We study 3-coloring properties of triangle-free planar graphs $G$ with two precolored 4-cycles $C_1$ and $C_2$ that are far apart. We prove that either every precoloring of $C_1\cup C_2$ extends to a 3-coloring of $G$, or $G$ contains one of two special substructures which uniquely determine which 3-colorings of $C_1\cup C_2$ extend. As a corollary, we prove that there exists a constant $D>0$ such that if $H$ is a planar triangle-free graph and if $S\subseteq V(H)$ consists of vertices at pairwise distances at least $D$, then every precoloring of $S$ extends to a 3-coloring of $H$. This gives a positive answer to a conjecture of Dvořák, Král', and Thomas, and implies an exponential lower bound on the number of 3-colorings of triangle-free planar graphs of bounded maximum degree.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/bernard-lidicky/37/