In case you're interested in what's happening in DC....
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION RELEASES DATA
ON HIGH-SPEED SERVICES FOR INTERNET ACCESS
Yesterday, the FCC released summary statistics of its latest data on
the deployment of high-speed Internet services in the United States.
The report indicated that high-speed lines connecting homes and small
businesses to the Internet increased by 57 percent during the first half
of 2000, to a total of 4.3 million lines (or wireless channels) in
service from 2.8 million at the end of 1999. About 2.8 million of
high-speed lines provided speeds of over 200 kbps in both directions,
and thus met the FCC's definition of advanced services, compared to 2.0
million at the end of 1999. High-speed service subscribers was reported
in all states. High-speed asymmetric DSL (ADSL) lines in service
increased by 157 percent, to almost one million lines. High-speed lines
in service over coaxial cable systems remained more numerous, increasing
59 percent. High-speed lines (or wireless channels) delivered over
fiber, satellite, fixed wireless, and wireline technologies other than
ADSL increased by at least 18% during the first half of this year. Only
40 percent of the lowest population densities have access to high-speed
networks. See: www.fcc.gov
NOTICES ON E-RATE
The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD/USAC) issued a notice
indicating that November 20, 2000 is the deadline for submitting Billed
Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) forms and Service Provider
Invoices for Year Two (1999-2000). Responses that come in after this
deadline will risk an applicants full payment. Schools and libraries
who received a Year 2 funding commitment are also reminded that Form
486's, the Receipt of Service Confirmation Form, must be filed before
any funds can flow to you or your service provider. The SLD is in the
process of finalizing a new Eligible Services List with the FCC. The
SLD notes that it updated this list on October 12, 2000 in an effort to
clarify the eligibility of certain application items; that a number of
items had previously been categorized as Eligible even though there were
conditions on their eligibility. Such items are now categorized as
Conditional and additional information has been added in BOLD text. A
new Eligible Services List will be posted to the SLD web site early in
the upcoming Form 471 filing window for Funding Year 4. That new list
will reflect additional clarifications. See:
CLINTON, GOP COMPROMISE ON NET FILTERING
Although the government spending bill carrying a clause requiring
Internet filtering on school and library computers that are federally
funded is wrapped up in partisan melees, the White House and Republican
lawmakers appear to have reached common ground on the filtering
If the spending bill passes Congress and is signed into law, it would
mark the dawn of required Internet information-blocking technology in
exchange for federal dollars, which has outraged free speech groups, and
stands in some contrast to a congressional panel's recent
The filtering language is housed in the gigantic Labor and Health and
Human Services Appropriations bill, which still has to receive final
congressional approval before reaching President Clinton. The House has
not yet begun consideration of the legislation after initially
successful compromise negotiations on the conference report broke down
"Nothing's over until it's over, but it seems like everyone's happy,"
said David Crane, a staffer in the Senate Commerce Committee, whose
chairman, John McCain, R-Ariz., sponsored an Internet filtering bill
that was incorporated into the Labor and Health and Human Services
Appropriations bill. "There have been... changes, but the Senate bill
essentially is intact."
A White House spokesperson confirmed that there were talks on arriving
at mandatory Internet filtering language that the administration could
approve, but declined to say whether the agreement is definitive,
especially in light of ongoing battles over the rest of the $350 billion
appropriations bill, including a dispute over ergonomics standards that
may bring about a presidential veto less than a week from Election Day.
Crane said that the Internet language combines elements of McCain's
bill, which requires filtering in exchange for E-Rate dollars, used to
help connect poor and rural public schools and libraries to the
Internet, as well as elements of similar legislation from Sen. Rick
Santorum, R-Pa., and Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla.
"Clearly the White House had differences in terms of what they would
like to see as a final product," Crane said, adding that GOP negotiators
satisfied the White House's main objection to the filtering language,
namely that schools and libraries would have to use E-Rate dollars to
pay for the software.
Under the current arrangement, other sources of federal funding could
be set aside to pay for the software, and Crane noted that many ISPs
provide it for free.
He added that Santorum's language in the bill emphasizes local school
and library board control of the filtering process, while McCain's
language aims for technology neutrality, especially in the face of White
House concerns that terms like "filtering" and "blocking" would
encourage one particular type of technology over another for keeping
children away from material generally considered "harmful" or
While there is little question on the Supreme Court definition of
obscene material, "harmful to minors" has seen some strife, as the
American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have argued that there
is little merit to the phrase, and that opinions on what is harmful
differ depending on the community.
Crane characterized that argument as a red herring, saying that 48
states have harmful to minors statutes on the books, and that the ACLU
is "acting like a bunch of bullies" by picking filtering fights in
counties with small legal budgets, and getting district court judges to
ban mandatory filtering.
One of the most notable examples was a case in Loudoun County, Va., in
which the ACLU successfully convinced a judge that the county's library
board could not decide on a common standard for decency on its
libraries, and therefore could not use filtering devices.
"The Loudoun case is bad law," Crane said.
ACLU officials were not immediately available for comment, and other
civil liberties groups did not return telephone calls.
Nevertheless, he added, communities bear the privilege and
responsibility of deciding what kind of material, and how much, to
"The federal government is expressly prohibited from the technology
selection process or the Internet safety process," he said, adding that
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the original McCain bill
would keep a repository of information on individual district filtering
decisions, but now would ask for that information only on - likely
infrequent - requests.
The proximity of mandatory Internet blocking technology to legal
authority comes after the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) commission,
chartered by a law (currently frozen in court) banning children from
viewing "harmful" material online, recommended that Congress not impose
mandatory filtering guidelines. Source: A report by Robert MacMillan,