Ferrara Fiorenza P.C.

School Districts Face Increased Children’s Internet Protection Act Obligations to Obtain E-Rate Funding

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency responsible for enforcing certain requirements of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), recently amended CIPA’s regulations to create additional obligations for school districts seeking E-Rate discounts.  As most school officials are aware, school districts are able to purchase telecommunication services, internet access and specific related services at discounted rates, known as “E-Rate” discounts.  Under CIPA, to qualify for E-Rate discounts from telecommunication service providers, schools with internet access must certify to the FCC that they have in place specific internet safety policies and “technology protection measures” (commonly known as “Web filtering”) that block visual depictions that are “obscene, child pornography, or otherwise harmful to minors.”  In addition, school districts must actively monitor the online activities of minors in order to take advantage of E-rate discounts.  Compliance with CIPA related obligations must be certified on an annual basis using specific forms and procedures set forth in FCC issued regulations. 

The FCC recently amended CIPA’s regulations to create additional obligations.  Specifically, the amended regulations (which take effect October 13, 2011 and require amendment and implementation of CIPA policies and practices by July 1, 2012) will require school districts to certify that their CIPA-required internet safety policies provide for the education of students regarding appropriate online behavior, including interacting with others on social networking websites such as Facebook, and in chat rooms, means of communication often utilized by students in the digital age.  In addition, school boards will have to amend their CIPA-mandated policies to address cyber-bullying awareness and response. 

Because the amended CIPA regulations do not mandate the specific procedures or curriculum to be employed in protecting students from objectionable internet content, and because the regulations leave for school districts the task of determining what material is inappropriate for minors, districts should not delay in preparing to meet their CIPA obligations.  A failure to take timely and appropriate action could potentially jeopardize E-Rate discount eligibility, and lead to increased telecommunications and internet costs for non-compliant school districts. 

For additional help, the State Education Department has placed information about Internet safety instruction on its website at: www.p12.nysed.gov/technology/internet_safety.Also, if you have any questions regarding your obligations under CIPA, please feel free to contact our offices at 315-437-7600.