Why Has Optus Joined Internet Filtering Trial?

News out of Canberra today that the country’s second largest ISP, Optus, has decided to join the Internet Filtering Trial is seen as a blow to some of us who think this trial is not only a waste of time, but if implemented, will harm freedom of speech and be unworkable due to the random way in which the filtering system will work.

When the government first announced the trial last year, its credibility was done a massive blow when it appeared that the two biggest ISP’s, Telstra and Optus, declined to participate. Yet according to an Optus corporate affairs spokesperson, Melissa Clare, the company applied to join the scheme on December 8 last year. This involvement was pretty quiet compared to communications from other major Isp’s (such as Iinet). To be fair, they did state in October that they might participate in a limited fashion and customers should be able to opt out (these conditions have been met according to Optus), but nothing has been heard from them for over six months. Until now.

And that is the main point that has piqued my interest. The timing of the announcement and the questions it raises, the biggest being: Has Optus decided to get “with the programme” in order to ingratiate itself with the Federal Government over its new NBN roll out that is starting in Tasmania in July?

Other questions that would be interesting to know include; why has it take the government so long to agree to let Optus join the trial? Was there something in the contract that made the Government baulk at allowing them in on the trial? Will Optus publish the outcome of the trial? None of these questions were answered when put to Optus, however we plan to ask these questions again at a later date.

It will be interesting to see if Optus customers take up the option to join the trial, and if Optus will publish the results. I think the practice of mandatory filering of the internet will be not achieve the result of keeping our kids safe from unsatisfactory content and I will be following this trial with interest.