Industry welcomes filter policy

Many in the internet industry have welcomed Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's filter report and his draft legislation to make internet service provider (ISP) level filtering mandatory, with only a few voices criticising the plan.

Many in the internet industry have welcomed Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's filter report and his draft legislation to make internet service provider (ISP) level filtering mandatory, with only a few voices criticising the plan.

They're the government. They regulate the industry. Internode will do what it's told

John Lindsay, Internode carrier relations manager

The first ISP to tender its response to the filtering was Primus, which had been a part of the trial. It said the blocking of refused classification content had its "full support", with the right checks in place.

"Primus Telecom believes that the introduction of an ISP filtering regime into Australia requires a balance between protecting Australians' rights of free expression and access to information with the need to improve online safety and the need to take action against the providers of objectionable content," said Primus CEO Ravi Bhatia.

Telstra was also behind the government's move, as well as unsurprisingly Family First Senator Steven Fielding.

"I believe there needs to be some sort of filtering on the internet the same way every other medium has some level of protection," he said in a statement. "We all know there is some pretty awful stuff on the web and we need to make sure this doesn't make its way into our homes."

However, Fielding was also cautious about what internet filtering could mean, saying that the impact on speeds had to be taken into consideration as well as Australia's right to free speech. "There's a fine line sometimes between filtering and censorship and it's important we get this balance right."

Shadow Minister Tony Smith, was not as vehemently against the proposal as many would have expected. Smith said that he needed to assess the trial results, preferably via an independent audit. He intended to consult with Telstra and other ISPs on filtering over the next few weeks.

He did point out, however, that ISPs had said in the past that the solution was technically difficult. "The fact that it has taken two years in office for Minister Conroy to make today's announcement is testament to the difficulty he has had with the workability and effectiveness of his proposal and evidence of his chaotic approach to the issue," his office said in a statement.

The Internet Industry Association and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association both intended to review the report and announcement before considering responses and talking about technical ramifications.

Internode said only that it had its hands tied. "They're the government. They regulate the industry. Internode will do what it's told," John Lindsay, Internode carrier relations manager told ZDNet.com.au.

Speaking personally, not in his capacity for the company, Lindsay said he thought the government's move was the equivalent of sending an apprentice to find a left-handed hammer.

"It's taken an entire year to come up with a way to say we ran a trial and it didn't suck too much," he said. "The concept of the internet changes faster than bureaucrats can keep up."

He didn't believe that the government would pass legislation quickly, especially given its track record on passing the legislation for the separation of Telstra.

The only party which as yet officially responded to ZDNet.com.au's queries with heightened concern was Electronic Frontiers Australia.

"Given the pilot's modest goals, it was designed from the beginning to pass. Although it may address some technical issues, what it leaves out is far more important — exactly what will be blocked, who will decide, and why is it being attempted in the first place?" EFA spokesperson Colin Jacobs said in a statement.

Other ISPs including Optus, Exetel, Eftel, TPG Telecoms (formerly SP Telemedia), Adam Internet, Netspace and iiNet have yet to respond to ZDNet.com.au's queries for comment. Unwired declined to comment.

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