Filtered Internet to inflate access costs, slow speeds

Lax blacklists look “a little bit pregnant”.

Broadband costs will rise and access speeds may suffer if the government's national Internet content filtering scheme is mandated, according to network experts.

Members of the System Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU) claim the filters will inflate operating costs for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which will be passed on to consumers, and dampen broadband speeds.

The scheme is part of the government's $125.8 million Plan for Cyber Safety which will split funds between law enforcement, technology and education to reduce the proliferation of child porn and inappropriate content on the Internet.

The comments attack findings in a recent government report that claim the filters would have minimal impact over Australia's telecommunications environment. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) tested the performance of six Internet content filters for accuracy and network resource requirements in a Telstra lab on a Tier 3 broadband network with a load of 30 simulated users.

SAGE-AU member Mark Newton said the filters will be overrun if forced on ISPs because the average user access speeds in the trial were slower than dial-up speeds.

"Filtering software does not present noticeable performance degradation [in a] traffic rate below dial-up speeds," Newton said in a written statement.

"It is difficult to see the relevance of that conclusion in a world where the minister wants everyone in Australia to connect over 500 times faster.

"How is it possible that we have come this far, and covered this much ground, over this much time, without any attempt by the government to address industry concerns about the on-the-ground practicalities of implementing the plan?"

The guild claimed more than 3000 Web sites would be incorrectly blocked every second if the best content filter was used in a real environment. It argues manually unblocking Web sites will produce a "significant cost" which could inflate Internet access costs and further disadvantage areas with poor Internet access.

The ACMA test showed the worst performer allowed through 12 percent of a set list of banned material, while the best blocked more than 94 percent. Fewer than one percent returned false positives, and five of the six consumed less than one percent of network resources when attached but not filtering.

Guild member David Jericho said the plan will reverse benefits brought by the National Broadband Network (NBN) because of "delays and processing required by any content filters".

Nefarious material carried over peer-to-peer networks will bypass the filters because they are unable to determine content shared over the protocol. The guild claims peer-to-peer represents one third of network traffic.

RMIT university system administration lecturer Don Gingrichat said the filters do not have appropriate blacklists for banned content.

"From past experience in looking at how this has played out in other regions, there seems to be a near certainty that legitimate and useful educational sites will be inadvertently blocked as a part of any effort of this sort. 'A little bit censored' seems a lot to me like a 'little bit pregnant,'" he said.

Guild president Donna Ashelford said the government should ditch the plan and address root causes of child porn.

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