Senate Commerce Committee Passes E-Rate Filtering Bill

(June 24, 1999) The Senate Commerce Committee approved an amended version of S 97, the Children's Internet Protection Act, by a voice vote on Wednesday, June 23. The bill requires schools and libraries receiving e-rate subsidies to certify that they use software to block access to material that is either "obscene" or "child pornography."

Related Pages

Summary of Filtering Bills.
S 97 RS, substitute amendment approved on 6/23/99.
S 97 IS, original bill introduced on 1/19/99.
Bill approved by the House on 6/17/99.

The Senate Commerce Committee adopted an amendment in the nature of a substitute which contains significant revisions to the original version of the bill. S 97 IS was introduced on January 19 by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC). The original version was short and simple. The bill as adopted, S 97 RS, maintains the same general principles, but greatly expands on the details of implementation.

The most significant changes are as follows:

The amended version of the bill also provides further details on a number of subjects:

mccain.gif (15350 bytes)
Sen. McCain

“I am pleased the Committee has recognized that with the growing use of the Internet in schools and libraries, our children need to be protected from the harmful material that comes with it,” Sen. McCain said. “Parents can protect their children from Internet smut at home, but have no ability to do the same in schools and libraries.  This legislation allows local communities to decide what to filter out, so that the minds of our children aren’t being polluted by obscene and violent material.” Sen. McCain is the Chairman of the Committee.

hollings.jpg (14298 bytes)
Sen. Hollings

“The problem of children innocently stumbling on to indecent material while using the web for legitimate research purposes needs to stop," said Sen. Hollings. "This legislation will accomplish that goal and I look forward to this bill getting to the President’s desk for signature quickly." Sen. Hollings is the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee.

The Children's Internet Protection Act affects all elementary schools, secondary schools, and libraries that receive federal funds under the universal service provisions of Section 254 of the Telecom Act of 1996. This program is more commonly known as the "e-rate." Some of its critics call it the "Gore tax." It provides subsidies for computer networking, Internet access, and telephone service. The e-rate program is run by the Federal Communications Commission, and the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administration Corporation (USAC), which the FCC controls.

Several groups oppose the bill, including the ACLU, People for the American Way, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Comparison Table

Bill S 97 IS (Jan. 19) S 97 RS (June 23) House Bill (June 17)
What must be filtered "material deemed to be harmful to minors" "material that is obscene" and "child pornography" "child pornographic materials" and "obscene materials"
What may also be filtered   "material ... that the school, school board, or other authority determines to be inappropriate for minors"  
Required use of filtering technology "installed, or will install, and uses or will use, as soon as it obtains computers with Internet access, a technology to filter or block such material" "ensures the use of such computers in accordance with the certification" "installed, or will install, and uses or will use, as soon as it obtains computers with Internet access, a technology to filter or block such material"
School computers covered "computers with Internet access" "computers with Internet access ... during any use of such computers by minors" "computers with Internet access ... during use by minors"


Related Stories

Hearing on Internet Indecency, 2/10/98.
Blocking Bills Introduced in Congress, 2/12/98.
Internet Bills Approved by Committee, 3/12/98.
Gore on Safe Schools Internet Act, 3/24/98.
Istook Bill Requires Net Filters, 7/2/98.
Filtering Bill Passes Senate Committee, 7/22/98.
Senate Passes CDA II and Safe Schools Internet Act, 7/26/98.
House Subcommittee Adopts COPA, 9/21/98.
House Committee Passes COPA, 9/25/98.
Rush Backs CDA II, Condemns Release of Starr Report, 9/25/98.
House Passes Child Online Protection Act, 10/8/98.
Congress and White House Debate Anti-Porn Bill, 10/16/98.
Internet and Tech Bills Become Law, 10/22/98.
Filtering Software Debate Continues, 12/21/99.
McCain and Hollings Reintroduce School Filtering Bill, 1/22/99.
Internet Filtering Supporters Back Franks-McCain, 3/3/99.
NTIA Opposes Mandatory Filtering Under E-Rate, 4/13/99.
House Adopts Franks' Internet Filtering Bill, 6/18/99.