Internet content filter ISPs: Where are they now?

Progress is slow for some participants, while others look to commercialise the service after the pilot

ISPs participating in the Federal Government’s Internet filtering trial have reported mixed experiences in deploying technology for the scheme.

Eight ISPs have signed on to pilot the controversial internet filter: Nelson Bay Online, OMNIConnect, Primus Communications, Highway 1, Netforce, Webshield, Tech2U and Optus. iiNet was set to be involved in the trial but pulled out in March, claiming the project was “a waste of taxpayers’ money”.

In setting up its system for the trial, ISP, Nelson Bay Online, said it has had to battle network issues because of the filtering equipment.

“We wanted to implement it so it was transparent in our system in the same way it was explained to us,” general manger, Patrick Sayer, said. “It turns out our network cannot handle it very well, so we are in the process of routing specific users through.

“We expect to have it up and running in the next two weeks.”

Fellow participant OMNIConnect, managing director, Peter Hutton, said a delay in receiving the Web filter equipment has slowed the installation process.

“We only got the final equipment last week so part of the technical evaluation has just been put in,” he said. “But everything is in place and technically, everything is ready to go.”

Primus Communications products general manager, Andrew Simms, said the company has gone through the testing phase of the content filter gear to ensure network level compatibility.

“We are almost ready to go,” he said. “We are still pre-registering customers at the moment and on May 11 we will be turning all the systems on.”

After receiving approval from the Government several days ago, Highway 1 is also gearing up for a May 11 rollout.

“Assessment of our network is complete and we will commence on May 11 and finish on June 23”, Highway 1 general manager, Nick Powell, said.

Powell additionally claimed an email survey of the company’s clients showed 80 per cent were in favour of the impending content filtering trial.

Meanwhile, Netforce, while still in a customer sign-up process, has made plans to unleash the filter pilot by the end of the week.

The only two ISP’s that have already deployed the Web content filter are Webshield and Tech2U.

“We didn’t have to wait for the equipment to the same level as others since we are already a filtering company,” Webshield general manager, Anthony Pillon, said. “The only thing we had to do was to check that the ACMA blacklist was uploaded properly.”

Pillon also said the company had started a part of the trial in early March.

“We began preliminary work with the Government as soon as the trial was announced,” he said.

Tech2U general manager, Andrew Robson, who criticised what he called public misconception of the clean-feed scheme in March, said the technology has exceeded expectations.

“All is going well,” he said. “What has surprised me is that we are taking cold calls from people from other non-participating ISPs asking how to have their internet filtered.”

Robson also claimed there were no latency problems. Other observers have claimed there would be significant delays to services because of the filtering technology.

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“We have adopted it to our own internal network and nobody has noticed any speed issues,” Robson said.

While the content filter scheme is offered free to customers, some ISPs have not ruled out charging for the service once the trial ends.

“Post June, we will definitely offer it as an optional service to our clients,” Robson said. “For a one off account, we will probably charge $50 per annum.”

Highway 1 also expressed interest in converting the filter into a commercial service.

“The appliance we are using is commercially extendable,” Powell said. “But we will wait for results from the Government before making a decision.”

The national clean feed Internet scheme is part of the Government's $128 million Plan for Cyber Safety. It will impose national content filtering for all Internet connections and will block Web pages detailed in a blacklist operated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Supporters of the trial have called for critics to wait and see the results of the trial before dismissing it and claimed it could help in the fight against child pornography.

However, emotions have run high since the ACMA blacklist was reportedly leaked on the Wikileaks website in March.

Under a Federal Government contract, Enex Testlab, was commissioned to execute and monitor the trial but can not disclose any related internet filter pilot results. The trial is set to end by June 30.

The eighth ISP participant, Optus, was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.