[LINK] Net filtering may not be mandatory

Bernard Robertson-Dunn brd at iimetro.com.au
Wed May 27 09:35:28 AEST 2009

Net filtering may not be mandatory
Andrew Colley
May 26, 2009
The Australian IT

The Rudd Government has indicated that it may back away from its 
mandatory internet filtering plan.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy today told a Senate estimates 
committee that the filtering scheme could be implemented by a voluntary 
industry code.

Senator Conroy’s statement is a departure from the internet filtering 
policy Labor took into the October 2007 election to make it mandatory 
for ISPs to block offensive and illegal content.

Responding to questions from shadow communications minister Nick Minchin 
on how the government may go about imposing the internet filtering 
scheme, Senator Conroy said that legislation may not be required and 
ISPs may adopt an industry consensus to block restricted content on a 
voluntary basis.

“Mandatory ISP filtering would conceivably involve legislation … 
voluntary is available currently to ISPs,” Senator Conroy said.

“One option is potentially legislation. One other option is that it 
could be (on a) voluntary basis that they (ISPs) could voluntarily agree 
to introduce it.”

In response Senator Minchin said he had never heard of a voluntary 
mandatory system.

Senator Conroy responded with “well they could agree to all introduce it”.

The Government is currently spending around $300,000 on an industry 
filtering trial involving nine internet providers. The results of the 
trial, which are expected to inform its final policy, are expected to be 
handed to Senator Conroy in late July or early August.

The estimates committee was told that 30,000 internet users across the 
nine ISPs had been invited to participate in the trial.

Advisors from within the Department of Broadband, Communications and the 
Digital Economy took on notice a question as to how many customers had 
agreed to sign up for the pilot.

Late today a spokesman for Senator Conroy said that the department was 
not allowed to reveal how many subscribers had participated in the trial 
due to terms of its agreement with the participating ISPs. He referred 
to previous statements affirming that the outcome of the trial would not 
be affected by the number of participants.

“The trial is examining different filtering technologies in a live 
internet environment. In particular, Enex Testlab will assess the 
performance of the filter on internet speeds. A scalability assessment 
will also be undertaken to assess the impact of the filtering solution 
on internet access speeds with higher levels of traffic and customers,” 
the spokesman said.

He refused to clarify the minister's comments when asked whether the 
Labor government was prepared to accept a voluntary ISP-level internet 
filtering scheme.

The committee was also told that the department had recently agreed to 
give internet provider Primus around $14,300 to purchase equipment that 
would help test how the filter would perform when large numbers of 
customers were involved.

The primary goals of the trial are to measure how accurately the 
filtering technology can perform in recognising and blocking sites on 
the communications watchdog’s blacklist of refused classification web 
pages and its impact on internet speeds.


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

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