ZDNet.com.au this week contacted all of Australia's largest ISPs regarding their stances on the government's internet filter. Almost every ISP supported the measure in some way, but iiNet and Internode were ambiguous in their responses.
"We've always said typically that we don't have direct confidence that filtering the internet will be effective in terms of stopping child pornography or illegal activity, so that's a starting point from us," said iiNet regulatory chief Steve Dalby. "We don't think the filter will deliver what's being expected of it, but if it's going to be introduced it's going to need a disciplined approach and that's what we're going to support."
Dalby accepted that the filter has been green-lighted and said the ISP would be actively involved in consultation processes.
"We want to be part of that conversation ... we don't want to end up doing stuff that doesn't make any sense," added Dalby, "Is the minister at a whim going to say we're going to block all of this or block all of that? What if it's political content or if it's religious content?"
However, the executive remained optimistic. "It looks like the government has started the process, they've made some comments about policy and they're going out to public consultation on the transparency and the accountability," he said. "For us, it's heading in the right direction."
When asked if iiNet supported the government, Dalby replied, "No, we're not supporting the government, we're supporting an approach that delivers the things that we were talking about today."
Internode provided a terse response, but remained ambiguous about whether it supported the filter. "They're the government. They regulate the industry. Internode will do what it's told," Internode carrier relations manager John Lindsay told ZDNet.com.au.
This table collates ISP responses to the filter so far:
|Company ||Extent of support ||Comments on filtering|
|Telstra ||Full support ||"Telstra is supportive of a refused classification content blacklist of URLs compiled from the combination of a complaints-based system and known child abuse websites passed on by expert agencies in other jurisdictions," Telstra's group managing director, public policy and communications, David Quilty, said in a statement.|
|Optus ||Full Support ||"But [it] must be complemented with a broader government approach to cyber-safety and the protection of children on the internet, including initiatives to promote education, awareness and counselling," said Optus director of Government and Corporate Affairs, Maha Krishnapillai in a statement.|
|iiNet ||Does not support the concept, but will support a disciplined approach ||"No, we don't support the government. What we support is a disciplined approach to legislation ... we don't want to end up doing stuff that doesn't make any sense," iiNet's regulation manager Steve Dalby said.|
|Internode ||Hands are tied. "Will do what it's told" ||"They're the government. They regulate the industry. Internode will do what it's told," Internode carrier relations manager John Lindsay said.|
|Exetel ||Deems the concept of the filter irrelevant to an ISP. Will obey the law. ||"Whether the concept of 'banning' certain websites constitutes some negative aspect of 'freedom of speech' is irrelevant to us as the operators of an ISP..." said Exetel chief John Linton. "... we doubt that the proposed 'filtering' will produce any meaningful reduction in the use of the internet for loathsome activities..."|
|AAPT ||Yet to respond ||N/A|
|Adam Internet ||Yet to respond. ||N/A|
|Eftel ||Yet to respond ||N/A|
|Netspace ||The ISP is unsure, requires more details. ||"We're obviously very supportive of anything that improves safety and services on the internet," said Netspace's regulatory and carrier affairs manager, Matthew Phillips. "We're a little bit concerned on the implementation."
|iPrimus ||Full support ||"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 chief Ravi Bhatia in a statement.|
|Soul/TPG ||Yet to respond ||N/A|
|Unwired ||Declined to comment ||N/A|
|Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) (not an ISP) ||Acknowledges the existence of the filter and potential impacts on mobile telecommunications. No clear stance. ||"The mobile communications industry had not been a specific part of the government's ISP filtering trial in the lead up to today's announcement. The mobile industry would look closely at the announcement to assess the technical issues involved," said AMTA spokesperson Randal Markey in a statement. |
|M2 ||Doesn't care ||"M2's focus is primarily on small to medium enterprise, and the filter is a very consumer-centric issue. As such I don't have an impassioned view on the subject either way," said M2 chief, Vaughn Bowen.|
When asked how the ISP filter will affect iiNet, Dalby stated that the company required more details before a clear assessment could be made.
"Well there's quite a lot of water to pass under the bridge, we are still currently being involved in the private discussion and the consultation process," said Dalby, "we'll continue to make our thoughts known to the community at large and to those that are looking for input. So we don't really know until we see what the end result is."
However, iiNet and Netspace agree that the filter costs will be passed onto the consumer. "There are going to be some costs, there will always be costs involved in implementing any sort of filter and those costs will pass onto the community, to our customers," said the iiNet executive.
"Anyone who's run any type of business knows that all the costs are ultimately absorbed by customers," said Netspace regulatory manager Matthew Phillips.