The Federal Communications Commission has planted itself firmly in favor of internet filtering software in schools. Schools that do not have plans in place for filtering internet-based pornography by July 1 will lose federal eRate funds, under the FCC’s rule-making, issued on April 5.

Under the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which became law in December, schools must adopt a way to ensure that children do not have see “obscene” images, pornography, or other visual matter that is deemed “harmful to minors.” The FCC’s recent rule-making made it clear that enforcement must include technology to filter inappropriate material, in addition to policies for monitoring students. Some educators, librarians and others have opposed a filtering requirement on both free-speech grounds and the uneven quality of commercial filtering software.

When applying for eRate funds for the next fiscal year, schools and libraries will be required to certify that they either have installed filtering technology or have a plan to do so.

The rule-making also applies to federal funds supplied through Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Library Services and Technology Act. It does not apply to schools or libraries that use eRate funds only for basic telephone access.