On June 24, 2009 FOSI and the law firm Womble Carlyle hosted the second of the lunchtime panel series, Wednesdays with Winston. The focus of this Wednesdays with Winston was on the Federal Communications Commission’s Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) on the Child Safe Viewing Act. Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, moderated a discussion with Robert Cannon, Senior Counsel in the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis at the FCC; David E. Young, Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs at Verizon; Matt Gerst, Counsel for External and State Affairs at CTIA- the Wireless Foundation; and Eric Breisach, an attorney with Womble Carlyle.
Robert Cannon explained that the Child Safe Viewing Act was passed in 2008 and tasked the FCC with examining advanced blocking technologies and reporting the findings to Congress by August 2009. Cannon stressed that this is not a rulemaking proceeding and discussed the types of comments submitted to the FCC. After Cannon provided background on the NOI, the discussion turned to existing technologies and efforts to help parents control what their children access online. David Young and Matt Gerst talked about the many available options for parents, most of which are free of charge and easy to use. David Young highlighted Verizon’s tools and offerings and mentioned that Verizon provides a website for parents with information about parental controls across all of Verizon’s platforms. Young also discussed Verizon’s initiatives to educate parents.
Matt Gerst of CTIA highlighted the wireless industry’s efforts to offer parental controls. He discussed how the wireless industry began to offer these services for parents without a mandate from Congress and how successful the voluntary efforts of the wireless industry have been in this area. Gerst also discussed the education initiatives CTIA provides and talked about the Wireless Child Safety Task Force. Eric Breisach hypothesized about where the FCC may go with online safety under a new chairman. He also discussed the First Amendment concerns that will arise if Congress tries to mandate a blocking technology and limit access to content.
The panelists agreed that providing tools and education were the best ways to keep children from accessing harmful content online. The next Wednesdays with Winston luncheon panel will be on August 26th and will focus on the FTC’s role in online safety.