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Internet filters on university computers would be difficult

By Eric Swedlund
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 19, 2000
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In response to two bills proposed to the Arizona legislature, a CCIT official said yesterday that placing Internet filters on all university computers would be troublesome and costly.

Arizona State Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, is sponsoring two bills that would regulate Internet use for campus computers. One would require content filters to block access to sexually explicit material while the other would prohibit students from using university Internet connections for anything but educational purposes.

Dan Roman, interim associate director of network operations for the Center for Computing & Information Technology, said the cost to implement such an extensive filtering program might be a deterrent for the Legislature.

"It would be a very expensive proposition," he said.

McGrath's bill does not include any provisions for funding the filter requirements.

"There are companies that provide software for filtering, and there are efforts to try to do that," Roman said. "The success of that software is where the issue lies."

Roman said the Internet is so extensive that blocking all material that might be sexually explicit would be a daunting task.

One company that CCIT has looked into provides Internet filtering for $5 a month for each workstation, Roman said. He added that the University of Arizona has over 30,000 workstations and such a bill would cost $1.8 million annually.

This proposal was discussed and passed out of committee last week and is being held.

McGrath last week described the filtering bill as a fix for an oversight in university Internet access.

The second McGrath-sponsored bill would prohibit university students from using campus Internet connections for "any activity that is not directly related to a specific educational purpose."

This proposal was scheduled for discussion yesterday in the House Public Institutions and Universities Committee - which McGrath chairs - but was postponed until next week.

"Educational use is not something one can determine with a filter," Roman said. "To filter what is official business versus what is not - that would be very difficult to do."

Roman added that there would be a lot of different issues - including a legal side - to the proposed bills and that all would have to be examined thoroughly in the House.

There is likely a legal side to that, a lot of different issues. All would have to be looked at.

"I can't say whether this would be passed," Roman said.

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