passed the Child Internet Protection Act in December 2000, which was subsequently contested and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2003 as constitutional. The law was created out of growing concerns that students and patrons of libraries and other institutions could access offensive material through the shared computer and Internet services provided by those institutions. An outline of the main provisions of the law is provided below.

The "teeth" in the law is its provision that E-Rate funds may be withheld if the schools, libraries and other institutions that receive E-Rate funds fail to certify that they have put into place measures that block offensive content and have established an Internet use and guidelines. The deadline for certification is the start of the new E-Rate funding cycle - July 1 - each year.


What CIPA Requires

Schools and libraries subject to CIPA may not receive the discounts offered by the E-rate program unless they certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures. The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors).

Before adopting this Internet safety policy, schools and libraries must provide reasonable notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposal. Schools subject to CIPA are required to adopt and enforce a policy to monitor online activities of minors.

Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing: (a) access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet; (b) the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications; (c) unauthorized access, including so-called "hacking," and other unlawful activities by minors online; (d) unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and (e) measures restricting minors' access to materials harmful to them.

Per the FCC, schools and libraries are required to certify that they have their safety policies and technology in place before receiving E-Rate funding.