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ISPs fight policing but back censorship


BT wants to repeal the Digital Economy Act but backs plans for censoring the web

The next few months could see further shake-ups regarding British broadband services, which will directly affect users in terms of traffic policing, site-blocking and advertising.

On the first of those, multiple sources report that BT and TalkTalk have been granted permission for one final crack at appealing against the Digital Economy Act.

The controversial legislation was rushed through during 2010, without a full debate in the Commons. ISPs claim that the bill forces them to police their customers' downloads and warn them about rights infringement. The bill also takes a hardline approach, demanding ISPs disconnect anyone who continues to infringe.

The bill was linked with plans to create a 'national firewall' (as feared by BoingBoing), but, as reported in August on this site, the government is now allowing the courts to decide on site-blocking in general.

Nonetheless, BT and TalkTalk argue that the bill is still unacceptable in its current form, due to its demands and also the manner in which it was passed. The ISPs are largely backed by the Liberal Democrats, who voted to repeal part or all of the DEA during their annual conference.

However, it remains to be seen whether the Liberal Democrats will push for this in the Commons and if the party would be supported by their senior partners in the UK's coalition government, the Conservatives.

BT and TalkTalk have also recently found themselves on the negative end of a firing line, along with many other ISPs, due to the way in which broadband services are advertised in the UK. The Committees of Advertising Practice, responsible for advertising codes, said that maximum speeds were being advertised yet were vastly in excess of the average.

The new guidelines, which will be put into place in April 2012, appear toothless, though, stating that maximums will only be acceptable if ten per cent of users can get them. According to the BBC, CAP's chairman calls this an "appropriately high bar", but a Which? statement says otherwise: "Broadband providers have just been given the green light to mislead consumers. The rules say that providers don't have to state what range of speeds most of their customers experience. That means advertising campaigns can now be based on the experience of a privileged few".

And today The Guardian reports that government-sanctioned plans to curb pornography online will soon come to fruition, with BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin demanding subscribers 'opt in' if they want to visit sexually explicit websites. The Parentport website will act as a central area to complain about specific media that is considered "inappropriate for children".