Optus to fund filtering pilot off its own bat

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Optus to fund filtering pilot off its own bat

A mandatory grant reporting document released by the Department for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) reveals it has spent close to $300,000 this year on its controversial ISP-level filtering pilot.

The document, uploaded to the DBCDE website, reveals that the department has given out grants to seven of the eight Internet Service Providers (ISPs) participating in the pilot.

Optus, which joined the program in April, told iTnews that they would not be receiving any funds from the government and would be funding the pilot off of their own back.

"There is no grant for participating in the pilot," an Optus spokesperson said.

The spokesperson declined to reveal the type of filtering technology that Optus is testing.

ISPs receiving grants include Highway 1, which received $95,725, Primus Telecommunications, which received $70,400 and Netforce, which received $40,700.

Tech 2U took receipt of $31,944, OMNIconnect $25,795, and Nelson Bay Online was granted $11,275.

Webshield, an existing clean-field provider that already owns its own filtering equipment, received $11,550. The ISP previously told iTnews it would only require funding to cover staff costs.

A total of $287,339 has been spent on the pilot so far.

The grants, approved in early February, are due to expire on the 30th of June. Each ISP receiving a grant will use the money to purchase filtering products which they will be able to keep after the pilot.

The ISPs participating in the trial are by no means the main beneficiaries of Federal Government funding on 'cyber safety'. The $300,000 spent to date is part of the Federal Government's $125.8 million Cyber-Safety Plan - over $7.3 million of which was due to be spent by DBCDE in the 2009/2010 financial year.

Past beneficiaries of Internet filtering trials have walked away with far more funding.

In calendar 2007, the Howard Government spent huge dollars on its NetAlert scheme -  including the allocation of $8.5 million and $6.7 million respectively to PC-based filter vendors Digital Republic and Multiservice Networks and close to a million dollars to Macquarie Telecom for hosting the NetAlert site.

PR company Quay Connection was paid some $626,000, according to Senate documents.

In calendar 2008, Macquarie Telecom earned a further $1.2 million for web hosting and 'stress testing'. PC filter company Multiservice Networks earned a further $2.9 million while InternetSafety.com got in on the game to the tune of $5.3 million.

Unless the budget allocated to the department is adjusted tomorrow night, DBCDE stands to receive a further $32.5 million for cyber safety in the next fiscal year.

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