Entanet Question Government’s Decision on Content Filtering

Entanet Neil Watson

The wholesale communications provider, Entanet, has published an opinion piece regarding the Prime Minister’s instruction to all UK ISPs to apply content filters that, by default, block access to pornography for all customers, both existing and future, in an effort to protect children. In the article, Entanet asks whether ISPs rather than parents and guardians should be responsible for controlling access to web content, and points out that the filtering requirement will increase costs for consumers.

In a passionate speech last month, Prime Minister David Cameron outlined government plans to work with search engine providers to stamp-out access to both images of child pornography and depictions of sexual violence – a policy which Entanet wholeheartedly supports.

He also outlined plans to make ISPs set up content filters that are set to ‘on’ by default to make it harder for children to access pornography from uncontrolled home computers. He made it clear that smaller ISPs will not be exempt from this demand.

It is this specific issue that Entanet discusses in its opinion piece, questioning whether it should be the responsibility of ISPs or of parents and guardians to take primary responsibility for the content that can or cannot be accessed with home computers. Entanet also points out that the requirement to provide filtering as a default will add additional costs for smaller ISPs, which will ultimately be passed onto the consumer, and hand a competitive advantage to larger players.

There is also a wider concern that the proposed measures will lead to further government censorship of the web, which would be detrimental to users and society in general, as expressed by the Open Rights Group, (see https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2013/government-wants-default-blocking-to-hit-small-isps), which has started an online petition calling for the government to drop the plans immediately.

In an article on the company’s blog (http://bit.ly/1eg1lqR), Neil Watson, Head of Service Operations at Entanet states:

“Cameron has stipulated that ISPs must swing the technology sledgehammer to protect these customers’ children. To do that will inevitably incur additional cost which will be passed on to all customers, regardless of whether they have children or not. In a market in which the big players are able to leverage their economies of scale, such an imposition by government serves only to make it even harder for smaller ISPs to compete against them to win customers. Perhaps that’s what Cameron ultimately wants – a market served by a small handful of big players whom it vainly thinks it can control via Ofcom. Most would agree that doesn’t generally happen.

“At the moment, the PM’s requests are not compulsory by law and smaller ISPs can continue to offer an Internet service without these constraining controls. We will look out for developments of Cameron’s plan with interest. No doubt this will continue to be a much-debated topic, both in terms of how acceptable it is to impose controls on customers and the impact it will have on smaller ISPs.”

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