As the smoke begins to clear after the passing of the Government's Online Services Bill, small-to-mid sized ISPs and developers are expressing concern over the potential costs of the legislation.
"The devil is in the detail," said Ken Morrison, managing director of Tasmanian ISP Access Server, who claims it is too early to tell what blocking infrastructure ISPs will have to implement, whether content blocking cost will be restricted to carriers or what costs they will incur. "I'm very concerned about it," he said.
"But either way this cost is going to be filtered down to the end user," Morrison said.
Morrison claims that hypothetical time lags in Web surfing and potential interference with e-commerce transactions could affect how international companies deal with Australia, with companies avoiding initiating e-commerce transactions with Australian counterparts on the basis that it won't work in this Internet environment.
Describing the Government's attempt at Internet censorship as something which is "ultimately unsuccessful" and potentially "worse than doing nothing at all", Morrison is concerned one of the major costs will be Australia's credibility as an online community.
Already surviving on a very low profit margin, Gary Smith, managing director of regional Victorian ISP Cyberlink Access Systems, says if his company is forced to install additional technology in the form of proxy servers it could spell the end. "From our point of view this legislation could put us out of business," he said.
He says the potential "slow-down" in service capabilities will enable larger ISPs to offer significantly faster speeds while at the same time push Web development offshore, affecting smaller ISPs' competitive edge in being able to offer these value-added services.
Troy Adkins, managing director of Web developer AIMS Independent Computer Professionals, said that while it's hard to assess the costs to the online industry, the potential is there to cause problems down the track, depending on how far the Government goes in enforcing the legislation.
"The legislation is like a big stick - if the Government wants to wield it, it can. But it remains to be seen what the Government will do," he said. "It's an umbrella deterrent."