UK internet service providers have hit back at vendor and business requests for “clean pipe” access, telling a top-level Government inquiry that the scheme is unworkable. “It’s basically misguided,” said a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA UK). “The idea that ISPs are liable for internet content is a very dangerous one. If this became official policy it could threaten the very foundations of innovation and the internet.”

There have been growing calls from industry observers for ISPs toroutinely scan the traffic they carry – essentially “cleaning” maliciouscode, attacks, spam and bot activity before it reaches the end user orbusiness network. The ISPA counters that if legally required to remove’bad’ content, ISPs would be forced to remove a wide range of onlineinformation, not all of which would be necessarily malicious oruniversally unwanted. “What would be more useful would be enablingbetter enforcement activity, rather than attacking ISPs”, the spokesmancontinued. “The Information Commissioner currently has very limitedpowers to deal with spammers, for example, we’d like to see thisrectified. There are also steps being taken to tighten the legalsituation in the EU.”

The issue was raised during an inquiry into computer security and spamby the House of Lords science and technology committee, which began inJuly 2006. It is due to report this summer,” according to aparliamentary spokesman.