Yesterday the House passed the "Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006 (H.R. 5319) by a large margin. The bill would require that "recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms."
During debate, Rep. Upton (R-MI) stated "At its heart, the bill before us today would require schools which receive e-rate funding, and I would note that I am a strong supporter of e-rate funding, to enforce a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring their online activities and the protection measures to protect against access to commercial social networking Web sites or chat rooms, unless used for an educational purpose with adult supervision….Additionally, this bill would require libraries which receive e-rate funding to enforce a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure that protects against access by minors to commercial social networking Web sites or chat rooms unless they have parental authorization and the library informs parents that sexual predators can use those Web sites and chat rooms to prey on kids."
Several education and library groups oppose the bill. The National Schools Board Association is concerned that the bill "would not substantially improve safety of students, and would place an added and unnecessary burden on schools." The NSBA further has argued that "the legislation does not address the real issue of educating children about the dangers of the Internet and how to use it responsibly and wisely…"
There is no indication when the Senate may take up this measure.
As many of you may know, Congress is in the process of debating and updating our communication and telecommunications laws. In order to avoid confusion, here is an update on Congressional action to date.
- The House passed their version of the Communications bill a couple of months ago which does not focus on Universal Service issues.
- The Senate Commerce Committee recently debated their version of the Communications bill. The Senate bill includes language exempting Universal Service from the Anti-Deficiency Act. There were several hostile E-rate amendments that were withdrawn.
- At the moment, it does not look like the full Senate will debate and vote on the Communications bill until early fall. If the Senate passes the bill then the House and Senate will appoint conferees to settle differences between the two versions. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, has been a champion of Universal Service issues and will fight to see any legislation that moves forward must have positive Universal Service reform included.
Throughout the summer and fall months Funds For Learning will be committed to keeping you updated on any late breaking E-rate related news from Washington, DC.