Crikey: Internet filtering isnt compulsory, but…

Over at Crikey I’ve written a summary of what’s happening with Australia’s internet filter.

Australia’s mandatory internet filtering by internet service providers (ISPs) won’t happen for at least two years. But we’re getting filtering anyway. Voluntarily. By ISPs. Next month…

Telstra and Optus are expected to have their filters ready within weeks, although the situation with Primus is unclear…

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) is also about to release a voluntary industry code that would see an estimated 80% to 90% of Australian internet connections filtered by the Interpol blacklist over the next year. Attempts to access domains on the list would be redirected to an Interpol block page.

Overall, I reckon the process that’s now unfolding could well result in the gvernment’s planned mandatory ISP-level filtering disappearing off the table entirely.

As a bonus link, here’s Interpol’s explanation of their “worst-of” blacklist of child exploitation material.

Weekly Wrap 44 and 45

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. As has happened several annoying times before, we’re covering two weeks at once here, and the National Broadband Network seems to have dominated.

For some reason I usually have an unproductive spot of poor health in the first half of April. It seems 2011 is no exception. For two weeks of work this all looks a bit thin, and I daresay that’s going to make a mess of my cashflows in a couple of weeks.



Media Appearances

  • On Monday 4 April I was one of the guests on an episode of ABC Radio National’s Australia Talks on the NBN. The audio is available via that link just there, the one you just read past.

Corporate Largesse


Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream. The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: Wentworth Falls railway station, photographed yesterday during some light rain.]

Weekly Wrap 21

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets and in the media and places — and what a productive week it has been!


  • You know super-fast ain’t so super: Optus, and…
  • ACCC says Optus pitch is misleading, for, both covering the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s case in the Federal Court in Sydney against Singtel Optus for allegedly misleading or deceptive advertising. I particularly like Optus’ lawyer saying that broadband is not a bottle of shampoo, and the argument that even if an advertisement is technically misleading in and of itself this can still be “cured” with more information later in the sales process. The judge’s decision is expected early in the coming week.
  • Turnbull v Conroy: how Coalition broadband plan stacks up, for Crikey, comparing the Coalition’s new broadband policy with the Labor government’s National Broadband Network.


Media Appearances


Corporate Largesse

  • HTC threw a more-than-adequate BBQ with plenty of drinks for the Australian launch of the HTC Desire HD smartphone. The venue was the Astral Bar and Restaurant at Star City Casino.


Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream. The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: Sydney CBD at dusk, taken from the Astral Bar and Restaurant on level 17 of the Star City Casino in Pyrmont.]

Selling the NBN: couldn’t you do better?

I’m reviewing the week’s news about the National Broadband Network (NBN) and I’ve come to a conclusion. Labor government spokespeople, and communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy in particular, have been dismal at selling the concept. Couldn’t you do better?

The government’s expensive-looking TV adverts are nothing but vague generalities.

Back in August, Conroy was enthusing about his smart dishwasher that negotiated cheap electricity, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it wouldn’t need any more bandwidth than dial-up. I haven’t heard anything specific from him since then, just more hand-waving about improved health and education.

Even NBN Co chief Mike Quigley, in an interview for KGB TV at Business Spectator, couldn’t present a compelling scenario that’d make sense to a “normal” voter. Just waffle about video conferencing.

[W]e are at an age now where video is just beginning to really come into its own online. So we are going to see more and more video applications and not just entertainment, but applications such as teleconferencing. Right from here in NBN Co in Sydney we’re using a system that’s high-definition, low-latency to our Melbourne office, three big 1080 screens. That requires quite a bit of bandwidth and that is going to become more and more widely used, I believe, even for people for teleworking, for example. So I think we’re going to see more and more video, which is going to drive the requirements for bandwidth up, and there are not many infrastructures that can carry that type of traffic successfully. Fibre is one of them.

None of this explains why we might want or need vastly more bandwidth than is available today. None of it explains why the NBN should be a taxpayer-funded project for all Australians, not just the few who might want video conferencing and could pay for it commercially. None of it explains why we might want the cities to cross-subsidise the regional areas.

And yet there are applications sitting there right now, or that will emerge any day now. Real applications crying out for more bandwidth. And not just gaming and more TV. It shouldn’t be hard to list a few. And that’s why I want your help.

I’d like a few examples for tomorrow’s Patch Monday podcast. If you can list them here, great. If I can record you saying it in your own words for a minute or two, even better.

So what have you got for me?

[Update 10.00pm: If you’d like to leave your suggestions as an audio comment for the Patch Monday podcast, just Skype to “stilgherrian” or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733 and leave voicemail.]

[Update Monday 25 October 2010, 1.40pm: This week’s Patch Monday podcast has just been posted: Why can’t Labor sell the NBN’s benefits? Enjoy.]

ICT Election Forum: what questions?

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) is once more holding a Federal Election Forum on ICT issues, with the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy, his Coalition counterpart Tony Smith MP, and The Greens’ spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam.

As you can see from the photos, Australia’s political diversity is once more represented by a bunch of middle-aged men in dark suits.

When I wrote about the equivalent event in 2007, I noted that the Minster at the time, Liberal Senator Helen Coonan, looked rattled and scored a few own goals. Conroy, by comparison, was alert and scored some sharp political points. And Democrat leader Senator Lyn Allison — remember the Democrats? — was quietly confident.

Labor’s broadband promise was a Fibre to the Node network with a “guaranteed” minimum speed of 12Mb/sec to 98% of Australians, costing $4.7 billion. The Liberals were promising WiMaX through the OPEL consortium. From memory, mandatory internet censorship didn’t even get a mention, as both parties only added that little gem to their agendas after the official campaign period had started.

How times have changed…

This year’s moderator is Sky News political editor, David Speers. An odd choice, I must say. Sure, he has the profile and Sky News Business is the host broadcaster. But wouldn’t it have been better to have someone with a better technical knowledge of the portfolio, rather than a general political news reporter? My worry is that it’ll degenerate into political point-scoring rather than analysing competing policies.

So let’s help out Mr Speers. What are the issues this year, do you think? What questions should he ask?

I think we can take a question or two about internet censorship for granted. Please try to think beyond the obvious indignation du jour.

The Federal Election Forum is next Tuesday 10 August 2010 at the National Press Club in Canberra. The debate starts at 1pm Canberra time and will be broadcast on Sky News Business and possibly ABC News 24. [Update 3pm: The Forum will also be streamed live at YouTube’s Australia Votes channel.]

[Photo credits: Stephen Conroy via Wikimedia Commons. Tony Smith via Office of Tony Smith MP. Scott Ludlam via The Greens. This composite image is licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-2.0 license.]