Analyst: Optus' Internet filter participation shocking and disappointing

Leading telco analyst claims the telco's move could upset its customers

A leading telco analyst has expressed surprise and disappointment at Optus’ decision to join the Federal Government’s controversial Internet filtering trial.

In a release, Senator Stephen Conroy announced Optus will join the Federal Government’s much-criticised Internet filtering trial despite the withdrawal last month of another ISP, iiNet, and the leaking of the Government’s blacklist to Wikileaks.

Buddecomm telco analyst and director, Paul Budde, told ARN Optus could anger its customers by participating in the trial.

“I thought the credibility of the whole situation was now so low that very few companies would actually put their weight behind it,” Budde said. “It is clear the customers of companies such as Optus will not be amused about this sort of activity. So in that respect I am a bit surprised that companies do stick their neck out in a situation like that.”

The national clean feed Internet scheme, is part of the Government's $128 million Plan for Cyber Safety. It will impose national content filtering for all Internet connections and will block Web pages detailed in a blacklist operated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

Supporters of the trial have called for critics to wait and see the results of the trial before dismissing it and claimed it could help in the fight against child pornography.

However, Budde questioned the Government’s openness on the controversial issue and labelled the whole process “unacceptable” for a democratic society. The analyst also shrugged off the possibility Optus’ involvement changes the balance of the game to give the Federal Government’s plans more legitimacy.

“’Obviously, from that point of view, Conroy immediately sent out a press release,” he said. “But Optus is not going to vote for the Government. The people that are affected by it will vote for or against. In the end that is what counts and I am pretty sure the Minister is well aware of the implications. He is well aware he is not popular with this. I can’t see that Optus’ participation, therefore, gives more credibility to the project. It might give a little more credibility to Conroy but not to the project.”

Optus joins seven other ISPs in participating in the filtering - Primus Telecommunications, Highway 1, Nelson Bay Online, Netforce, OMNIconnect, TECH 2U and Webshield.

Despite iiNet’s withdrawal, the other ISPs have remained supportive of the initiative.

The Government release states that for the purposes of the pilot, Optus will filter the Australian Communications and Media Authority's (ACMA) existing blacklist of prohibited and potentially prohibited content for a selection of its customers who volunteer to participate.

Check out ARN’s slideshow on the content filtering debate here.

Have your say on this contentious issue on our forums.

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Trevor Clarke
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