Australian technology experts group SAGE-AU warns that the government’s new ISP filtering laws will fail because the technology was only tested on slow broadband services.

The group questions the Federal Government’s trial results because the ISP-level filtering was not tested on speeds faster than 8 Mbps.
“The decision to proceed with Internet filtering based on evidence from the trials is incompatible with the Government’s aims for the National Broadband Network (NBN),” said SAGE-AU President Donna Ashelford. 
“While the NBN aims to provide access to users at 100 Mbps, no test result was at speeds faster than 8 Mbps, despite the criteria for testing to be up to 12 Mbps and higher. The likely degradation of higher Internet access speeds needs to be adequately tested.”
Statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics from June this year state that more than 2.2 million Australian broadband subscribers have access to speeds faster than 8 Mbps.

Ashelford also cited unclear sample sizes as an area for concern.  
“The only widely quoted figure from a test participant was a handful of clients, which did not produce any significant load. Significant sample sizes are essential to understand the effect that Internet filtering may have on service performance,” she said. 
“Another concern is that the report admits that ‘a technically competent user, could, if they wished, circumvent the filtering technology’. Anybody who uses Google could find ways to access censored content.”
Ms. Ashelford said every filtering test failed under ‘heavy traffic’ sites on the Internet, including YouTube videos already blacklisted by the Australian Communications & Media Authority. “The results show that none of the filters coped with widely used technologies such as peer-to-peer, chat rooms or instant messaging,” she said. 

Ms. Ashelford said that despite the Government’s decision to proceed, Internet filtering would not prove effective either to protect children from inappropriate content or to stop distribution of illegal material. “SAGE-AU believes the funds allocated for Internet filtering would be better spent on activities that are proven solutions to the problems identified by the Federal Government,” she said.
  • Encouraging ‘Family-Friendly’ ISP services: SAGE-AU proposes that the Government should support and promote the Family-Friendly ISP (Internet Service Provider) program, under which ISPs have offered ‘clean feed’ services to customers who desire them for several years. These Family-Friendly ISPs build their brands around their filtering services. 
  • Improved parent education: The Government should invest in ongoing education to assist parents to ensure their children are not exposed to objectionable material. 
  • More rigorous enforcement: SAGE-AU supports increased budgets for ACMA and the Australian Federal Police to identify and remove illegal content from Australian hosts.
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