back to article BSkyB to flick switch on network-level smut-'n'-violence filters

BSkyB will switch its broadband service to network-level filtering later this year in a clear move away from giving subscribers control over what content they want their families to access online in their own homes. The telco said that computer-based parental controls were not enough to protect kids who use web-based services …


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  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Parental controls: Computer level -> ??? -> DPI

    Haven't Sky forgotten the router here or has everyone forgotten how to write router software?

    1. Graham 32

      Re: Parental controls: Computer level -> ??? -> DPI

      Firstly it's probably a third-party solution, so tying yourself to one router would limit which ISPs you could implement it.

      Secondly ISPs who supply a router tend to respond to all connection problems with "we'll send you a new router" which then resets all the user's settings. That's the point, but it would also reset the porn filter. If it's anything more sophisticated than filter=on/off then these "important" settings need to be configured again by the parent who isn't tech-savvy and probably found it difficult first time round.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Parental controls: Computer level -> ??? -> DPI

        Neither of which are not insurmountable problems. Most ISP supplied routers use the same busybox-based firmware, import and export XML configuration files, and auto update.

        It's not that hard for UK ISPs to create a module for the web frontend between them which allows the owner to configure filtered or full DNS server and access times per MAC address (behind a nice interface of course so it's not scary) or are margins really so wafer thin that installing DPI all over their networks is more cost effective?

        1. DF118

          Re: Parental controls: Computer level -> ??? -> DPI

          Neither of which are not insurmountable problems.

          Yer picklin' ma heid wi yer triple negatives man!

  2. Xpositor


    As a first step, how about Sky allowing its customers to change the default DNS providers on their routers, so OpenDNS can be specified (rather than the roundabout way you have to do this currently, which families that just want a service out of the box are unlikely to be able to configure - i.e. an independent DHCP service running on a different machine in the house).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OpenDNS

      Could have been a nice money spinner for BSkyB, just redirect the DNS (hijack the DNS transmissions if need be) and drop the user to a page

      "THIS WEBSITE IS BLOCKED, here have an advert"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OpenDNS

        A few dns cache poisonings later... by the miscreants... whos the miscreants? hmmm?

    2. RainForestGuppy

      Re: OpenDNS

      Unfortunetly, you've missed the point. 95% of parents will not know how to change DNS settings, even if they could. Mostly if the children who are computer literate so they're the one that usually fix things if they go wrong, and hence could circumvent any controls.

      What Sky are proposing at to do it away from the home, so that only the bill payer can request that it's turned on or off. Personally I think that any solution it should be turned off by default and only turned on by request.

      1. Wayland Sothcott 1

        Re: OpenDNS

        Turned off by default, what does that mean?

        Turn off porn access by default or turn off filtering by default?

    3. The BigYin

      Re: OpenDNS

      Nice idea, but on some OSs you can't modify/check the DNS; so you have no guarantee where they'd actually go (Android is one example - no way to check the DNS that I can see; pisses me off as I have a DNS cache with filtering already enabled).

      1. M Gale

        Re: OpenDNS


        Long-press the desired network

        Modify network

        Scroll down and check "show advanced options"

        Select "static" as your IP settings, and you can now adjust DNS. Unfortunately this also disables DHCP, but it will show you your current IP/DNS settings, so perhaps useful to switch on and off again.

        (disclaimer: Tried this on Jelly Bean on an Asus TF201. YMMV.)

        1. Tom Wood

          Re: OpenDNS

          Probably not that hard for a savvy teenager to get around DNS-level filtering - just switch your DNS servers to Google public DNS or something.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Change DNS settings"

            DHCP will help you here.

            Assign network settings by DHCP.

      2. Arnold Lieberman

        Re: OpenDNS

        SetDNS from the PLay Store should do the trick, already has entries for OpenDNS, Google DNS etc as well as allowing ad hoc configuration and handling web proxies.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On by default

    Of course this will be on by default. Sky have major bandwidth issues at the moment. Rather than invest on more bandwidth, they'll block all they can and make it hard to disable.

    Peer to peer stuff will almost certainly be blocked as there is porn on it. I expect no attempt to distinguish between porn and linux distros, just a blanket block.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      another reason

      To avoid them like the plague, as if people needed any more encouragement.

      Worst ISP in the country by a long way!

      1. Wilseus

        Re: another reason

        "Worst ISP in the country by a long way!"

        Sorry, but this simply is not true. I realise that people don't like Murdoch, and therefore Sky-bashing is the in thing at the moment, but I'm nothing other than extremely pleased with my Sky broadband. It's cheap, reliable, and I get the full 20Mb pretty much all the time. No, they are not perfect. but their BB service is much better on all counts than Virgin Media's was, and that includes their customer service!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sync speed

          Your sync speed has nothing at all to do with your broadband supplier.

          All ADSL connections are provided by BT. The sync speed is dependent only upon the length and quality of the copper wire to your exchange.

          Your real bandwidth (throughput) however, such as reported by or similar, does depend upon how well-provisioned the upstream links are.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "full 20Mb"

            What do you mean by this?

            I think it is safe to assume that you meant 20Mbps, as no ADSL connection is capable of 20MB/s.

            The spec for ADSL2+ however has a theoretical maximum of 24Mbps...

            1. Wilseus

              Re: "full 20Mb"

              Yes, I mean 20Mbps. I know ADSL2+ has a maximum of 24Mbps, but for whatever reason Sky doesn't offer that.

              But it doesn't matter anyway because all I am really trying to say is that I'm happy with the performance/price ratio of my Sky broadband service, and is more than fast enough for my purposes.

      2. I Like Heckling Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: another reason

        Worst ISP... not by a long shot. Been a Sky broadband subscriber for at least 6yrs now and very happy with the service.

        As line speeds have increased, so have mine... always been on the top package which is truly unlimited. I currently get around 18mb of the 20mb and my download speeds hit close to that... In fact I throttle downloads to 1000kB/s to avoid swamping my connection. So Right now I am downloading at 1000kB/s, watching youtube vids in HD and surfing the net quite happily.

        I know I can get faster speeds elsewhere... but can anyone say for certain that I can get close to 20mb for £7.50 a month elsewhere?

  4. g e

    Block smut & violence

    That's half their on-demand content downloads gone, then ;o)

    So long as it's off by default (or simple to opt-out/disable) that's OK.

    1. Beau

      Re: Block smut & violence

      WHAT! (or simple to opt-out/disable) no no no!

      The Chinese are showing us the excellent way forward, we will soon be censoring all that bad political content as well.

      George Orwell was simply a little overoptimistic with his time frame.

    2. Markl2011

      Re: Block smut & violence

      So there's stuff on the internet that's not smut or violent? Well you learn something new everyday.

      1. Shrimpling

        Re: Block smut & violence

        I guess they mean the cat videos?

        Can't be anything else

        1. Andy ORourke

          Re: Block smut & violence

          Some of those cat searches can be very smutty, imagine the wife's face when she searched for "Bengal Kittens" recently

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Block smut & violence

            Draw me like one of your french girls.

            They need a kitten image on here.

    3. Great Bu

      Re: Block smut & violence

      Once again, they ave failed to mention whether there will be an 'OnlyPorn' option whereby all activity that does not lead to porn is blocked (I'm just tired of my porn video feeds stuttering with buffering just as I reach the vinegar strokes just because one of my kids is playing 'My Little Pony Online*').

      *Although apparently 'Doc McStuffin' is actually a disney channel cartoon and not at all what I thought it was......)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Route one to GCHQ

    All this DPI snooping is just what GCHQ are looking for. Coincidence ?

  6. Ragarath

    Not again

    I am getting fed up of having to move providers because they think they know what I want. When I was first with sky their support was the best I had ever had when I encountered problems. When I phone up now with a problem they have changed to a script.

    Sky: Have you done this?

    Me: yes

    Sky: Can you just do it again to be sure.

    Me: No I have told you what is the exact problem is, I have done all the troubleshooting I would not be phoning you if it worked.

    Sky: I cannot help you unless you do it for me.

    Me: I have just told you I have done it.

    Sky: But I asked you to do it again.

    Me: I have already done it.

    Continue for as long as your temper holds out. Eventually when your temper frays enough you actually get through to someone competent and understands you right of the bat.

    Sky there is a thing at the gateway of my house called a router. Allow me to use the router of my choice so I can apply appropriate filtering there rather than use your substandard ADSL modem. This is not per device filtering like you seem to think everyone does. It is per household, which is what you are trying to achieve.

    Your technical advisers are not worth their salt, you seem to be getting led by the marketing department and trying to harvest even more of peoples data. I take it you have not noticed people are getting more and more miffed by companies doing this?

    Rant off switch pressed.

    1. Chris 3

      Re: Not again

      I suppose it's possible that they want to observe the behaviour of the network equipment while you carry out action X - for remote troubleshooting. So it doesn't matter that you have already done X, they want to observe the network while you do X.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not again

      I work for an ISP 2nd line helpdesk (not Sky) and EVERYBODY says they've already done everything. Sorry mate, you may be the 1% who has done everything but I don't have the time or energy to try and work out whether I should believe you above all the liars. Actually that's unfair most of them aren't liars, they genuinely have no idea what they're doing and really believe that "rebooting the modem" means switching their PC off and on again.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not again

          Ha ha! :) So true (and I actually know the girl with the penguin doll...)

          1. VinceH

            Re: Not again

            "(and I actually know the girl with the penguin doll...)"

            What? I thought she only existed in the dream in the cartoon?

            Get me her number.


    3. KeGoMacK

      Re: Not again

      There's nothing to stop you turning off the wifi on their router, using it purely as the modem part and then connecting your own router to it?

  7. Chris 3

    Confusing Story

    > BSkyB will switch its broadband service to network-level filtering later this year in a clear move away from allowing subscribers to control what content they want their families to access online in their own homes.

    Is this some kind of mandatory service, or is this something that households will be able to opt in to. If the latter, I don't see that this is a massive problem and indeed is quite handy for folks with kids who have access to iPods, fondleslabs or DSs

  8. Ian 62

    Would this count as change in terms...

    So you could get out of a contract?

    Assuming you had a 12/24 month contract, would this be enough of a change to the terms and conditions for you to be able to walk away?

    (Not that I'm on Sky, but just if my ISP did decide, I'd be a lost customer)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: Would this count as change in terms...

      Interesting question, and one I wouldn't mind knowing the answer to.

      I am a Sky user, having just upgraded my connection to fibre on a 12 month contract. Up until now I've had absolutely no issues with their broadband offering but if they start doing boneheaded shit like this then I'm moving elsewhere.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If anything this is the worst thing they can do. Parents need to start getting a basic understanding of the world their children live in, I think in some quarters it's called pro-active parenting. We chose to have a child with a goal to hopefully turn out a well rounded, morally centred human being (only time will tell, but the effort is there).

    I'll have that shit turned off thanks and I'll teach my son the pitfalls and minor wonders of the internet and start with expectations of trust and turn the dial down according to how much trust he displays. Whatever happens he'll know I haven't neglected him and I have paid attention to his upbringing.

  10. The BigYin

    Deep breath...

    It is not the job of the state, an ISP or any third part to control what children see. It is the job of the parents/guardian. About the only exception to that rule are folks you would class as "temporary guardians", i.e. teachers.

    That's it. No one else. End of.

    Sky, the state etc can all offer advice and tools; sure, that's fine. But they should not ever decide what I (or anyone else) can and cannot see.

    Dear god. I have to put up with that "Enter PIN" crap to what recorded telly because some raging ass-hat doesn't understand that parents/guardians are 100% liable for their children's safety.

    Parental controls are easily installable at the home network level. If a parent can't do that, find someone who can.

    1. Falanx

      Re: Deep breath...

      What asshole downvoted this?

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Deep breath...

        The sort of arsehole that shoves their kids in front of the tv/computer/games console all day, and probably the most likely to use scumbag 'ambulance chaser' lawyers at any opportunity

  11. Jelliphiish
    Black Helicopters


    it's just a socialy 'acceptable' lever to allow them to deploy the hardware for the DPI so they can look at the things you do. it's a long road and these are just the first steps. good intentions etc..

    and they'll probably use the chinese kit too.

    /dails cynicsm down a couple of notches..

  12. dervheid
    Big Brother

    make your mind up, Sky...

    the most recent communique from Murdoch's Empire (Dum, dum, dum, dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum...) is this

    Which is a lovely give-away of McAfee Parental Controls

    Now, I don't WANT this POS on my machines, and have an 'understanding' of what's acceptable for my 15yo to access and the consequences of going 'outside the fence'.

    I DO NOT need my ISP dictating to me what I cannot access. If you want to initiate this, Sky, then you need to make it OPT-IN.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I’m delighted to be able to confirm that

    I have noticed this piece of news and my shortlist has just got one name shorter

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which sites?

    If they idea is to block smut/violence (to protect the children), then surely any site allowing (or potentially allowing) access to adult material will have to be blocked. This will be not only Pron sites but will include:

    All video streaming (netflix, lovefilm, Sky, etc)

    All downloadable/smut e-book sites (amazon for kindle downloads)

    Online 'violent' gaming (PS, xbox, etc)

    smut' newspapers (sun, daily sport, etc) - [not much of a loss here to be honest]

    P2P (as people can download pron/smut)

    All shareable file lockers/cloud storage (inc dropbox etc)

    and any website allowing un-moderated content or comments (which may contain smut) - which is most of the rest of the websites (and will include things like youtube)

    Not much left, other than e-mail, twatter, facepalm and goggle - great.

    UNLESS of course the argument is that these sites require somebody in the household to manage what is accessed (via an account with age verification, for example) and so the account holder can be trusted to police access to them - but if this assumption were true we wouldn't need to the network-level filtering in the first place.

    As others have stated, the real reason may be bandwidth, and this filter will just be used as an excuse to block sites that hog their resources.

    I expect the filter to be extended to 'vpn/secured comms' in the future as 'we can't guarantee that it didn't contain smut/violence so we blocked it'. We'll see.

    I also await the first court case where little johnny accessed pron with this filter in place, and the parents try to sue Sky. Then the real comments like 'this is only a method to reduce the risk, in the end it is the parent's responsibility to police their children's activity' will be forthcoming. Something we already know.

    Yes, I am a parent - but Sky can f**k off if they want to filter or DPI my traffic.


    1. Swarthy
      Thumb Up

      Re: Which sites?

      Simple: Any site that's not "" gets blocked.

  15. Eenymeeny

    Deep packet inspection probes?!

    Oh come on, there must be a joke in there somewhere...

  16. mickey mouse the fith


    Our creaking network infrastructure cant handle all you bastard plebs watching hd video and using your connection for things other than facebook,twatter etc and we have no intention of pissing off the shareholders by investing in said infrastructure. We roped you in with promises of cheap, fast connections, now were oversubscribed and its your fault you ungrateful little worms, how dare you actually use the connection to its fullest, your not supposed to do that.

    Here, have an ineffective porn filter. It wont actually block much porn or indeed protect little Timmy from the dailymailesque percieved horrors of the internet, but it will give our trusted 3rd parties and us a lot of metrics we can use to profile, catalogue and then target advertising at you whilst saving us a shitton of money.

    Our Chinese freinds and govt buddies also love the idea of dpi, saves them a lot of time and money, snooping isnt cheap you know.


  17. C. P. Cosgrove

    Good-bye 'Bleeping Computer'

    I am in the first year of using the Sky broadband and phone service, I switched last Summer after betting seriously tee'd off at my previous ISP ( No names, no packdrill - but they are no longer Britain's worst ISP ! ), and I am reasonably satisfied with their performance to date.

    I hope I will be able to opt-out of any filtering scheme. Last Spring, I had occasion to use a computer in my local library for internet access - to access Bleeping Computer for advice and information. No go - 'Access denied - material of a sexual nature' !

    Any filtering of this nature tends to be broad brush.

    Chris Cosgrove

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