SAN FRANCISCO (05/17/2000) - America Online Inc. will offer a series of free Web sites and services this fall for elementary and secondary schools that already have Internet access.
AOL says its offering is a public service and isn't intended to make money. But the service will popularize the AOL brand name among youngsters and bolster AOL's reputation as the company tries to persuade regulators to approve its megamerger with Time Warner Inc. Unlike AOL's flagship service, the new AOLAtSchool does not include dialup access. AOL officials say most schools are already wired to the Internet thanks to the federal E-rate subsidy program included in the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Instead, the service will give students, teachers and administrators access to a half-dozen educational Web portals (four geared toward different age groups, two aimed at the adults) along with AOL services like instant messaging and e-mail. The service, designed with the help of the American Association of School Administrators, will be available for students returning to school in the fall, AOL officials say. AOL will not allow commercial advertisements in the sections of the service geared toward students, though paid sponsorship and e-commerce offerings will be permitted in areas intended for teachers and administrators.
Each school can tailor the available content and options for its students.
Students in the youngest age groups can reach only approved Web sites using the service, and older kids can access the Web though a filtering system designed to screen out inappropriate sites. Instant messaging and e-mail also can be limited or turned off. To comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, schools would need to get explicit permission from parents before allowing students to use the e-mail and chat functions, AOL officials say.