Net Filter companies losing ISP business

ISPs tentative amid legislation "hiatus" and have frozen purchases of internet filtering products

Sales of web content filters to the telecommunications industry have frozen as reluctant Internet Service Providers (ISPs) wait for possible subsidy under the Federal Government’s national Internet content filter plan.

Two of the largest web filtering vendors, Marshall 8e6 and Netsweeper, reported Australian ISPs have iced plans to buy content filters that would be used to provide optional filtering services for subscribers.

The vendors said uptake of blacklist filtering products used by ISPs began to dry-up after the government pushed ahead with its mandatory filtering plans, and has remained stagnant during the present legislation hiatus.

Marshall 8e6 regional managing director, Jeremy Hulse, said ISPs are waiting for a content filter mandate before buying filtering technology.

“They are waiting on mandate because they could spend money on it and not have the right technology, or the government may provide subsidies,” Hulse said, adding it is difficult to quantify the downturn.

“There is a market for opt-in filtering [for ISP customers], but it has slowed to the extent that no-one is talking about it.

“They don’t want to risk a potential re-spend.”

Marshall 8e6 provides blacklist filtering — where the filter bans websites against a basic URL list —for about half of US schools. The vendor provided its off-the shelf 8e6 R3000 Internet Filtering product to six ISPs for a filtering trial along with advice on implementation held last year. However, each of the ISPs configured the product independently. NetSweeper, meanshile now sources “considerably” more revenue for the technology overseas than in Australia.

Netsweeper regional managing director, Michael Grace, said the largest ISPs have been “dragging their feet” in regards to adopting optional content filters.

“This hiatus is slowing down the adoption of filtering. The ISPs want either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from government,” Grace said.

“I can’t help but smile ironically at comments [that web filter companies are] snake-oil vendors since I am doing more sales outside of Australia where there isn’t the uncertainty of legislation.”

Suzie Brady, spokeswoman for communications minister Stephen Conroy, said previously the government will consider a grants scheme for ISPs that introduce “wider levels of filtering on a commercial basis”.

Greens WA Senator, Scott Ludlam, said the party will look to block the Internet filter in the lead up to the election.

iiNet chief technical officer, Greg Bader, said the ISP freeze on the purchase of content filters was “not unexpected”.

In March, three of Australia’s biggest ISPs, two of which did not wish to comment on the record, said independently that the filters could cost up to $1 million to implement.

Other ISPs said they had not priced the roll out, some citing a lack of information on the scheme.

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