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Senate Passes Internet Filtering Requirement

The Senate July 21 adopted an amendment to the fiscal 1999 appropriations bill for the Federal Communications Commission that would require schools and libraries to certify that they have installed filtering software on their computers with Internet access before they can receive E-rate funding.

Under the amendment to S 2260, schools would have to certify that they have selected a filtering system for their computers with Internet access and that they have installed or will install a filtering system when they obtain such computers. Libraries must certify that they use filtering software on one or more of their computers with Internet access. Libraries would have to notify the Federal Communications Commission within 10 days if they change filtering systems or stop using one.

The amendment, which passed on a voice vote, would leave it up to schools and libraries to define what is considered inappropriate for minors. The measure provides no additional guidance to the FCC on how to implement the requirement.

The amendment, attached to the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments, was proposed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., opposed the measure, saying schools and libraries should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to use filtering software. Burns had proposed an alternative that would have instead required E-rate recipients to have acceptable use policies in place. Burns said he would continue to work to modify the filtering software requirement as the appropriations bill moves to a conference committee with the House.

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