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Limiting wireless access stalls out
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The sponsor of a bill that aims to restrict minors' access to public wireless networks is looking to revise the measure after objections from businesses that it could mean an end in Utah to services such as free Wi-Fi.

Rep. Bradley Daw, R-Orem, said he was looking for a compromise between an anti-pornography group supporting such restrictions and providers of free wireless Internet access.

As proposed, HB139 would require public wireless providers to try to verify the age of its users and could impose a fine up to $1,000 for each time a minor views obscene materials from a network whose owners have not tried to restrict usage.

Daw said The CP80 Foundation, an Orem-based nonprofit group that seeks to combat pornography and protect children from it, had suggested legislation along the lines he is proposing.

"It's just too easy for kids to hop on and surf to places that are pornographic, and chat rooms and that kind of thing," he said Monday.

Pete Ashdown, CEO of XMission, the largest local provider of free wireless access, said the measure in its current form could impose a cost of perhaps $5,000 a month for his business to try to restrict minors through credit card verifications.

That, along with possible penalties for violations, could force XMission to shut down its service in downtown Salt Lake City, city libraries, numerous businesses and at the Park City, Brighton and Alta ski resorts, Ashdown said.

Daw said under discussion is backing off the age verification provision and perhaps adding a requirement that network providers add a filter to their systems. But he acknowledged that filters can be ineffective, too.

Ashdown pointed out that minors or other users can find easy access to wireless networks in almost any neighborhood and that software is readily available to bypass filters.

"I don't think our network is the sole source of access to the Internet to minors," he said.

Ralph Yarro of The CP80 Foundation said his group would support some adjustments to the bill but believes restrictions on who can access the wireless networks can be made with little pain to the businesses involved. He also said homeowners who have wireless networks should be required to restrict access so children in the neighborhood can't make use of them.

Homeowners "should be responsible for their barking dogs and their Internet access," he said.

tharvey@sltrib.com

HB139

Requires that publicly accessed wireless computer networks try to restrict use by minors and provides for penalties for failing to do so. It also would require that any device, such as a handheld electronic game, be labeled specifically if it can access the Internet.

Next step: The bill is awaiting revision before it is moved through the legislative system

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