The majority of ISPs participating in the Federal Government’s controversial Internet filter trials report smooth sailing but one is still scrambling to get the service online.
Earlier this month, only two ISPs, Tech2U and Webshields, had successfully successfully installed and applied the Federal Government’s contentious filter onto their network. The remaining parties – Nelson Bay Online, OMNIConnect, Primus Communications, Highway 1, Netforce and Optus – were preparing for their respective launches.
A spokesperson for Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, said in a statement to ARN that the Government had worked closely with ISPs to ensure they give the “most robust results possible” for development of an ISP filtering policy.
But plagued by management issues relating to hardware, Nelson Bay Online has still yet to implement the Internet filter to its network.
“At this stage, I’m assuming our results will come out for the second round of the trials,” Nelson Bay general manager, Patrick Sayer, said.
Despite running behind schedule, Sayer claimed the Department of Broadband was indifferent towards the ISPs progress.
“They are calling periodically asking about where we are at but they don’t seem overtly concerned,” he said.
While the ISP has not tested the filter, Sayer is skeptical of its efficacy and application costs.
“It will be better than software some people install that kids can easily get around but I don’t see it as final stage of web filters,” he said. “The only filter ACMA is trying to mandate is a list that they release periodically of sites which should be blocked. I don’t think it will have a significant effect on limiting people getting to inappropriate sites but it will put a significant cost in every ISP to do so.
“The cost of doing something so small they are trying to do is going to outweigh the usefulness of what they are trying to do.”
Post-trial, Nelson Bay Online is planning to release its own filtered service at an increased price to cover the cost of filtering operations.
OMNIConnect, with a big educational institute customer-base, has engaged in the filter trials for two weeks and is claiming positive results.
“So far, none of our clients have complained,” OMNIconnect managing director, Peter Hutton, said. “We have had requests to opt-out but it was not due performance issues.”
He said 90 per cent of the ISP’s subscribers are involved in the trial and were happy to participate.
“Most customers decided to join in once they understood that it was a just a trial,” Hutton said.
The company has plans to offer the filter as a complementary service once the trial is over.
Primus Telecommunications unleashed the trial on May 11 without a hitch, releasing the service to subscribers who volunteered in Sydney and Melbourne. The company has been monitoring customer calls to assess the performance.
“So far, we have not heard of any technical issues such as latency or interruptions,” Primus product manager, Andrew Simms, said. “We also set-up the service on a few PCs in the office so our technical staff is clued in on what is going on.”
Netforce, however, was more tight-lipped regarding its progress.
The company revealed the filtering equipment had not stifled its network’s performance but it could not divulge how many customers had opted-in nor could it discuss its future plans to commercialise the service.
Optus, which set the trial in motion on May 22, was equally reticent in regards to the content filter trial.
Speaking to ARN, an Optus spokesperson declined to reveal the trial’s status and said it was too early to comment.
Several ISPs have stated their tests will conclude on June 30 with Optus set to submit results by mid-July.
The Department of Broadband expects to finish the live pilot mid-year with a report to be submitted to Minister of Broadband, Senator Stephen Conroy, following its conclusion.
Fellow participant and ISP, Highway 1, was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.