Email and web monitoring law could run small ISPs out of business

Channel News

Costs go up, ISPs go bust

A proposed government legislation to monitor the calls, texts and websites visited by every user in Britain will end up being costly to consumers and the ISP industry, insiders have warned.

Sources have said that the additional cost of implementing security to fulfill the requirements could also send smaller struggling ISPs out of business.

The proposed legislation – which may be announced in the upcoming Queen’s speech in May – is the brainchild of the Home Office, which has said the move will help combat crime and terrorism.

It will require ISPs to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to such communications in real time so it could see who an individual is in contact with, how often and for how long for.

The agency would also be able to view how long people had loitered on websites for and what they were looking at.

However, industry experts have warned the procedure could be complicated. They have also claimed that the costs and technology could be too much for some smaller companies.

One source told Channelbiz: “Although this [legislation] hasn’t yet been passed, there’s more than a few rumblings of worry in the ISP industry.

“We’re already under scrutiny to provide IP addresses of those who are claimed to be downloading pirate material and now this proposed law will make it even harder for us. It’s a lot of work for ISPs to track and monitor emails etc and the new technology will cost money.

“We’ll have to work with companies that will raise their prices to gain as much as they can because they know it’ll be a mandatory requirement that we’ll have to pay for – we’re over a barrel if you like.

“These additional costs will have to be made up somewhere. Our suppliers won’t cut costs so the charges will in some way be passed on unfortunately  to consumers within our packages. It’s not an easy task to do this, it’s not black and white and the industry will probably end up spending hundreds of thousands to keep in line with requirements.

“For smaller ISPs already struggling this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

And the move has also gone down badly with privacy groups. Nick Pickles  director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, told Channelbiz: “No amount of scare-mongering can hide the fact that this policy is being condemned by MPs in all political parties.

“The Government has offered no justification for what is unprecedented intrusion into our lives, nor explained why promises made about civil liberties are being casually junked.

“The silence from Home Office ministers has been deafening. It is remarkable that they wish to pry into everything we do online but seem intent on avoiding any public discussion.”

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA UK) however, seems to be sitting on the fence.

A spokesman for the organisation told us: “It is important that proposals to update Government’s capabilities to intercept and retain communications data in the new communications environment are proportionate, respect freedom of expression and the privacy of users, and are widely consulted upon in an open and transparent manner.”