ISPs a no-show on filter discussion paper

If the level of industry feedback on the Federal Government’s measures to increase accountability and transparency for Refused Classification (RC) material is anything to go by, then it’s safe to say ISPs have effectively chosen to filter out the exercise as a waste of time.

A mere handful of ISPs - Telstra, Optus, WBA and Internode – made public submissions to the Mandatory ISP filtering: Measures to increase accountability and transparency for Refused Classification material discussion paper.

In all, 174 submissions were received from groups such as the Internet Industry Association, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Microsoft Australia and Yahoo! Australia, according to Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy.

One CEO of a notable ISP, who requested anonymity, said that much of the industry’s lack of response to the discussion paper could be attributed to “public submission fatigue”.

“I wasn't directly aware of that particular request, and may not have been in a position to comment even if I had been,” the CEO said. “Accordingly I have no view on the specific request for submissions concerned. We can't be everywhere at once.”

The timing of the discussion paper - issued in December and closing for comment in February - was also partly responsible for the lack of submissions.

“It’s also worth remembering that governments put out requests for submissions across the Christmas break when they need to (a) claim they consulted the community but (b) have no intention whatsoever of caring what they get back, because if they did, they'd ask when people weren't on holidays,” the CEO said.

Primus Telecom CEO Ravi Bhatia said the company felt it didn’t need to respond to the discussion paper.

“While we chose not to lodge a public submission at this time, we continue to closely monitor the debate and developments here and overseas," he said. "We will also be reviewing the submissions and remain fairly open on the ultimate solution.”

Macquarie Telecom declined to comment on why it did not make a submission on the discussion paper.

iiNet did not respond to Computerworld Australia’s request for comment on why it did not submit a response.

In their submissions, Optus and Telstra argued opposing sides on the question of whether or not to notify a user who has landed on a filtered website page.

In his submission, Mark Newton, a vocal critic of mandatory ISP-level filtering and network engineer at Internode, wrote that he did not support the involvement of the ACMA at any stage in the scheme's administration.

“ACMA have proven themselves to be incompetent at content regulation generally, and ought not be encouraged to do more of it,” the submission reads.

Wireless Broadband Australia said in its submission that at all times the actual list of pages and/or sites on the refused classification list should be available for public inspection, together with the statement of why the site was included.

The submissions on the discussion paper can be read in full on the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy website

With reporting by Darren Pauli

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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