Just before Congress left for its August recess, several developments occurred that brought eRate applicants a few steps closer to an internet filtering requirement. Requiring filters in exchange for eRate discounts or other federal technology grants is an issue that is likely to heat up again when legislators return to Washington, D.C., Sept. 8, 1999.

On July 28, the Senate appointed Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Strom Thurmond (R-SC), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) as conferees on H.R. 1501, the Juvenile Justice bill.

H.R. 1501 contains an amendment to eliminate eRate discounts for libraries and schools that do not implement filtering or blocking technology on all computers with internet access.

On July 30, the House followed by appointing Reps. Thomas Bliley (R-VA) and John Dingell (D-MI) as conferees to focus in particular on the internet content issues in H.R. 1501.

Additional House conferees include: Howard Berman (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Michael Castle (R-DE), Charles Canady (R-FL), Bill McCollum (R-FL), Bob Barr (R-GA), Henry Hyde (R-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Bill Clay (D-MO), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Howard Coble (R-NC), George Gekas (R-PA), William Goodling (R-PA), Jim Greenwood (R-PA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Thomas Petri (R-WI).

On August 5, S. 97, a bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that also would require schools and libraries receiving eRate discounts to install a technology for filtering or blocking inappropriate material on the internet, was reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee (S. Rept. 106-141). It is now procedurally ready for the next step–a debate and/or vote by the full Senate.

On August 8, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced S. 1545, a bill “to require schools and libraries receiving eRate discounts to install systems OR implement policies for blocking or filtering internet access to matter inappropriate for minors.” The bill also would require a study of available internet blocking or filtering software.

Sen. Santorum’s bill is seen by many as an alternative to the more restrictive S. 97 by Sen. McCain and would not necessarily require the installation of filtering technology.

The American Library Association (ALA) has been closely following the filtering issue in Congress. For more information on how any of these initiatives would impact schools and libraries, contact Claudette Tennant of the ALA’s Washington office at (800) 941-8478 or cwt@alawash.org.