Most Newtown municipal employees will be barred from reading this article at work, under a new Internet policy the town's Information Technology department began enforcing last week, though officials said some controls may be relaxed over time.
Last week, all town computers with a few notable exceptions were barred from accessing a variety of websites, such as Newtown Patch, The Newtown Bee and News-Times.
That meant tasks, such as checking the news and weather and clicking on results from Internet searches, became virtually impossible unless at a supervisor's computer – department heads were exempt from the controls – or an employee had sought prior permission from IT – which required the employee submit a supervisor-approved list of specific website addresses.
Attempts to navigate to any unapproved sites were met by a terse "Town of Newtown Internet Policy Violation" web page, which declared "The URL you are attempting to access has been blocked. Organization policy does not allow access to this activity. If you feel that this site is incorrectly blocked, please notify your department head for appropriate action."
The controls, which town officials said were put in place to address concerns regarding non-work-related activity, such as the downloading of unauthorized materials, which might lead to potential security breaches, have received mix reviews, namely because nearly all external websites, with the exception of governmental sites, general search and other such sites, have been blocked.
"We have to refine it," George Benson, who heads the , said of the policy, adding that part of being a wetlands compliance or zoning officer is keeping up with the news. "There are things that we have to keep up in town and surrounding towns."
The IT staff is in the midst of identifying exceptions and is expected to grow the list of approved websites over time, said department head Scott Sharlow, who questioned whether every town employee needed to keep up with the news at work.
"Is reading the news part of the job description?" he asked.
At the same time, Sharlow said he recognized the list of allowable sites will need to be grown over time.
"I already have determined that news and weather is a gray area," he said, adding a process also is in place for employees to request access to websites they need to do their work. "I've asked everyone employee to work with their supervisor."
In addition, if a website that is needed for work is blocked, an employee can ask to use a department head's computer, which has no restrictions on what addresses can be accessed, officials said.
First Selectman Pat Llodra said she supported what Sharlow was doing, which was in response to some prior abuses of the town's open Internet policies, and that over time, the restrictions would be relaxed.
"He's been finetuning it," she said of the policy.
Correction: Town workers can access Google and other search engine sites as well as municipal sites, such as for the Danbury school system. An earlier version of this article and photos once associated with this article were incorrect in identifying which websites could be accessed.