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Cameron: Get those saucy websites off Blighty's public Wi-Fi

'Good, clean' wireless for babycino-chugging cherubs

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Prime Minister David Cameron is once again crusading against online pornography after he admitted late last year that network-level smut filtering was a "crude system".

This time his antenna is twitching about Brits accessing the internet over public Wi-Fi services.

The PM wants to get skin flicks banned from wireless networks in spaces such as coffee shops, libraries and railway stations in a move, he says, to protect children from viewing porn.

Downing Street did not have an official statement about Cameron's plans when The Register contacted Number 10 on Wednesday afternoon. However, the PM told the Telegraph that he would back a code of conduct among telcos that would ban smut being broadcast over Wi-Fi in public places.

"We are promoting good, clean, Wi-Fi in local cafes and elsewhere to make sure that people have confidence in public Wi-Fi systems so that they are not going to see things they shouldn’t," Cameron told the paper.

BSkyB - which owns Wi-Fi provider The Cloud - told El Reg that it supported the PM's stance against porn being accessible over public wireless networks. It said:

The Cloud already automatically filters adult content in public places. This is something we are proud to have led the way on. We believe that parents want peace of mind that their children cannot inadvertently access adult material when out of home. That’s why we were the first Wi-Fi provider to apply content filters as default across our entire network.

Customers of Sky's public Wi-Fi network are thereby forced to opt out if they don't want the telco to censor websites deemed supposedly inappropriate for young prying eyes.

Earlier this year, The Reg reported that Sky was planning to switch its home broadband service to network-level filtering later this year.

The ISP said at the time that computer-based parental controls were not enough to protect kids who use web-based services on a variety of devices. So network-level filtering - possibly using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) probes - will be applied to the service at some point in 2013.

We asked Sky if that plan was any closer to being implemented. A company spokesman told us that it was "still on track to deploy later this year."

It's unclear if Cameron is pushing for Sky's public Wi-Fi policy to be the default setting applied by all providers.

BT - the country's biggest ISP which has millions of wireless hotspots throughout Blighty - said its position on the matter was unchanged. The company continues to offer filtering options to customers but - unlike Sky - does not force them to opt out by default. BT said:

BT has developed its BT Wi-Fi Protect solution which was successfully launched in January 2013. This service has now been offered to all of our site partners.

We believe it is appropriate to let our site partners decide themselves whether they wish to apply content filtering, in the light of their respective customer bases. Some BT site partners do not want default filtering applied, such as those with an adult customer base.

In terms of its home broadband service, Sky appears to be slowly moving into the territory occupied by rival TalkTalk - which, in partnership with Chinese kit vendor Huawei, is the only big name telco to have implemented filtering of website content at a network level.

More generally, the country's largest ISPs have agreed to a system dubbed Active Choice, which compels households to filter their broadband connection accordingly if children are accessing the internet.

But the censorship decision, for now at least, is left to parents rather than the government or telcos to police what kids can or can't access within the family home. ®

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