Government considers free filters for small ISPs

Subsidies for the rest

Small Internet Service Providers (ISPs) need not spend a cent to meet the national Internet filtering requirements in a move under consideration by the Federal Government.

Suzie Brady, 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”.

A proposed government grant for dynamic filtering — the opt-in component of the scheme — should be sufficient to cover the price of deploying the mandatory blacklist filter, according to Netsweeper managing director, Michael Grace.

But in a written statement Brady 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.

“In these countries, ISP filtering has also been implemented without imposing additional costs on to customers,” Brady said.

The department is also in talks with wholesale web filtering service companies for the possible purchase or development of blacklist filtering software that would be provided to small ISPs free of charge.

Brady said the government is holding consultations with retail and wholesale ISPs on the details of implementing mandatory ISP-level filtering. Telcos said yesterday, however, they had not received enough information to properly cost the roll out of Internet filtering.

Peter Mancer, managing director of New Zealand-based ISP, Watchdog and Netsweeper’s Grace criticised claims by ISPs that implementing the Internet content filter could cost up to $1 million.

“Some of these engineers talking about filtering have never put a [content] filter in,” Mancer said.

He said Australia should model its scheme on New Zealand’s optional Internet filter that went live today.

Mancer said the New Zealand government-run and operated scheme would cost Australian ISPs, excluding Telstra and Optus, less than $1 per customer, per year.

He said Telstra and Optus would likely need to run the filters on their own dedicated servers due to the huge number of subscribers.

“Only a very small amount of traffic is routed through to the filters, so it doesn’t require hugely scalable technology, but only a licence cost per user,” Mancer said.

The New Zealand Internet filter is run by the country’s Department of Internal Affairs, which hosts the filters single bank of government servers. An independent body oversees the operation of the Swedish Netclean WhiteBox filter and URL blacklist of child sexual abuse, according to a code of practice.

Mancer said Computerworld New Zealand had “got it right” in its reports that Telstra Clear, Telecom and Vodafone would implement the filter.

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