[LINK] Canberra calls net filter trial

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Tue Nov 11 16:15:10 AEDT 2008

Canberra calls net filter trial
Fran Foo
November 11, 2008
The Australian IT

The federal Government has released details of its long-awaited call for 
expressions of interest on live internet-service-provider content 
filtering trials.

The Government is asking all ISPs to participate, as their feedback is 

Child protection group Child Wise welcomed the news, but a technical 
group has dubbed the venture a risky business for ISPs.

BigPond, the nation's largest internet service provider, is reviewing 
the call's terms and conditions before making a decision.

The Government, through the Australian Communications and Media 
Authority (ACMA), has completed closed lab trials of ISP content 
filtering conducted by Enex TestLab. The live trial, however, is the 
first step towards evaluating whether ISP-level content filtering is 
feasible in Australia.

"The participation of industry is crucial to providing evidence on the 
real-world impacts for ISP content filtering, including on ISPs and 
their customers," the government document, released yesterday, says.

ISPs have until December 8 to submit their applications.

The intention of the live pilot - also managed by Enex TestLab - is to 
assess the impact of ISP content filtering on fixed and mobile internet 
access devices.

The live pilot is scheduled to begin before the end of the year, but 
ISPs will be able to start later, preferably before Christmas eve.

"Ideally, ISPs will participate in the pilot for a minimum of six 
weeks," the document says. "ISPs that commence earlier will have the 
discretion to participate in the pilot until its conclusion."

The Government plans to have two streams of filtered content. The 
mandatory portion will adhere to a blacklist of thousands of illegal web 
pages managed by ACMA and an optional clean feed of URLs that would 
automatically censor content, mostly adult material.

"The Government intends to take an evidence-based approach to content 
filtering at the ISP level and is committed to working closely with 
industry to address any concerns, including costs and impacts on 
internet speeds," the Communications Department said. "These concerns 
will be carefully considered during a live pilot of ISP filtering, which 
will test a range of content filtering solutions in a real-world 
environment, with the co-operation of ISPs (including mobile telephone 
operators) and their customers. The outcomes of the pilot will inform 
the Government's decision-making on the ISP filtering framework."

A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the 
Government had been working with ISPs to develop the call for 
expressions of interest.

Telstra, which runs the country's largest ISP, BigPond, has yet to 
decide whether to participate. "We're in the midst of reviewing the EOI 
document," Telstra spokesman Martin Barr said.

Sage-Au, a not-for-profit professional organisation representing system 
administrators, said participating in the live trial at this stage was a 
big risk for ISPs.

"It is a very important risk they take, as it is the participants in 
this trial that are likely to be able to make the biggest difference in 
discussions after the end of the trial," Sage-Au president Donna 
Ashelford said. "On the other hand, if the live trial turns out to be a 
disaster, having their name associated with it - as promised in the EOI 
document - might be a dual-edged sword."

Ms Ashelford pointed to technical weaknesses with the EOI, one example 
being that the live pilot would limit users to a maximum of 12Mbps. 
"Many users exceed 12Mbps right now. Some national broadband network 
proposals have involved technology that provides speeds up to 50Mbps. 
How future-proof is the national broadband network supposed to be when 
filtering systems are virtually guaranteed to bottleneck the resulting 
network," she said.

Ms Ashelford pointed to a part of the document on ACMA's role: "ACMA is 
responsible for maintaining the accuracy of the blacklist and the whole 
framework requires use of the ACMA blacklist as a mandatory requirement.

"But who watches the watchers, and what methods are imagined for 
addressing inevitable inaccuracies in the ACMA blacklist?"

Sage-Au has also proposed a three-pronged plan to keep the internet safe 
for families, as it supports any practical initiatives to protect 
children from viewing objectionable content on the web.

Ms Ashelford said a family friendly ISP program run by the internet 
industry association lacked awareness and could do with a big push.

She called on the Government to invest more in educating parents on 
cyber-safety. More funds should be allocated to organisations such as 
ACMA and the Australian Federal Police to identify and remove illegal 
content, usually hosted overseas, she said.

Meanwhile, Child Wise chief executive Bernadette McMenamin described the 
release of the document EOI as "an excellent development".

"It's a fair and inclusive process that ISPs can be part of," she said. 
"I wouldn't like to see anything but child sexual abuse sites blocked. I 
like the two-tier approach of a mandatory, and opt-in and opt-out 

However, any form of content filtering would have to accompanied by an 
extensive education campaign, she said.


Bernard Robertson-Dunn
Canberra Australia
brd at iimetro.com.au

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