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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CIPA changes coming in July

And the wheels of progress grind on. Back in October 2008, Congress passed a change to the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). In November 2009, the FCC released an NPRM to put the law into force. And last week, we finally got the new rules.

The bottom line: By July 2012, for all schools applying for Internet Access, Internal Connections or Basic Maintenance, the "Internet safety policy must provide for the education of minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response."

Libraries are exempt from the training requirement. I guess that since the form doesn't actually list the requirements, they won't need to create a forked certification.

The good news is that the FCC gave everyone plenty of time to update their policies. Now the question is, will schools get the message? And will those schools that don't find out about the new rules get waivers? Applicants who are new to the E-Rate process get a one-year grace period, but schools who have applied under the old rules must comply by July 2012.

Then paragraph 9 sent a chill down my spine: "We also revise certain rules to conform more accurately to the existing statutory language, as proposed in the NPRM. We emphasize that these revisions do not impose additional obligations on E-rate participants, but merely mirror the existing statutory language and codify existing statutory requirements. Many of our modifications will simplify the application process...." Dang, there are 16 paragraphs left. 16 paragraphs of minor clarifications? Minor clarifications have had a tendency to be major retroactive rule changes. I expected a bumpy ride.

But these really do seem to be both minor and clarifications. Whew! Paragraphs 14-17 are especially nice, as they let applicants decide when and how to disable filters, and what content is inappropriate.

Paragraph 23 is a disappointment. There has been quite a bit of confusion about how CIPA requirements apply to staff smartphones. Since they can browse the Internet, shouldn't they be filtered? And with the piloting of remote Internet access for students (Learning on the Go, nee Education Deployed Ubiquitously), it becomes a real issue. The FCC response? "That's a good question. Maybe we'll think about that." But better no response than a bad response, I guess.

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