So I’ve gotten reports that Senator Conroy has actually managed to get his rediculous proposal off the ground and has a total of 6 ISPs on board with him. Here’s some more info:
The Federal Government’s controversial internet filtering trial has moved a step closer with the announcement of six internet service providers ready to take part.
Primus Telecommunications, Tech 2U, Webshield, OMNIconnect, Netforce and Highway 1 will take part in the first trial, to run for six weeks and start once filtering equipment has been installed.
Clients of participating service providers will be able to opt out of the trial.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has been the subject of heavy criticism for the trials, with civil liberties groups labelling the plan ”draconian” and warning a mandatory ”clean feed” internet filter could severely reduce internet speeds in Australia.
Service provider iiNet has previously said it planned to take part in the filter trial to prove to the Government it would not work, while Optus has delayed participation until March. Telstra is not taking part.
But Senator Conroy has rejected the warnings, saying the Government was committed to an ”evidence-based” approach which was why it would trial the filter first. ”The live pilot will provide evidence on the real-world impacts of ISP content filtering, including for providers and internet users. It will provide evidence to assist the Government in the implementation of its policy,” he said.
Now call me cynical but apart from Primus Telecommunications I haven’t actually heard of any of these ISPs before the announcement. This is exactly the kind of behaviour that was expected if big players like iiNet and Internode hadn’t taken part. The Government would cherry pick small providers which would then give a very skewed view of the impact. Just a quick glance at these companies reveals:
Needless to say this doesn’t inspire confidence in the filter trial. If I saw iiNet, Optus and Internode on that list I might be able to say that it would be getting a fair go but come on, this is a sideshow. There is a deliberate selection bias with these ISPs and I must say that I’m not suprised.
I’d love to hear from anyone who’s actually on these services so I can get an idea about how you heard about them. I’d be really interested to hear from anyone on Netforce, since I’m sure they’re not really an ISP. Email me at [email protected]
Well it comes of little suprise that the trial has been delayed until mid January, with no explanation (other than straight up incompetence). Source from the ABC:
The Federal Opposition says it is not surprised the Government’s mandatory internet filtering trial has been delayed.
The trial, which was meant to begin today, has been postponed until mid-January 2009 and the internet service providers (ISPs) who will participate will be announced at the same time.
ISPs iiNet and Optus both said yesterday they had not heard anything about their applications to participate in the trial, and doubted the Government would meet its own deadline.
The article also mentions a report comissioned by the Howard government on Internet filtering:
Senator Conroy was unavailable to speak to the ABC today, but released a report commissioned by the Howard government into internet filtering.
The Internet Industry Association-produced report concluded that mandatory filtering would slow internet speeds, be easy to get around and would not block all undesirable material.
But Senator Conroy said the report included no empirical testing, instead relying on literature review, interviews and surveys.
Senator Minchin says he disagrees with Senator Conroy’s attempt to devalue the report, saying it is an “insult to those involved”.
[They] are leading experts in this field, particularly the lead author of the report,” he said.
“[His] frustration with the Government in hiding this report led to the Fairfax newspapers having a detailed briefing on the content then forcing Senator Conroy last night to release the report 10 months after he received it.
“The report does identify some very, very serious issues with any attempt to impose this mandatory ISP-level filtering system, but it leads me to believe it’s almost impossible to do this with any degree of effectiveness.”
This shows a blatant disregard for expert opinions and singals the fact that the Clean Feed proposal is nothing more than an appeal to emotion and an attempt to censor information that should be rightly available to Australians. Whilst that sounds alarmist, if Senator Conroy had taken these opinions and acted on them then he might’ve redone the proposal to something a bit more sane than its current incarnation.
ACL managing director Jim Wallace said those campaigning against the filter were selectively quoting figures.
”This is quoting the high end figure, when equally one could say that Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) trials have shown that one filter product slowed internet performance by less than two per cent, and three products slowed it by less than 30 per cent with technology improving all the time,’
Mr Wallace said the Christian Lobby believed claims that filtering was ineffective were unfounded, with ACMA trials showing about 92 per cent of illegal and inappropriate content was blocked, and over- blocking was less than three per cent.
”Rather than rallying on the basis of misinformation, people should be giving this very worthwhile proposal their full support particularly ISPs who profit so much from ordinary Australians,” he said.
Let’s be honest and state that neither of us know exactly how much this filter will slow everything down and that any solution that is currently being tested now will not behave the same way when it is implemented. Sure, we could get away with a minor amount of slow down but as Jim Wallace has shown the majority of programs will more then likely exceed 20%. It could be all the way up to 29% if we read far enough into his vague statements.
So let’s take a quick look at what this will cost Australian broadband users in real dollars using real figures. Australia has approximately 5 million broadband subscribers according to the OECD. Additionally they have provided some figures based on average price, with Australia’s coming out to approximately US$61 (AUD$89) per month. This comes out to roughly AUD$445 million per month that Australians spend on broadband connections.
If we take the best estimates of a 2% slowdown that is equivalent to all those subscribers losing 2% of their bandwidth per month, effectively costing Australians approximately $9 million a month in lost services. That’s at the very best of the figures quoted, coming out at a grand total cost to all Australians of around $107 million a year. If we go for what appears to be the majority of cases, say 20% to make it easy, it will cost us $90 million per month which over a one year period will total over $1 billion.
That’s right, if we end up with a filter that slows down only consumer level broadband by 20% it will cost Australians a billion dollars. I shudder to think of the figure that I would get if I did the calculations including high end business and government links.
Do we really want to implement something that costs us this much?
Well it seems that the DLC must have been heard by Senator Conroy and his party members, since he’s decided to add in some additional features to the proposed filter:
18. Is it true that ISP filtering is unable to filter non-web based traffic such as peer-to-peer and chat?
ISPs in other developed nations that have introduced filtering have done so mainly to help address the proliferation of child pornography on the web using a blacklist of mainly child pornography sites. These blacklist filtering services do not deal with non-web traffic such as peer-to-peer and chat.
The Department understands that a number of ISP filtering products allow blocking of non-web based applications, and that vendors are undertaking development in this area. A small number of ISPs in Australia and overseas provide ISP level filtering services that seek to help parents manage non-web based applications such as peer-to-peer and chat.
To the extent possible, the Pilot will test the effectiveness of more sophisticated ISP level filtering services and products to help parents manage use of non-web applications.
It is understood that technology exists to filter peer-to-peer networks. If such technology is proposed as part of the Pilot by an ISP it will be considered.
Now I know that many of the ISPs would be fully aware that blocking Peer to Peer (P2P) traffic is not only complicated but will also guarntee slowdowns that are far in excess of current estimates. To give you an idea of how complicated it is here are a couple ways of detecting Peer to Peer traffic:
The Internet Filter proposal itself was unacceptable already, this just puts it into the realm of insanity. At the rally I talked about what kind of impact this would have to businesses and introducing something like this would just make the effect even worse. Just because P2P may be responsible for some un-scrupulous people using it for nefarious purposes doesn’t mean that everyone should suffer, and I really do mean everyone in this respect.
Probably my biggest concern are the people who support Free and Open Software with their contributions to things like Linux. They use Bittorrent to distribute their software and blocking this service will mean a severe detriment to the free service that they provide. Whilst solutions like Ubuntu will still function thanks to the generous support of people like Mike Shuttleworth I’m afraid the smaller ones will be hit severely by the decision to include P2P in the filter.
If we see something like this get put in I can see so many business with strong web presences moving their services overseas. When you rely on your web services in order to generate revenue slow down means lost dollars and customers, neither of which a company will endure just to host a service in Australia. We’re already behind in terms of broadband proliferation and web services, do we really want to continue down this road of making Australia an Internet backwater?
We had Jonathon Reynolds at the rally on the weekend recording the whole event for us. Whilst I did not get a chance to thank him personally I hope this link to his vimeo on my blog can count as a belated thank-you 🙂
The video is below. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet but I’m sure that I made some good points, even if I had only 10 minutes to prepare for it!
Today was the Digital Liberty Coalition’s rally against the Clean Feed. We had a good turnout in Canberra with about 100 or so turning up to Caroline Le Coutuer (Greens Party), Hannah Mae Koenig (Event Organiser), Nathaneal Boehm (DLC Member) and myself speaking about why opposing this policy matters and what it means for Australia.
It was great to see the support that came out for this cause and I thank everyone who came out today to discuss the Clean Feed and all its implications. Whilst Caroline focused on the policy I gave a brief overview of the technical and business implications of the Internet Filter. I’m glad that many people are now more informed about this issue and can now impart knowledge on others in order to raise more awareness.
I was very impressed by the reception we got from the general public as well. Many people stopped to listen to us give our views on this policy, and a couple even stayed behind for a good chat afterwards. It was great to hear that all of them would be coming back for the big rally in March, which I’m hoping will draw much more interest from the media.
Hopefully I’ll have some pictures/videos/links once they start coming my way. I was going to take my camera along but being the busy boy that I am I remembered I’d left it at home 5 minutes before I was in Civic for the rally. I’m going to write up a summary of the whole event for the Chronicle and I’ll have a link to it once it’s up.
Whilst I’m all for protecting children on the Internet there are far better ways to do it than what Senator Conroy is proposing. I’m glad that Mike was on-board with what I was talking about and he brought up some really good examples of how the government has pulled these kinds of stunts in the past. Whilst I don’t want to go too far into tin foil hat mode, the whole internet filter smacks of government control of information. I’d happily support an opt-in filter for concerned parents (even opt-out at a real stretch) but only as long as it didn’t impact on people who didn’t want it.
My main point on all this is that many people don’t know enough about the Internet and the way it functions to make informed decisions on ideas like this. In many cases your average Joe will hear the words “Protecting our children” and instantly rubber stamp their approval. It’s a slippery slope once we give the government this kind of power, and I’d rather block this proposal in its entirety rather than have to circumvent it later on.
If you’re reading this and you’re concerned about your children and the dangers of the internet there are a couple pointers I’d like to give you:
I’ve attached an MP3 of the interview for you all to listen to, enjoy!!