Smaller ISPs refuse Cameron's calls for porn filters

22 Jul 2013
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Smaller ISPs are refusing to play ball with the government's plans for default content filtering

Smaller ISPs are refusing to offer the parental-control filters being foisted on their larger rivals - despite the prime minister saying all providers will have to take part.

David Cameron yesterday said all ISPs must offer network-level parental control filters by default. Previously, the porn-blocking debate has focused on the four main ISPs - BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - but Cameron made it clear smaller broadband providers would need to follow suit too.

"I want this to be a priority for all internet service providers not just now, but always," Cameron said. "That’s why I am asking today for the small companies in the market to adopt this approach too."

AAISP director Aidan Kennard said his firm was "very concerned" about the speech, "especially the call for smaller ISPs to be involved".

Without legislation, small ISPs such as AAISP can continue to offer unfiltered internet access

He noted that the PM seems to be pushing for ISPs to filter their connections without legislation. "However, without legislation, small ISPs such as AAISP can continue to offer unfiltered internet access," Kennard noted. "The only bad side to that is that it also means that the filtering will not have the transparency and control that would come with legislation."

He note that AAISP's terms have "for a long time" made it clear that customers get an unfiltered connection, "so our customers have already opted out of any filtering". To stress the point, AAISP has now changed its order pages to highlight the "stupidity of the proposals". It offers customers the choice of:

"(a) Unfiltered internet access - no filtering of any content within the A&A network - you are responsible for any filtering in your own network.

"(b) Censored internet access - restricted access to unpublished government mandated filter list - still cannot guarantee kids don't access porn."

If users select the second choice, they'll be told: "Sorry, for a censored internet you will have to pick a different ISP. Our services are all unfiltered."

Kennard added: "AAISP will continue to offer unfiltered internet access as long as possible, in the interests of free speech."

Fellow small ISP, ICUK, said it wasn't rushing to roll out such a filter, instead playing "wait and see", saying that without clear guidelines it was impossible to know what was expected.

"For smaller ISPs, introducing a filtering system, either by creating one themselves, or purchasing equipment to carry it out, will be very costly as time and money is diverted from usual priorities," said Tim O'Donovan, ICUK director. "The government must come up with a clearer strategy and support smaller, and indeed, all ISPs if it wants to realistically roll out this programme by October."

"ISPs are being expected to act as judge and jury, though the government has failed to give a clear enough picture of what should be blocked and how," he added. "We've all seen reports that GCHQ has the resources to access this data, and there is a question of why the government won't do it themselves."

Some smaller ISPs already offer parental controls, notably Claranet, which last year rolled out its own network-level filter - and invited religious groups, schools and other groups to help decide what to block.

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