The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a federal law enacted in 2000. Under CIPA, no school or library can receive E-rate funding unless it blocks all students from accessing pornography and other content deemed inappropriate for minors as defined by the school district’s Internet Safety Policy. The policy must be presented at a public meeting.
Boiled down, this means that a school district or library must filter pornography and have an Internet Safety Policy order to be eligible for E-rate funding for internet access.
Many school districts lend mobile devices (e.g., Chromebooks, iPads, etc.) to students to access the Internet at home or other off-campus locations. While such loans have been happening long before the COVID-19 pandemic, these loans have increased substantially due to the increase in virtual schooling at home. With this increase, school districts should discuss with their legal counsel whether or how the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) applies to students using school district devices at home to access the internet. More specifically, whether certain filtering requirements under CIPA apply. The FCC has not given its opinion on this issue.
Districts and libraries that do not filter for pornography can still receive E-rate discounts for broadband circuits and all Category 2 expenses. However, a school administrator who did not take technical measures to prevent second graders from being exposed to pornography -- forfeiting E-rate funding for internet access in the process -- might be asked to justify that decision to the school board at a public meeting.
Although school districts are required to filter in order to receive E-rate funding, filtering appliances themselves are not eligible for funding, an omission from the eligibility list that has perplexed innumerable applicants.