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Thursday, April 04, 2013

CIPA and your cell phone

The ALA published a nice article on CIPA and the First Amendment.  It's written for libraries, of course, but there is plenty of good information in there for schools, too.

Of course, I'm not going to recap the article; read it for yourself.  I'm going to pluck one-and-a-half sentences out of the article and twist them to my own purposes.  In this case, to further my quixotic (and only semi-serious) quest to throw cell phones out of the E-Rate.

"Institutions subject to CIPA’s mandate must place filters on all computers owned by the school or library, including those computers used by staff.  A person authorized by the institution may disable the filter...."

I'm no lawyer, but I think that includes the smartphones that districts get for free when they sign two-year contracts.  You could argue that the phone is not owned by the school, but I don't see that holding water.  You could also argue it's a phone, not a computer, but since your phone has more computing power than the computers on Apollo space capsules, I don't think that argument holds water, either.  So in my opinion, which of course holds no legal weight, the superintendent's iPhone should have a filter on it.  If the supe requests it, the filter can be disabled, but the filter should still be there.

I suppose a cell phone which cannot access the Internet doesn't have to be filtered.  [Obscene images can be transferred by text message, but since that doesn't involve Internet access, I suppose that CIPA doesn't apply.]  So the cheap phones that have replaced pagers on the belts of custodians are probably exempt from CIPA, but shouldn't all those administrators' smartphones be filtered?

Another unwritten loophole that must exist in order for smartphones to remain eligible for E-Rate funding.

Why is my quest only semi-serious?  Well, I've got to think that cell phone companies pay a significant amount into the Universal Service Fund, so it seems unfair not to let them get anything out of it.  On the other hand, cell phone companies get a lot of the blame for the burgeoning costs over at the High Cost (sorry, Connect America) and Low Income programs, so maybe they should leave the E-Rate.

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