Aus internet safe from kill switch: Conroy

Aus internet safe from kill switch: Conroy

Summary: Following the internet blackout in Egypt over the last week, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy this morning said that he didn't think the Australian Government had the power to pass a law to make internet service providers cut off the internet.

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Following the internet blackout in Egypt over the last week, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy this morning said that he didn't think the Australian Government had the power to pass a law to make internet service providers cut off the internet.

Egypt has attracted international condemnation for its government's internet shut-down command, which saw communications in the country severed from 27 January by executive order. Vodafone said services had eventually been restored to its customers in Egypt on Saturday morning, noting in a blog post several days ago that it had no legal options but to comply with "the demands of the the authorities" on the issue.

The issue has attracted questions in Australia about whether such a situation could eventuate down under. Speculation was heightened by news that the US legislation, which would grant the US President "kill switch" powers over the internet in the United States, was returning in a revised form this year for consideration.

However, this morning, Conroy told journalists the idea wasn't being floated in Australia.

"Australia's a vibrant democracy, where the government doesn't control the internet," he said. "I don't think we have any of these powers — that we could pass a law to make ISP services turn off when we want them to? I don't think we have that power now, and I don't think anyone's seeking it."

Conroy said in "a pluralistic, open speech, free speech" society such as Australia, he didn't think the sorts of actions taken "by a whole range of governments in recent times" would be implemented.

"I mean I understand China blocked access to the word Egypt, I read. But those aren't the sort of actions Australia supports or would participate in," he said.

Flooding the NBN

Conroy also commented on the potential impact on the National Broadband Network from the recent catastrophic events in Queensland — not just the floods that took out much of the state's infrastructure, but also tropical Cyclone Yasi, whose effects are still being felt in the Sunshine State.

A report in The Australian this morning had suggested that large parts of the Townsville early stage leg of the NBN roll-out could be facing a rebuild. However, Conroy said the Townsville roll-out was "almost completed", and that although the flood issue would need to be dealt with, this was not dissimilar from any other infrastructure "that gets hit by 30-year events".

In addition, he pointed out that the current national copper network operated by Telstra was more susceptible to problems from events such as floods than the next-generation fibre being rolled out by NBN Co — as copper degraded in water. "Fibre is actually a far more robust technology for dealing with, particularly, floods," he said.

NBN Co would inspect the potential damage, he said, after it was safe to do so.

As to the matter of whether the Queensland reconstruction project would put pressure on the NBN human resources, with workers being needed to rebuild in the wake of the disasters, Conroy said that was an issue for every company.

"Just like every other company in Australia, NBN will manage the same sort of pressures," he said. However, Conroy noted that the government had attempted to "calibrate" some of the resourcing issues by cutting back on other infrastructure projects.

Lastly, Conroy gave a very brief update on his opinion of whether the Federal Government's $11 billion deal with Telstra over the NBN would land before the company's imminent results briefing session. "I'm an optimist, so I've got my fingers crossed," he said.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Browser, Government AU, Security

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13 comments
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  • Sure Conroy, I believe you, no kill switch for Internet land until the US has another hissy fit over Wikileaks and suggests Australia should help fight these terrorists. Besides I cant think of a better way to stop the insane amount of smut coming through the portals, surely the kill switch would come in handy on those heavy flow days... you know to protect the childrens.
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • The key phrase in his response is "I don't think we have that power now". After his rants on the filter, I wouldn't trust this guy with any freedom of speech issue.
    mwil19-a34f7
  • Cough Cough... ISP Filter.... You are seeking the power to control the net.... OUTRIGHT LIE ONCE AGAIN FROM CON-BOY!

    "Australia's a vibrant democracy, where the government doesn't control the internet," he said. "I don't think we have any of these powers — that we could pass a law to make ISP services turn off when we want them to? I don't think we have that power now, and I don't think anyone's seeking it."
    kirbykia@...
  • Yes Conroy, we believe you. Every heard of "plausible deniability". Who knows what our intelligence (sic) brothers are cooking up in the back room with their UK and US counterparts ? If US is looking into it, Aus and UK aren't very far behind.
    Azizi Khan
  • That's the biggest problem in Australia at the moment, we have a right party and a further right party, whereas we need centre parties, imo!

    Regardless of whose in power, none of them can be trusted...!
    RS-ef540
  • With his stupid filter it will be almost the same as being turned off, so it is a safe statement he made.
    wolfrider56
  • Pity there wasn't a kill switch for ALL Politicians!
    gavo65
  • Interestingly this all coincides with reports of Australia having weak CyberSecurity. Sounds like someone is making a case to spend huge amounts of money to let the government protect us from ourselves...because they have 'demonstratably' proven themselves more competent.
    Scott W-ef9ad
  • There may be no legislation to control it, but the infamous secret "D-Notice" system where newspapers suppressed content when asked by the government is still in our collective memories. Conroy knows that the mearest mention of national security and an ASIO knock on the door will bring the ISP's into line in short order.
    ptrrssll@...
  • Having read up on the "D-Notice" system, the concept seems to refer to the restriction of information related to military or national security. Although it has not been officially decommissioned, it is no longer enforceable by the government or the Defence Minister to say "you can't say that!"

    Our government might be full of idiots, but only the truly stupid would consider suppressing media content on the basis that they don't like it.

    Oh, and by the way, don't be misled into believing that just because you'd take Turnbull's word that HE won't implement an Internet kill switch, that he will live up to his promise either. You can't trust a politician as far as you can throw them. Any of them.
    dmh_paul
  • Right on THERE............................... Me, I wouldn't trust this minister with ANYTHING !!!
    Wallingford-314a6
  • Plenty of people have already covered the credibility of Conroy so I'll just comment on the "flood" damage inflicted on the NBN. TCP/IP is designed to work on redundancy. If one path is blocked data gets split up and sent via alternate paths. Australia's infrastructure hasn't been built that way. We have one main trunk line coming in from the u.s. and then the tree model of heirarchical branching. There is no cross-patching of data lines anywhere in the system to allow for the inbuilt redundancy to be of any value, and while we have ISPs charging for data instead of a uniform price for connection there is no incentive to get those sorts of cross-patch connections in place.
    Treknology
  • My BS Detector just went off!!!!
    Old Codger