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E-Rate Puts Spotlight on Internet Safety

The Federal Communications Commission has released an order that will require schools to educate students about Internet safety in order to comply with the federal E-Rate program, which provides funding for schools to achieve online connectivity.

The requirement comes from language in the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law as a part of the Broadband Data Improvement Act in October 2008.

The measure will require schools to provide education around appropriate online behavior in chat rooms and on social-networking websites, as well as information about cyberbullying. It does not stipulate what kinds of curricula or procedures this may entail, nor does it define "cyberbullying" or "social networking," although it does mention several resources that schools may refer to for further explanation. Schools are required to update their Internet safety policies to reflect this change by July 1, 2012.

"Applicants are beginning to wonder what specific additions are needed to meet the new required education aspect of the orders," said Stephen Sharp, a senior compliance analyst at Funds For Learning, in a press release. "There is a lack of clarity in the orders on what exactly it is going to take to meet compliance standards. Hopefully we will receive further guidance from USAC on the specifics of the new requirements."

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