Although it was technically possible for the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) to filter internet content over the heads of internet service providers (ISPs), the government has said that it will still force the responsibility onto ISPs.
On Monday, it was revealed that despite previous claims to the contrary, it would be technically possible for NBN Co, as a level two wholesale provider, to filter internet content at the Ethernet level of the Federal Government's $35.9 billion fibre to the home network using technology already available to ISPs.
The technology, deployed by CyberOne is currently only in use to implement a block of Interpol's "worst of the worst" child abuse websites as part of a voluntary filtering scheme developed by the Internet Industry Association (IIA), and also brought in by Telstra and Optus.
In response to inquiries yesterday on whether the government may seek to implement the Interpol filter and the government's own planned mandatory internet filtering scheme to block online content that has been refused classification (RC) by the Classification Board at the NBN level, the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said that the obligation would rest with ISPs.
"The government's policy is to require all ISPs to block a list of URLs containing RC content," the minister's office said. "NBN Co is not an ISP. The NBN is a layer two wholesale-only network, whereas filtering will be required to be undertaken at the retail service provider level."
The government's mandatory internet filtering policy remains controversial in the community, with both the Greens and the Coalition vowing to oppose it. The government last year shelved implementation of the policy until the Australian Law Reform Commission completed a review of the RC category, expected to be finished in January 2012. Enforcing a mandatory filtering policy on the government-owned NBN Co could allow the government to avoid potential conflict with the internet industry, as the filter could be implemented without requiring the direct cooperation of ISPs.
However, NBN Co also told ZDNet Australia that the responsibility for filtering remained with service providers.
"As a wholesale provider of connectivity between premises and Point of Interconnect, responsibility for applying the internet filter rests with Retail Service Providers," NBN Co said in a statement.