BUDGET 2011: Government scraps ISP filter grants

The Federal Government has scrapped plans to subsidise filtering methods implemented by internet service providers under its proposed mandatory internet filtering scheme.

The $9.8 million program, initially announced in last year’s budget, was designed to “assist and encourage ISPs” to implement measures that would filter all HTTP content refused classification by the Classification Board. It was designed as a first step toward the initial proposal by communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, to introduce mandatory filtering.

[See the complete coverage of ICT spending in Computerworld Australia's Federal Budget 2011 section]

The grants would go some way alleviate the costs of implementing the proposed filtering measures, which several ISPs have said could exceed $1 million per provider.

In the 2011/2012 federal budget, however, the government scrapped the program citing poor interest from industry regarding the grants scheme and an increasing range of user-based filtering measures. It would provide $9.6 million worth of savings back into the budget as a result.

Other significant changes since the scheme’s announcement last year included initiation of a review into Refused Classification material and the RC blacklist maintained by the communications regulatory, announced by Conroy in July last year. The review, which is yet to yield a final recommendation, delayed the government’s plans to more widely implement mandatory filtering by at least a year.

But the scheme’s scrapping isn’t expected to affect plans from Optus, Telstra and Primus to implement child porn filters on its user access networks by July this year. The filter, announced alongside the classification review, would be mandatory for users of the three telcos once implemented but would only filter HTTP traffic identified by the communications regulator as child pornography material.

A spokesperson for Conroy on Tuesday night said the government remained committed to implementing a full-scale mandatory filtering scheme.

“The Government is committed to its Cyber Safety Program, including mandatory filtering of Refused Classification content,” the spokesperson said via email.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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