In October of 2008, Congress passed a bill amending the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and require E-rate participants to create online safety education programs by July 1, 2010 in order to receive E-rate funding. In November of 2009, the FCC finally released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) providing further details about how this would impact E-rate stakeholders. In essence these new CIPA certifications broaden the scope of provisions already contained in the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. These new certifications are to be made via the Form 486. Although the FCC has yet to adopt the Final Rules regarding the new certifications, applicants are required to be in compliance by July 1, 2010.
New Proposed Requirements
Since the Final Rules have yet to be issued it is difficult to predict the potential ramifications of these regulations on E-rate stakeholders However, the NPRM offers a good indication as to the direction in which the FCC is headed in terms of additional CIPA compliance certifications.
One of the most significant proposed changes to CIPA would be to require applicants to revise their Internet safety policies to include education about appropriate online behavior on social networking sites as well as in chat rooms. In order to remain in compliance Funds For learning is recommending that you review your Internet Safety Policy to ensure its conformity with the new CIPA certifications prior to July 1, 2010. Unfortunately, the FCC did not build in a time period in which to allow applicants an opportunity to comply with the new certifications post July 1. Therefore, applicants must be in compliance with this new requirement by the time services are received in the 2010 E-rate Funding Year.
The second requirement also involves an applicant’s Internet Safety Policy. The promulgated rules mandate that an applicant’s Internet Safety Policy must include education regarding cyberbullying awareness and response. Again, Funds For Learning is recommending that you review your Internet Safety Policy to ensure this requirement is met. If your current policy does not meet these new requirements it will need to be updated or modified to reflect these changes. It is important to note that the Commission also seeks to make an applicant’s Internet Safety Policy available to the FCC upon request by the Commission.
Although the requirement of a public notice or hearing regarding an entity’s Internet Safety Policy is mandated by statute there is no provision in the rules addressing this issue. As such, the NPRM proposes to require a public notice or hearing. However, this would only apply to an applicant who has not already provided such notice and hearing relating to their respective Internet Safety Policy. Since the Final Rules have not been issued, the NPRM is silent as to whether this would apply to applicants who are modifying their Internet Safety Policy to remain compliant with these new CIPA certifications.
The NPRM also attempts to define more accurately the existing statutory language regarding the CIPA certifications. Please note that the definitions may be codified differently according to your state and local laws. First, the FCC seeks to revise the definitions of elementary and secondary schools so that these terms are consistent throughout the Act. Second, the NPRM proposes to include “school board” under the definition of entities that are subject to CIPA certifications. Next, the statutory definitions of “minor”, “obscene”, “child pornography”, “harmful to minors”, “sexual act” and “technology protection measure” would be added to the rules in an effort to more clearly clarify the CIPA requirements.
Another potential revision would be to require technology protection measures to be in operation during any use of computers with Internet access. The NPRM proposes that these technology protection measures could be disabled by an authorized person during adult computer usage to enable Internet access for research or other lawful purposes.
If your current Internet Safety Policy does not include the new requirements then it will need to be modified or updated prior to July 1st. We recommend that you retain a copy of your Internet Safety Policy as well as evidence of any public notice or hearing regarding the changes made to your policy. Funds For Learning will continue to monitor any new developments with the proposed new CIPA certifications and will alert you of any changes. If you have any questions regarding the new certifications please contact your Funds For Learning compliance account Analyst.