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Entanet - the risks of turning UK broadband ISPs into intern

ISP Entanet , a wholesale voice and broadband data communications provider , has warned that forcing UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to monitor all content could have a serious and dramatic impact on both price and performance. The provider has also raised concerns about how such a move might impact privacy and the security of data.

Entanet's Marketing Manager, Darren Farnden, said in the ISPs Opinion Blog: "Some people will point to the ISPs and say that they should be monitoring content and ensuring that nothing unsavoury either gets through or can be created. ISPs also have a dilemma though. They cannot simply start monitoring every bit of content that is carried across their network or start scanning emails for content that might be considered inappropriate. Putting in systems to do that also requires massive investment in new technologies and systems and that is going to take time and add to the ISPs' costs.

If ISPs were forced to monitor all content, the impact on performance (and probably prices) would be dramatic and likely to draw such an outcry from business users and consumers that restrictions would soon have to be relaxed to some degree, thus creating holes in the system that allow undesirable content to get though again. In addition there is the obvious concern over privacy and security of data. As we have asked in some of our previous articles, where does protection end and censorship begin? Would you want an ISP to have access to all the data you send across the Internet?

This is not a simple issue to address and we don't pretend to have the answers as yet at Entanet. What we are certain of is that, if the responsibility for content monitoring is imposed on ISPs, service performance may be affected while price undoubtedly will be. We are not convinced the market will stand for that."

Entanet has previously raised concerns about the way the Internet Watch Foundation's (IWF) block list works (original news), which is designed to filter out sites that contain illegal child sexual abuse and race hate content, thus its position is unsurprising.

Entanet's Technical Support Manager, Neil Watson, said: "Entanet fully appreciates the importance of protecting children from exploitation and fully supports the IWF's intentions. However like many other ISPs we have concerns over the accuracy of the methods used to identify offending sites.

There are also concerns over the effectiveness of the IWF list. Paedophiles with minimal technical knowledge can easily circumnavigate the list to gain access to and distribute illegal images. So is it really worthwhile and will it make a difference?"

Presently just 5% of UK Internet connections, mostly via the smallest ISPs, have not yet made a commitment to adopt such filtering systems due to cost and or technical concerns. This may not last for long with both the EU and MP's in the UK government now seeking to clamp down further.

In addition, it's not clear how many of the 95% have actually gone beyond a mere "commitment" and physically deployed IWF style filtering. Still, most of the largest UK ISPs have adopted the IWF's system and, despite some noted hiccups (Wikipedia block), the impact appears to have been moderate.

That said and Entanet's piece isn't just about the IWF situation, it also concerns the government's plans to force UK ISPs into monitoring basic email and website access, not to mention any future and tougher content controls that could arise. ISPs can only absorb so much before the burden risks becoming counterproductive.

No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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