Big ISPs to benefit from mandatory Internet filter: Academic

Cost of the ISP-level filter on smaller providers could ruin them, Sydney University professor argues

The burden of managing the costs associated with the implementation of ISP-level filtering could put many of Australia’s smaller ISPs out of business, according to a University of Sydney academic.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia ahead of an industry discussion panel, Associate Professor Bjorn Landfeldt of the university’s School of Information Technologies said size does matter.

“It’s definitely going to have a negative impact on the smaller ISPs. For them, any costs [associated with the ISP filter] are going to be very detrimental, and basically threaten their existence,” he said.

“But for the larger ISPs – Telstra and Optus – I think they welcome this filter as it will wipe out a bit of their opposition. Not that it will mean a lot of extra revenue, but it will make the landscape plainer for them.”

Landfelft, who had a hand in drafting the Howard Government-commissioned February 2008 Feasibility Study into ISP Level Content Filtering, said it was clear there were serious concerns around the costs associated with the filtering plan.

“The [filtering] equipment itself can by quite cheap but it is the maintenance when they have to deal with customer enquiries about filters or complaining that they came across something that should have been filtered; basically, people not understanding that they have to go to ACMA,” he said.

Customer care related costs were also likely to include call centre training, changes or upgrades to customer relationship management systems, and changes to billing systems.

Landfeldt also pointed to the Feasibility Study’s finding that smaller ISPs feared there may be other costs related to the operation of such a filtering service that will be harder to quantify, such as potential impacts to brand value – especially with erroneous filtering - and performance related issues.

Additionally, many smaller ISPs will not have adequate in house technical expertise with which to set up and maintain any filtering solution, and will need to bear the cost of outsourcing any solution developments.

Landfelt argued that a more effective regime – one that would cut down costs for ISPs, and also limit the degree of child exposure to harmful content – would be a return to free, optional PC-based filters.

“The ISP-level filter will only filter a very small subset of the Web. There are a whole range of other material they would not want their children to get access to, and a PC-based web filter would do a much better job of that,” he said.

“It would be a much better use of public money to bring back those [PC] filters, and actually educate the public on how use them and their benefits.”

(See a slideshow on how the Pirate Party is teaching older Australians how to get around the filter.)

Internode network engineer, and critic of the mandatory ISP-level filter, Mark Newtown, said the cost to ISPs of having to maintain a mandatory ISP-level filter hinged on whether the Government mandated that any filter installed by an ISP actually had to work.

"If the systems are allowed to fail, then they can be quite cheap - essentially, design a system which automatically bypasses when it's over-capacity, then install the absolute lowest-spec system you can get away with, and just assume that it'll spend almost all of its working life bypassed," Newton said.

"On the other hand, if there are penalties for censorware not working properly, the whole system gets a lot more complicated. The system would need to be funded to exceed the ISP's peak demand, and you'd need at least two of them so that you still provided censorship even if one of them was offline, and if a technical fault took them both offline you'd need to cut customers' Internet access until the fault was fixed."

Further, ISPs would be faced with having to regularly rebuild their ISP-level filter in line with the industry trend toward a doubling of network traffic load every 12 - 18 months, Newton added.

"By then and the original system you designed would no longer be able to keep up," he said. "The costs of a system like that would add up very quickly indeed, and would rapidly turn into a major part of the cost of Internet service delivery."

An Optus spokesperson decline to directly address Landfeldt's claims, and referred Computerworld to the company's December 2009 statement on its participation in the mandatory ISP-level filter trials.

“The mandatory blocking of RC content is important, but 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," the statement reads.

Similarly, a Telstra spokesperson also declined to directly address Landfeldt's claims, referring Computerworld to a December statement on ISP-level filtering.

"It is important to recognise, as the Government has, that there is no silver bullet which will make the internet 100 per cent safe. The blocking of a blacklist of RC sites is one element ofthe multi-faceted approach that is required to create a safer online environment," the statement reads.

In March, a spokeswoman for communications minister Stephen Conroy, said the government is considering a grants scheme for ISPs that introduce “wider levels of filtering on a commercial basis”.

But in a written statement Conroy's spokeswoman reiterated the government's position that it should not need to pay, based on other developed countries that have deployed Internet filter schemes without public funds.

The Making The Internet Safe: Will ISP Filtering Work? panel will also feature Google’s Iarla Flynn, Louise Collins, the primary author of the Feasibility of ISP Level Content Filtering report, Jonathan Nicholas, acting CEO at the Inspire Foundation, and David Vaile, executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at the University of New South Wales.

Tags university of sydneycensorshipmandatory internet fiteringISPsisp-level internet content filteringoptusAssociate Professor Bjorn LandfeldtTelstra

More about etworkGoogleInspireInternodeOptusTelstra CorporationUniversity of New South WalesUniversity of New South WalesUniversity of SydneyUniversity of Sydney




If the system is mandatory, unlike every other developed country, ISPs should NOT be forced to pay for the system.

The government is saying to the industry: Even though you don't want it, say it is extremely expensive, doesn't work, and will massively backfire on everyone, you will be paying for every cent of it.



We dont need a professor to tell us that this is a very stupid idea, but Comrade Conroy probably does, he appears to be as thick as a house brick !
How can these looneys be proposing to wast so much of the taxpayers money on a scheme that is doomed to fail just before an election ?



Stephen is clinically incompetent, and doing nothing more than pandering to religious fundamentalists.

Seriously folks - Think Of The Taliban - A Rose By Any Other Name.

Do YOU want YOUR COUNTRY to be run by a fringe group of religious wingnuts with no more than a tenuous grip on reality?

There's an election coming --> VOTE HIM OUT. And VOTE against *ANYONE* (and any party) which says even the most vaguely nice things about this GOVERNMENT MANDATED CENSORSHIP PLAN.

Tim B


Good... Another credible person has spoken. Now all we need is for Conroy to clean the wax out of his ears.



It's not the wax in Conboy's ears that's proving troublesome.

It's that bloody ego-blinded, sanctimonious fundamentalist vacuum between his lugs that's the cause of the problem.



No, it's Rudd that's the problem. If Rudd tells Conroy to drop the proposal, he will.



Good point, Ben, although it may be hard to discern anything intelligent from either of them on this issue.



Please bear with me folks as I have to spread this across a few pages due to size limits on this forum.
Sleepers Awake !
A Government Controlled Internet Filter
An Essential Precursor to the Establishment of a Totalitarian State

In my former (working) life, I was one of a then, relatively small number of Digital Engineering SMEs, responsible for the continuous daily technical operations, of our largest Australian Telco's domestic and also global, Data Telecommunications networks and hence, I feel reasonably qualified to speak about the technical aspects, at least, of the “suitability for purpose” of our current Federal Government's proposed new "Internet Filter".

Now that I am retired and hence 'officially' free at last, of the considerable daily constraints, of the Commonwealth Telecommunications and Official Secrets Acts, I feel now compelled to put pen to paper and speak at last publicly, in an attempt to raise the awareness of my fellow Australians and to as clearly and unambiguously as possible, warn them of the very real potential threat to our cherished system of Democracy, that is posed by the pending introduction of this new Government controlled, ISP based 'Internet Filter' technology, although I must admit, that I already have a deep, worrying and abiding feeling, that I may indeed, ultimately prove to be wasting my time.

Firstly, let us examine Communications Minister Conroy's stated primary purpose for the introduction of this ISP based, Internet Filtering technology ie, to save all of our little innocent Johnnys and Jannets from 'accidentally' stumbling across some nasty, explicit and mind warping, pedophile pornography promoting website, despite possibly, their very own best 'intentional efforts' to actually do so, by means of them rushing home from school and faithfully typing into their parent's PC web-browser, the specific URL that was provided to them, for just that very same purpose, that same day, by that nasty little kid Freddy, from over on the wrong side of the tracks.

Now whilst this publicly stated concern for the moral welfare of all of our kids is of course absolutely commendable, on the part of our current, national Communications Minister, the unfortunate reality is, that it won't work.

I would simply ask him and all of the others who want to protect us all from this pedophile material that is 'lurking out there' on the Internet this question; have you ever tried to find it ? Have you ever just, stumbled upon it ? Can you find it through a Google search ?

The reality is, that pedophiles don't use 'normal' Internet websites to peddle and promote their own particularly peculiar, perverse, predilection for child pornography, they instead use direct peer to peer file sharing technology and secured mail message boards.




As also recently witnessed in our national TV media's coverage of a couple of stories about the very rapid pornographic defacement of high profile FaceBook 'Tribute Pages', they constantly trawl 'Mainstream Social Networking' Internet Chat Rooms, MySpace, YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter, as well as exploiting simple E-mail, whilst they are forever on the lookout for their next, unguarded moment of nefarious opportunity, to prey upon the innocent and the Government's new 'Net Filter' will have absolutely nil effect, upon all of these 'Mainstream' avenues of opportunity.

Unfortunately, whilst the use of these various modern 'Mainstream' data communications channels are very popular with all of our kids, they are also a huge 'honey pot' to the unsavory creatures who would seek to exploit them and in all of these cases Mr Conroy's new 'Net Filter' will prove to be absolutely useless, against them.
The detection of their nefarious, abhorrent activities, requires constant, persevering, dedicated policing, by suitably sworn, trained and technically enabled personnel, with very high level access to our national data telecommunications networks.

Put simply then, Mr Conroy's stated reasons for the introduction of this 'Net Filter' are absolute, blatant untruths.

All that the Government's new ISP based Internet Filter policy will do, is provide a mechanism to hide that, which they, the Government, want to remain unseen by the public and that, by any reasonable interpretation is simply called, unfettered Government controlled censorship.

The worry of all of this of course, is that there is not a single example of total Government censorship control throughout all of our history, that hasn't eventually been turned upon the population.

The 18th century French philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet, a.k.a. Voltaire, is attributed with having penned the words, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend even to the death, your right to say it"

All Australians need to understand as clearly as possible, that absolute, unfettered, and total Government controlled censorship, combined with Fundamentalism, in 'any' of its forms, are the absolute arch enemies of any truly free and Democratic Liberal Western society.

Evil flourishes, like mould, in the dark and it absolutely abhors, the harsh and sterilizing effect of the strong and unimpeded daylight of free, open and vigorous public scrutiny and this is why a free, independent, unhindered and vigorous "Fourth Estate" is so very, very important, to our continued national collective freedom and liberty.

At the very best, this current Government's 'Net Filter' proposal will simply hide, child abuse.




The most fitting analogy I can give to you, is that the Government will cover your windows if a child is being molested in your front yard. They could also very easily decide at the same time however, to also cover your windows if someone is outside there, discussing abortion, euthanasia, religion, gambling, anorexia, sex, or possibly, even something as simple and 'shocking', as politically divergent thoughts, to their own.

As far as disabling access to other 'normal' porn web-sites goes, anyone with even a modicum of understanding in the use of IP addressing and offshore Proxy Servers (read internet savvy kids) will very quickly learn to be able to circumvent any attempt at 'filtering' them also.

Which then of course, leads me to ask the 'bleeding obvious' question.

Well, just what then, will our Government's new 'Net Filter' technology actually, be used for and I fear my fellow Australians, that the answer to this question, could be that the Government's (and keep in mind, that it may not necessarily be this current Government's) real agenda, may indeed eventually, turn out to be a much, much, darker one.

Now, I personally, am a very great believer in faithfully observing all of the hard won and harshly administered lessons of human history, for the very simple reason, that I cannot possibly hope to live long enough, to make all of those terrible mistakes myself.
I also believe that the basic, or should that indeed perhaps be, the 'base' nature, of mankind, has never, ever, altered throughout all of human history and consequently, I firmly believe that if you manage to stick around long enough, then everything old, becomes new again, and this is what truly worries me, greatly.....!

You see, with our ever more increasing, and absolute daily reliance upon the Internet for the delivery of all manner of our news and information, once this Government controlled, ISP based 'Net Filter' system is fully implemented, it is just another very small step from that point, technically speaking, to have total control of the entire national 'Net Filter' network connected back into the Federal Government's Canberra based offices where some faceless back room Government employed techno-bureaucrats, will have via their use of a 'secret' unpublished and hence un-appealable banned web-site 'Blacklist', absolute, and unfettered control, over just what the 'great unwashed' masses, are 'allowed' to see, hear, read, think and hence, thus come to believe and God forbid 'of course' that any of our populace should ever 'be allowed' to formulate any dissenting views to those 'expressed' opinions of our national Government, 'of the day'.




With the integration of all of our Telco's national Telephony systems into the Internet as well via the conversion of all of their network traffic into voice over IP, our society is rapidly moving towards an absolutely total reliance upon the Internet for access to all of our daily news, communications and sources of information and this reliance will be even further compounded, with the introduction of the Government's proposed new high speed NBN wideband 'fibre to the home' network, which is right now, being rolled out and undergoing technical evaluation trials in Tasmania, prior to it's intended final complete nationwide implementation.

Once the Government owned NBN is in place, its high data bandwidth transport capability will easily allow for the continuous online delivery via IP, of all, of our Telephony, as well as our daily newspapers and TV and Radio program content as well and all of these 'normal' sources of information, that are already totally relied upon by the public every day, will finally then, be under the continuous real time control capability, of the Federal Government's ever watchful, 'Net Filter'.

Bearing all of this in mind, I find it interesting to note now, for comparison, some of the world's other national Governments who have already, implemented compulsory filtering of their own populations access to the Internet and these include such 'Democratic luminaries' as Burma, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Peoples Republic of China, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen etc, etc. The common denominator amongst all of them instead, seems to be their Totalitarian Governments.

So now I ask you all, my fellow Australians, to very carefully consider, is this easily possible, dare I even say it now, entirely probable, not too distant future scenario, now starting to ring any alarm bells with anyone, with it's similarity to the nightmare dystopia and omnipotent Big Brother, foretold in the Newspeak language of the Orwellian classic, "Nineteen Eighty Four" ?

To give you all an easily understood example, of just where this totally unprecedented in our Australian nation's history, level of Federal Government imposed censorship on such a grand scale, could easily end up taking us all to, I would ask you all to cast your minds back just 77 years, (not even one human lifetime ago) to the 10th of May 1933, before the internet was even invented, when another national Government Minister for Information and Communications, sought to control, via their total censorship of the news media and also by means of their public burning of books which were deemed by their State, to be 'unsuitable', just what it was, that their own citizens of those days, were allowed to see, hear, read, think and thus come to believe.




Obviously, we would all, like to live in a totally safe and peaceful society and this does require us to allow our Governments, via their security agencies, some level of ability to gather 'intelligence' about those who would seek to jeopardize our enjoyment of our enviable, Australian way of life.

The really hard part for the rest of us, comes from determining just where we need to draw the line for them, in their allowable exercise of those considerable powers, in order to keep us all safe.

In the case of this new Government controlled Internet Filter, I personally would suggest that prior to us as a nation, allowing it's implementation, for the sake of establishing proof of the Government's own integrity and for confirming the transparency of their actions in the eyes of the Australian public, there must be some 'effective' counterbalancing mechanism established, possibly a review panel, comprised of a mixture of impartial ordinary citizens and members of the judiciary as well, with real and effective powers of majority veto, to allow a complete and timely assessment of the Government's reasons, for their inclusion of each and every IP address, that they wish to place into their 'secret' Internet Filtering 'Blacklist' .

The simple, and inescapable truth, for all of humanity is, "That which we think, becomes our reality" and if all, that you are allowed to daily see, hear, read, think and hence come to believe, is only what the Government 'allows' you to, then I leave you, to draw your own conclusions about the outcomes.

I now truly fear, that our own current, federal Government Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, with the introduction of his Government mandated, ISP based Internet Filtering, with all of the enormous inherent power that technology provides, to allow the Government absolute and total control over just what we can all daily see, hear, read, think and thus come to believe, is right now, either at the very worst case by his own purposeful intent, or, at the very best, perhaps by accident, laying the national technological infrastructure foundations, for a system of unprecedented Government censorship and control, that could ultimately end up taking us all back once again, to revisit that same old familiar crumbling and precipitous edge of that very, very, steep and very slippery slope, that our grandfathers and fathers had to endure, for all of our benefits, in their own previous, and far less 'enlightened' times, that were played out on the world stage, not so very long ago.




All of us sharing the world today, undoubtedly continue, to live in interesting, complex, albeit increasingly dangerous times, and I think that it would always bode us all well as a nation, to constantly remember, that the 'forces of darkness' will never cease attempting to gain the upper hand.

I will finish, by asking you all to please momentarily contemplate, these few basic truths.

"Our Freedom, is not free"

"The price of our freedom, is our eternal vigilance"

"Those who take their liberty for granted, and lose it to tyrants, must buy it back again with the price of their blood"

"They who forget, or simply choose to ignore, the harsh lessons of history, are doomed, to yet again, repeat them."

God bless you all my friends and sleep well. (But remember, always, sleep with one eye open...!)





time to grab your pitchforks and march to canberra

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