ISP Filtering Said to Reduce Network Speed in Australia

Michael Hayes
AUSTRALIA – Information Technology Minister Helen Coonan rejected a recent Labor Party proposal to establish nationwide filtering at the ISP level, but the future of such filtering remains uncertain.

The Labor plan would have put the onus on ISPs to filter prohibited material, although adult users would have had the right to opt-out of the plan by contacting their ISP.

While Coonan doubted the effectiveness of a “clean feed” for Australian Internet access, cost was a major factor. According to government estimates, the plan would cost $32 million to implement and $24 million per year to run.

In addition to increased costs, a recent government study found that an ISP filter would decrease network performance between 18 and 78 percent, depending on traffic. According to Coonan, PC-based filters remain the best tool for blocking minor’s access to pornographic material.

"[ISP filtering will] only result in slowing down the Internet for every Australian without effectively protecting children from inappropriate and offensive content,” Coonan told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Coonan’s stand against ISP filtering prompted criticism from Liberal Party Sen. Guy Barnett, who earlier last year aligned a 62 member coalition in Parliament to pressure Prime Minister John Howard to do more to protect children from Internet pornography.

"I will not roll over on this issue,” Barnett told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I will continue to pursue this in the best interests of Australian children."

In response to Barnett’s pledge, Coonan backtracked slightly, saying that the government had not entirely ruled out ISP filtering, citing an ongoing study of the issue in Tasmania. Results from that study are expected shortly.