Optus: We want in on Internet filtering trial

The telco confirms interest in content filter but does not comment on how it will be enforced

Despite criticism the big ISPs have shunned the Federal Government's Internet filter trial, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, has declared Optus has jumped on-board.

Appearing on the ABC's live broadcast of Q&A on Thursday night, Conroy rebutted accusations the top three ISPs had rejected the trial.

“Optus, the second-largest ISP in the country, has said that it will participate,” Conroy said on the program. He also highlighted the fact Primus Communications, the nation’s fourth-largest ISP, is a participant.

While there is currently no contractual agreement between Optus and the government, Optus director of government affairs, Maha Krishnapillai, has confirmed the telco is in talks with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE).

“We are still in discussions [with the DBCDE] about how we can be involved in the trial,” he said. “But we have yet to finalise the contract.”

Despite the withdrawal of iiNet and various scandals involving the content filter scheme (including the Wikileaks publication of the purported ACMA block list), Optus remains unfazed.

“Optus is absolutely committed to working with any enforcement, police or other agencies to stop the movement of illegal content,” said Krishnapillai. “We have a very strong view that we need to take as many opportunities as we can to prevent illegal material.

“We certainly don’t want to be the police force ourselves, but we are keen to work with the Government and the right agencies to stop criminal activity.”

Buddecomm telco analyst and director, Paul Budde, said Optus’ participation in the Internet filter trial was not an issue as long as the telco offered it to customers on a voluntary basis.

“If Optus does go ahead with the filter on an involuntary basis, and the company doesn’t clarify to customers exactly what they are filtering, they will be, in my opinion, in breach of the freedom of information,” he said. “The problem starts when filtering technology is mixed in with government policies, then it suddenly becomes compulsory and you actually don’t know what actually going to be filtered.

“That is where the government is going in the wrong direction.”

Optus refused to comment on whether the company will run the trial on an opt in/opt out basis.

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