TalkTalk plans broadband classifications

Tuesday, September 29 2009, 12:59 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

TalkTalk has revealed plans to apply film-style classifications to broadband connections to help parents keep children safe and also combat illegal file-sharing.

Charles Dunstone, chief executive of TalkTalk operator the Carphone Warehouse, said that the ratings system would act as a "good shorthand" for helping consumers understand the blacklisting process for potentially harmful websites.

"We are working on introducing parental controls within our network, so your household can decide whether you want to be a U, 14 or 18 certificate or unclassified," he told the Financial Times.

Any parents selecting either the U or 14 certifications would be able to block certain websites from the household connection - such as file-sharing sites, pornography or gambling. This security service would be offered without the need for users to install additional software.

Dunstone continued: "This is something that we are going to do anyway, as a service to our customers. But through doing it we can also help the content industry by blacklisting sites that have BitTorrent [file-sharing technology] files on them."

According to recent research by Big Champagne, visitors to torrent sites have doubled over the past year, with the proportion of film and television downloads rather than music also increasingly strongly. However, the UK accounted for just 4% of all download activity, with the majority (47%) being seen in US.

The government's Digital Britain consultation on illegal file-sharing comes to a close today, with business secretary Lord Mandelson keen to introduce more stringent punishments for persistent copyright infringers, including the termination of their internet connections.

However, Dunstone recently wrote to Lord Mandelson to express his concern at the "misconceived" plan. He joined BT and Virgin Media in favouring a more persuasive rather coercive approach to the problem.