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Australians would like parental controls on the internet at an ISP level, according to a poll on Compare Broadband.

Compare Broadband asked visitors to the site to vote on the question, Should ISPs offer free optional parental controls such as blocking websites with gambling or adult content?

The majority of the 463 respondents welcomed parental controls, with 78% voting yes, while 20% said no and 2% weren't sure.

A new initiative in the UK has seen the leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) signing up to a code of conduct aimed at protecting children on the web, which includes offering parents a website blocking service at the provider level.

In the UK, parents will have to decide whether they want the service when they set up their internet connection. If they do decide to use it, websites with adult content will be blocked to all devices on that connection.

Filtering at ISP level is very difficult to circumvent and applies to all computers on a connection.

The Government's proposal to block illegal websites to all Australian internet connections through a mandatory filter on ISPs has been shelved, due to strong opposition to the legislation.

A previous poll on Compare Broadband's site highlighted the unpopularity of the proposed legislation, with 75% of broadband customers claiming they would switch providers if their ISP started to filter content, to one that left the web unfiltered.

The Government's policy raised issues of censorship and was criticised both at home and in overseas media. With the legislation unlikely to make it through both houses, the Government has shelved its plans for a blanket ban on illegal and undesirable websites.

Compare Broadband spokesperson, Sarah Routledge, said: "Although a voluntary filter would not deal with the problem of illegal websites, it would give parents a very simple way of protecting their own children from the worst of the web.

"It's interesting that 20% would still be against any form of filtering, this shows that feelings against censorship run deep here. Fortunately, there are easy ways for parents to stay in control of their children's internet browsing at home that do not require a filter at ISP level."

Parental controls in Australia

Parents who want to block access to adult content can buy security software or a modem with parental controls. Most ISPs can advise a good software package or modem with these features.

iiNet's BoB2 modem, for example, has a parental control function that allows parents to block certain websites, or block devices from connecting to the network at certain times of the day.

Optus offers a Security Suite service, which is free in the first month and $6.99 a month thereafter. The software can be installed on three computers and there are different browsing modes for different members of the family. For example, the family computer can be set to Small Child browsing, which is very restrictive, but teenagers can enter a password that allows broader access to the web.

BigPond offers a similar software solution through its BigPond Security package, which costs $9.95 a month for 12 months (or $99.95 upfront for 12 months).

Both Telstra and Optus also block access to an Interpol blacklist of sites containing child pornography, in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police. Vodafone has also confirmed it will be implementing the Interpol filter. The limited filter was designed to be a stop-gap measure blocking the 'worst of the worst' on the web until the Government revived its mandatory filter policy but other Australian ISPs are yet to implement the blacklist.