[Federal Register Volume 67, Number 103 (Wednesday, May 29, 2002)]
[Pages 37396-37398]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 02-13286]



National Telecommunications and Information Administration

[Docket No. 020514121-2121-01]
RIN 0660-XX14

Request for Comment on the Effectiveness of Internet Protection 
Measures and Safety Policies

AGENCY: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 
Department of Commerce.

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration 
(NTIA) invites interested parties to provide comments in response to 
section 1703 of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), Pub. L. 
No. 106-554, 114 Stat. 2763, 2763A-336 (2000). Section 1703 directs 
NTIA to initiate a notice and comment proceeding to evaluate whether 
currently available Internet blocking or filtering technology 
protection measures and Internet safety policies adequately address the 
needs of educational institutions. The Act also directs NTIA to make 
recommendations to Congress on how to foster the development of 
technology protection measures that meet these needs.

DATES: Written comments are requested to be submitted on or before 
August 27, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be mailed to Sallianne Fortunato Schagrin, 
Office of Policy Analysis and Development, National Telecommunications 
andInformation Administration, Room 4716 HCHB, 14th Street and 
ConstitutionAvenue, NW., Washington, DC 20230. Paper submissions should 
include a diskette in HTML, ASCII, Word, or WordPerfect format (please 
specify version). Diskettes should be labeled with the name and 
organizational affiliation of the filer, and the name of the word 
processing program used to create the document. In the alternative, 
comments may be submitted electronically to the following electronic 
mail address: [email protected]. Comments submitted via 
electronic mail also should be submitted in one or more of the formats 
specified above.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sallianne Fortunato Schagrin, Office 
of Policy Analysis and Development, NTIA, telephone: (202) 482-1880; or 
electronic mail: [email protected]. Media inquiries should be 
directed to the Office of Public Affairs, National Telecommunications 
andInformation Administration: telephone (202) 482-7002.


Growing Concern About Children's Exposure to Inappropriate Online 

    A U.S. Department of Commerce report, released earlier this year, 
indicates that as of September 2001 more than half of the nation's 
population (143 million Americans) were using the Internet. A Nation 
Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet, National 
Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of 
Commerce (Feb. 2002), available at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/index.html. Children and teenagers use computers and the Internet more 
than any other age group. Id. at 1, 13. Almost 90 percent of children 
between the ages of 5 and 17 (or 48 million) now use computers. Id. at 
1, 44. Significant numbers of children use the Internet at school or at 
school and home: 55 percent for 14-17 year olds; 45 percent for 10-13 
year olds; and 22 percent for 5-9 year olds. Id. at 47. Approximately 
12 percent of 10 to 17 year olds use the Internet at a library. Id. at 
52. Noting the heightened interest regarding the possible exposure of 
children to unsafe or inappropriate content online, the Department of 
Commerce report notes that for the first time households were surveyed 
to determine the level of concern about their children's exposure to 
material over the Internet versus their concern over exposure to 
material on television. The results indicated that 68.3 percent of 
households were more concerned about the propriety of Internet content 
than material on television. Id. at 54.
    Similarly, in its 2000 survey of public schools to measure Internet

[[Page 37397]]

connectivity, the Department of Education's National Center for 
EducationStatistics asked questions about ``acceptable use policies'' 
in schools in recognition of the concern among parents and teachers 
about student access to inappropriate online material. See Internet 
Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2000, NCES 2001-071, 
Office of Education Research and Improvement, Department of Education 
(May 2001), available at http://www.nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/internetaccess. According to the NCES survey, 98 percent of all public 
schools had access to the Internet by the fall of 2000. Id. at 1. The 
survey also indicated that almost all such schools had ``acceptable use 
policies'' and used various technologies or procedures (blocking or 
filtering software), an intranet system, student honor codes, or 
teacher/staff monitoring to control student access to inappropriate 
online material. Id. at 7. Of the schools with acceptable use policies, 
94 percent reported having student access to the Internet monitored by 
teachers or other staff; 74 percent used blocking or filtering 
software; 64 percent had honor codes; and 28 percent used their 
intranet. Id. Most schools (91 percent) used more than one procedure or 
technology as part of their policy: 15 percent used all of the 
procedures and technologies listed; 29 percent used blocking/filtering 
software, teacher/staff monitoring, and honor codes; and 19 percent 
used blocking/filtering software and teacher/staff monitoring. Id. at 
7, 8. In addition, 95 percent of schools with an acceptable use policy 
used at least one of these technologies or procedures on all Internet-
connected computers used by students. Id.
    This trend appears to be reflected in the library community as 
well. A recent article in the Library Journal reports that of the 355 
libraries responding to its Budget Report 2002, 43 percent reported 
filteringInternet use, up from 31 percent in 2001, and 25 percent in 
2000. NormanOder, The New Wariness, The Library Journal (Jan. 15, 2002) 
(LJ Budget Report 2002), available at http://libraryjournal.reviewsnews.com/index.asp?layout=articlePrint&articleID=CA188739. Of 
those libraries filtering Internet use, 96 percent reported using 
filters on all children's terminals. Id.

The E-Rate and CIPA

    Section 254(h) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the 
Telecommunications Act of 1996, provides a universal support mechanism 
program (commonly known as the ``E-Rate program'') through which 
eligible schools and libraries may apply for discounted 
telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections services. 
See 47 U.S.C. 254(h). The program is administered by the Universal 
Service Administrative Company(USAC) pursuant to regulations 
promulgated by the Federal CommunicationsCommission. See Federal 
Communications Commission, Universal Service for Schools and Libraries, 
available at http://www.fcc.gov/wcb/universal_service/schoolsandlibs.html.
    According to USAC, approximately 82 percent of public schools and 
10 percent of private schools received E-rate funding in the Fiscal 
Year (FY)2000 funding cycle (July 1, 2000 through June 30, 2001) (using 
1997 data base as denominator). See Universal Service Administrative 
Company, available at http://www.sl.universalservice.org. Public 
libraries also rely heavily on E-rate funding; 57 percent of main 
public libraries received E-rate funding in FY 2000. Id.; see also LJ 
Budget Report 2002 supra.
    In October 2000, Congress passed the Children's Internet Protection 
Act(CIPA) as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 (Pub. 
L. No. 106-554). Under section 1721 of the Act, schools and libraries 
that receive discounted telecommunications, Internet access, or 
internal connections services under the E-rate program are required to 
certify and adopt an Internet safety policy and to employ technological 
methods that block or filter certain visual depictions deemed obscene, 
pornographic, or harmful to minors for both minors and adults.\1\ The 
FederalCommunications Commission implemented the required changes to 
the E-rate program and the new CIPA certification requirements became 
effective for the fourth E-rate funding year that began on July 1, 
2001, and ends on June 30, 2002. See Federal-State Joint Board on 
Universal Service, Children's Internet Protection Act, Report and 
Order, CC Docket No. 96-45 (March 30, 2001), available at http://www.fcc.gov/wcb/universal_service/schoolsandlibs.html.

    \1\ NTIA notes that Sections 1712 and 1721 of the CIPA are 
currently the subject of constitutional challenge. See American 
Library Ass'n v. United States, No. 01-CV-1303 (E.D. Pa. March 20, 
2001); Multnomah County Public Library v. United States, No. 01-CV-
1322 (E.D.Pa. March 20, 2001). NTIA is not seeking comment on the 
constitutionality of the statute or its provisions.

    Section 1703(a) of CIPA directs NTIA to initiate a notice and 
comment proceeding to determine if currently available blocking and 
filtering technologies adequately address the needs of educational 
institutions, make recommendations on how to foster the development of 
technologies that meet the needs of schools and libraries, and evaluate 
current Internet safety policies. Section 1703(a) of CIPA specifically 

Sec. 1703. Study of Technology Protection Measures

    (a) IN GENERAL. B Not later than 18 months after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the National Telecommunications and 
InformationAdministration shall initiate a notice and comment 
proceeding for purposes of--
    (1) Evaluating whether or not currently available technology 
protection measures, including commercialInternet blocking and 
filtering software, adequately address the needs of educational 
    (2) Making recommendations on how to foster the development of 
measures that meet such needs; and
    (3) Evaluating the development and effectiveness of 
localInternet safety policies that are currently in operation after 
community input.

Internet Blocking and Filtering Software and Acceptable Use Policies

    The computer industry has developed a number of technology 
protection measures to block or filter prohibited content in response 
to the growing amount of online content. Among these measures are stand 
alone filters, monitoring software, and online parental controls. The 
Pew Internet andAmerican Life Project reports that more than 41 percent 
(2 of every 5) of parents of children using the Internet rely on 
monitoring software or use pre-selected controls on their home 
computers. Pew Internet and AmericanLife Project, The Internet and 
Education: Findings of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, at 5 
(September 2001), available at http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=36.
    A Consumer Reports study indicated, however, that some technology 
protection companies refuse to disclose their method of blocking or 
filtering and their list of blocked sites, although users can submit 
Web addresses to check against blocked lists in some cases. See 
DigitalChaperones for Kids: Which Internet Filters Protect the Best? 
Which Get in the Way?, Consumer Reports at 2 (March 2001). Another 
report indicates that technology protection tools can require a fair 
amount of technical expertise in order to be manipulated successfully, 
such as an understanding of how to unblock sites, adjust tools for 
different levels of access, and examine and interpret log files. Trevor 
Shaw, What's Wrong with CIPA, E-School News (March 1, 2001), available 
at http:/

[[Page 37398]]

    The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of 
Sciences recently released a report describing the social and 
educational strategies, technology-based tools, and legal and 
regulatory approaches to protect children from inappropriate material 
on the Internet. See Youth,Pornography, and the Internet, Committee to 
Study Tools and Strategies for Protecting Kids from Pornography and 
Their Applicability to OtherInappropriate Internet Content, National 
Research Council (NRC Report) (May 2, 2002), available at http://bob.nap.edu/html/youth_internet/es.html.
    Among other things, the NRC Report concludes that perhaps the most 
important social and educational strategy for ensuring safe online 
experiences for children is responsible adult involvement and 
supervision. Id. at ES-7, 209. This strategy includes families, 
schools, libraries, and other organizations developing acceptable use 
policies to provide explicit guidelines about how individuals will 
conduct themselves online that will serve as a framework within which 
children can become more responsible for making better choices. Id. at 
218. The Report notes that acceptable use policies are most effective 
when developed jointly with schools and communities. Id. at 219. The 
Report suggests that acceptable use policies are not without problems, 
including how to avoid the ``one size fits all'' problem that may arise 
in trying to craft a policy that is appropriate for both young children 
as well as teenagers. Id. at 219-220. The NRC Report also discusses the 
ways that technology provides parents and other responsible adults with 
additional choices as to how best to protect children from 
inappropriate material on the Internet. Id. at ES-8, 255-304. The 
report notes, however, that filtering/blocking tools are all imperfect 
in that they may ``overblock'' otherwise appropriate material 
or``underblock'' some inappropriate material. Id. at 259-266.

Specific Questions

    In an effort to enhance NTIA's understanding of the present state 
of technology protection measures and Internet safety policies, NTIA 
solicits responses to the following questions. NTIA requests that 
interested parties submit written comments on any issue of fact, law, 
or policy that may provide information that is relevant to this 
evaluation. Commenters are invited to discussany relevant issue, 
regardless of whether it is identified below. To the extent possible, 
please provide copies of studies, surveys, research, or other empirical 
data referenced in responses.

Evaluation of Available Technology Protection Measures

    Section 1703(a)(1) of the Act requires NTIA to evaluate whether or 
not currently available technology protection measures, including 
commercialInternet blocking and filtering software, adequately address 
the needs of educational institutions.
    1. Discuss whether available technology protection measures 
adequately address the needs of educational institutions.
    2. Is the use of particular technologies or procedures more 
prevalent than others?
    3. What technology, procedure, or combination has had the most 
success within educational institutions?
    4. Please explain how the technology protection products block or 
filter prohibited content (such as ``yes'' lists, (appropriate 
content); ``no'' lists, (prohibited content), human review, technology 
review based on phrase or image, or other method.) Explain whether 
these methods successfully block or filter prohibited online content 
and whether one method is more effective than another.
    5. Are there obstacles to or difficulties in obtaining lists of 
blocked or filtered sites or the specific criteria used by technology 
companies to deny or permit access to certain web sites? Explain.
    6. Do technology companies readily add or delete specific web sites 
from their blocked lists upon request? Please explain your answer.
    7. Discuss any factors that were considered when deciding which 
technology tools to use (such as training, cost, technology maintenance 
and upgrades or other factors.)

Fostering the Development of Technology Measures

    Section 1703(a)(2) directs NTIA to initiate a notice and comment 
proceeding to make recommendations on how to foster the development of 
technology measures that meet the needs of educational institutions.
    1. Are current blocking and filtering methods effectively 
protecting children or limiting their access to prohibited Internet 
    2. If technologies are available but are not used by educational 
institutions for other reasons, such as cost or training, please 
    3. What technology features would better meet the needs of 
educational institutions trying to block prohibited content?
    4. Can currently available filtering or blocking technology adjust 
to accommodate all age groups from kindergarten through grade twelve? 
Are these tools easily disabled to accommodate bona fide and other 
lawful research? Are these tools easily dismantled?

Current Internet Safety Policies

    Section 1703(a)(3) requires NTIA to evaluate the development and 
effectiveness of local Internet safety policies currently in operation 
that were established with community input.
    1. Are Internet safety policies an effective method of filtering or 
blocking prohibited material consistent with the goals established by 
educational institutions and the community? If not, please discuss the 
areas in which the policies do not effectively meet the goals of the 
educational institutions and/or community.
    2. Please discuss whether and how the current policies could better 
meet the needs of the institutions and the community. If possible, 
provide specific recommendations.
    3. Are educational institutions using a single technology 
protection method or a combination of blocking and filtering 
    4. Describe any best practices or policies that have been effective 
in ensuring that minors are protected from exposure to prohibited 
content.Please share practices proven unsuccessful at protecting minors 
from exposure to prohibited content.

    Dated: May 22, 2002.
Kathy D. Smith,
Chief Counsel, National Telecommunications and Information 
[FR Doc. 02-13286 Filed 5-28-02; 8:45 am]