FCC urged to push 'user policies'

The Federal Communications Commission should not force schools and libraries to choose a particular type of technology to keep minors out of inappropriate Internet sites but should instead urge institutions to adopt "user policies," according to U.S. Commerce Department officials.

In a recent letter to the FCC, Larry Irving, the assistant commerce secretary for telecommunications and information, said, "The Federal government should encourage acceptable use policies by all public institutions that offer access to online resources, including the Internet. An acceptable use policy should -- while being sensitive to local need and concerns -- offer reasonable assurances to parents that safeguards will be in place in the school and library setting that permit users to be empowered to have educational experiences consistent with their values."

Schools and libraries have received $1.66 billion in Education Rate (E-Rate) funding for internal wiring and discounted connections from the federal government. The Commerce Department hopes the FCC will enforce the proposed user policy by requiring institutions that receive E-Rate funds to certify that they have user policies before funds are awarded to them.

Many schools and libraries use a variety of tools, including Internet filtering software, to block access to harmful content, to control chat room discussion and to monitor and manage Internet access. Irving said these institutions should continue to determine what works best in their particular school or community.

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