Consumer takeup of network-level filters offered by the UK's biggest ISPs remains sluggish, with customers largely declining to censor internet content on their home connections even when prompted, an Ofcom report revealed today.
The regulator found (PDF) that very few subscribers opt to turn on so-called parental controls.
The communications watchdog said that five per cent of BT customers agreed to "family friendly network level filtering" when offered the system, while eight per cent of BSkyB punters and four per cent of Virgin Media subscribers switched it on when prompted on their broadband service.
Budget ISP TalkTalk – which was first to implement filtering tech with Chinese telecom giant Huawei back in 2011 – had by far the most customers signing up to its system compared with its rivals. Ofcom noted that 36 per cent of TalkTalk subscribers merrily skipped through the HomeSafe set-up page, which now opts customers in by default.
Before TalkTalk added the pre-tick to its filtering page, its uptake was closer to 20 per cent, apparently.
Woeful figures revealed by Ofcom
The regulator, which throughout its report parroted ISPs' views on filtering, was unable to say how many broadband subscribers without children living in the home had been offered the parental controls system from the country's biggest telcos.
Liberty Global-owned Virgin Media - the last of the UK's big four to implement a network-level filtering system - was singled out for criticism in Ofcom's report. The watchdog said that unlike BT, TalkTalk and BSkyB which nagged all of their customers with an "unavoidable choice" about filtering, Virgin Media only badgered around 35 per cent of its customer base.
Virgin Media has indicated that it understands that this fails to meet its commitment to government and has reported that it has implemented a number of additional opportunities for the customer to see the choice and chose its network level filtering product. Virgin Media are “dramatically streamlining” the activation process so that engineers are not motivated to avoid it to save time.
Ofcom added that Virgin Media was also hitting problems with the "email verification of the set-up and settings change".
The Register asked Virgin Media to comment on the report's criticism.
“Virgin Media has a comprehensive programme in place to ensure all our customers are aware of enhanced parental controls and how they can use them," the company's boss Tom Mockridge said in a tinned statement.
"We strongly believe customers should have the best tools and expert advice to make the decisions that are right for them."