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 to routinely scan the traffic they carry - essentially "cleaning" malicious code, attacks, spam and bot activity before it reaches the end user or business network. The ISPA counters that if legally required to remove 'bad' content, ISPs would be forced to remove a wide range of online information, not all of which would be necessarily malicious or universally unwanted. "What would be more useful would be enabling better enforcement activity, rather than attacking ISPs", the spokesman continued. "The Information Commissioner currently has very limited powers to deal with spammers, for example, we'd like to see this rectified. There are also steps being taken to tighten the legal situation in the EU."

The issue was raised during an inquiry into computer security and spam by the House of Lords science and technology committee, which began in July 2006. It is due to report this summer," according to a parliamentary spokesman.