Monday, 3 November 2008

Open Letter: Objection to Mandatory Internet Filtering

Dear Senator Conroy

As an Australian and an internet user, I have serious concerns about your mandatory Internet filtering initiative.

Given the importance our Government has attached to modernising Australia's broadband network, pursuing a policy that will slow down and increase the costs of internet access seems misguided at best. Australian households are diverse, and most do not have young children, so mandating a one-size-fits-all filter will not serve the public well. Nor do I think it is the Government's role to decide what's appropriate for me, and neither do most Australians.

Given the amount of Internet content available, no filter will ever be able to classify it all - and filters will always result in an unacceptable level of over-blocking. That alone is a price too high to pay, for all those using the Internet as a research tool for studies, technological development, or health and medical reasons.

I feel that the time and money could be spent in better ways to improve Australia's digital infrastructure. Trying to rid the Internet of what the government decides is objectionable or censored content is futile, and can only distract from that mission, and lead to further erosions of our rights.

As a voter and Australian ecologically aware citizen, your plan strikes me as very overly simplistic, worrying, and irresponsible.  

Why Simplistic?  Because I know children in primary schools who regularly and routinely already employ various means to circumvent content filters.  You seem to want to waste time, money, and our already scarce resources to put in place a system any child knows to circumvent.

Worrying? From the point of view of eco-friendliness, this plan is a disaster.  At a time when ISPs are working to sustain the load from Australian Internet traffic while at the same time trying to reduce their footprint on resources such as electricity, air conditioning, and space, this filter will make it a requirement for them to put in place another array of servers to cope with the filtering process.  (Which, as we just established, won't work anyway.)  This will cost dearly because there need to be extra machines built over and above the normal expansion, these machines will have to be powered, and housed in airconditioned data centres, and this will have to scale up with increasing Internet use.

Not all our ISPs are going to be able to absorb that extra cost.  The smaller ISPs in particular will fall by the wayside, and we'll effectively end up with a situation similar to having had Telstra as a monopoly for almost a century.  Look how well *that*  turned out, with Australia now having a very high tariffs for cellphone voice, data, and SMS usage compared to many countries.

Of those ISPs that are left, their performance will suffer a hit of 25% (and up to maybe 75%) in speed and performance.  On top of that, they will probably charge me 15% - 30% more for that privilege.  In a time when our economy is already in trouble, do you actually want to cause this kind of financial turmoil among an entire industry sector and its customers, this kind of wholesale waste of resources on something which will be bypassed by 75% of your target demographic?

Which probably also covers my next point.  Irresponsible.  

I seem to remember that few years ago now, the government had already put in place a scheme whereby anyone who felt that they or their family needed to be filtered, could freely download filter software and assistance, provided by the government.  Thus saving the kinds of environmental and economic and political costs which you propose now to impose with your filtering scheme.  It's a system that is already in place and working right now.  You could spend one tenth of the budget for the Clean Feed Filter on advertising the existing software and assigning a tech support contact in each capital city.  

It seems irresponsible to me that money is being spent on an unwanted and unwarranted system when there's already a system in place, to put in place that  new system that will cost Australia economically, ecologically, socially, educationally, technologically, and worst of all, will make us no better than a dictatorship or communist country in the eyes of the world.  

Please go here and here if you are a citizen and wish to 
register your discontent with mandatory filtering.

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