In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement the 2008 Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") has requested comment on its proposed new requirements for schools and school systems that receive federal E-Rate Program funding for Internet services. The new rules would require E-Rate Program recipients to educate minors about appropriate online behavior on social networking websites and in chat rooms. The rules also require training in cyberbullying awareness and response. The proposed rules supplement protections under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which already require schools to implement technology that prevents access to child pornography and visual depictions that are obscene or harmful to minors, and to adopt policies that permit monitoring of the online activities of minors. If the rules are adopted by the FCC, federal E-rate Program beneficiaries will be required to certify compliance with the new requirements as part of the Confirmation of Receipt of Service Form (Form 486), for the current E-Rate funding year.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also invites comment on other proposed rule revisions to carry out the provisions of the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. For example, the FCC also seeks comment on proposals to require technology protection measures and to adopt regulations requiring local determination of whether material is inappropriate for minors. The proposed rule changes also would mandate that federal E-Rate Program beneficiaries disclose their Internet safety policies to the FCC, and permit public hearings or comment on those Internet safety policies.

The deadline for filing comments on the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is February 18, 2010, and the deadline for filing reply comments is March 5, 2010. Please contact Bracewell’s E-Rate Program team if you have any questions regarding the current or proposed federal E-Rate Program certification requirements or if you are interested in participating in the proceeding.