Will Richardson, a prominent blogger for K-12 recently created a Google Map to track what schools across the country (world?) block. Definitely an interesting topic and one that sparks conflict like nothing else in education. For those unaware, school systems receiving eRate funds from the Federal Government (from the Universal Service Fee on your phone bills) must provide some type of way to keep students from accessing pornography and inappropriate content. The FCC definitely keeps that broad for a reason, so they do not need to answer specific questions about individual websites.
Schools can use eRate funds for basic internet access, telecommunications (land line service and wireless), and internal connections (switches, servers, etc). Schools receive discounts on these, as much as 90%, so it definitely can help. A medium sized district like ours receives an average of $100,000 a year, more when we submit for internal connections projects, like the $50,000 we did this past year. So schools definitely need these funds to survive. To keep students from accessing this inappropriate content, the general tool is through filtering software or hardware. You filter pornography and other adult content. Although, this definitely does not exist as black and white. Once you throw out sites with porn, then what do you consider adult content versus artistic content? What about Social Networking where students can threaten each other? Or contact subject matter experts for educational reasons. Definitely a tough subject, as there are things to consider on each side. Schools also conform to their communities, meaning CIPA may not be the only obstacle. Conservative districts block more, while liberal districts do not. Definitely a tough subject, but by looking at Richardson’s map (http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&ll=40.518432,-74.855561&spn=46.910464,96.416016&z=4&msid=110442062024743079141.000484aefafa675b27865) you can see some trends in the US.