Opinion: Have money, will pay for clean feed

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Opinion: Have money, will pay for clean feed

Netspace may think that a survey that asks leading, obvious questions about Internet filtering contributes to discussion and debate but all it did was feed the Federal Government ammunition.

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I have a problem with Netspace’s survey.

Yes, it received some 9700 responses "in just one month", they said, but they just told us what we already knew – that people don’t want mandatory content filtering and they don’t want to pay for it in higher subscription fees or at the expense of their download speeds.

Take the question on prices: “Complying with the Federal Government's mandatory filtering policy may cause additional operational costs for ISPs which in turn may cause ISPs to raise consumer Internet prices. Do you agree that it is reasonable for consumers to pay more to facilitate mandatory ISP level filtering?”

Let’s ignore for a moment that no sane person will put their hand up to this question to say: "Yes, I’m happy for you to raise the price of my Internet so you can also censor it." Asking the question is redundant.

There’s a bigger issue at stake. If filtering goes ahead, Netspace may be forced to pass the costs on to its customers anyway, even though 70 percent think such a move is unreasonable.

You have to wonder how Netspace will skirt that issue? And then if the price increase it proposes is too high, how many of those people may churn to a rival which limits the increase or absorbs it?

Netspace then asks: “Complying with the Federal Government's mandatory filtering policy may significantly reduce the speed of your Internet service. Do you agree that reduced Internet speed is an acceptable trade off to facilitate mandatory ISP level filtering?”

We covered this last August. I don’t imagine much in the way of public opinion has changed in that time.

iTnews asked Netspace if the wording of the questions was too obvious and if they just got the answers for which they asked.

Matthew Phillips, Netspace’s regulatory and carrier affairs manager, responded: “Netspace did not have preconceived notions about our customers' responses to this or any other question on the survey. We simply want to know what our customers want.

“Netspace endeavoured to provide customers with background information and a variety of resources with which to educate [them] about the proposed ISP level filtering as an introduction to the survey.

“We did our best to be direct and clear when posing the questions to our customers in order to get their feedback about specific potential issues related to ISP level filtering.”

OK - but take the next question: “Government trials have shown that it is unlikely that any filtering system could be entirely accurate and reliable.

“As such, some websites may be blocked from viewing when in fact they contain no inappropriate content. Conversely, inappropriate websites might pass through the filter undetected.

“Do you agree that it is reasonable for consumers to experience 'innocent' websites being blocked from viewing in order to facilitate mandatory ISP level filtering?”

Talk about a leading – and loaded - question. Yes, lab trials found that some of the filter technologies available weren’t entirely accurate, but the government has also repeatedly said that these were lab trials, and that real world trials are really what are needed to get a proper idea of filter accuracy.

Taking the results of small-scale lab tests as proof of the inaccuracy and unreliability of the available filters, while refusing to participate in trials that would determine how accurate they can be in the real world, smacks of selective hearing.

Read on to page two to find out how the Netspace results feed the Government's plans.

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