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Snoopers’ charter will force ISPs to raise broadband prices

The Science and Technology Select Committee hears that ISPs may be forced to put up their service charges to cover the cost of retaining communications data, should the Investigatory Powers Bill become law

The government’s Science and Technology Select Committee has been told that internet service providers (ISPs) will face massive challenges in implementing the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill, or snoopers’ charter, and may be forced to raise their prices to cover the costs.

The draft bill, published at the start of November 2015, will force ISPs to retain records of the websites visited by internet users and surrender access to their equipment for accessing communications metadata under authorised warrants.

Giving evidence to the committee, Matthew Hare, CEO of fibre access network and ISP Gigaclear, said he was concerned that the sheer quantity of data that flows across the internet, and the rate at which it is increasing, had not been addressed by the draft bill.

Hare said that on a typical Gigaclear 1Gbps FTTP connection, the average consumer was downloading 15TB, or 15,000GB, of data per annum.

“If you say a proportion of that is going to be the communications data, it’s just going to be the most massive and enormous amount of data in the future that you would be expected to collect and keep as an access provider, if you received an access notice,” said Hare.

He warned that the collection of this data would have a massive cost and questioned whether keeping consumer data in this way would meet any of the goals of the bill, given that most terrorists and cyber criminals were probably already encrypting their communications.

Asked how easy it would be for ISPs to comply with the terms of the bill as they currently stand, James Blessing, chairman of the Internet Service Providers Association, said it would be very easy to implement given an infinite budget.

The taxpayer is going to pay in the end. The citizens of this country will end up paying to be spied on
Matthew Hare, Gigaclear

“If you give me lots of money, I can do this for you,” he said. “The bill appears to be limiting the funds available [£175m] to a figure that we don’t recognise as suitable.

“Even if the hardware costs are met upfront, the ongoing costs of storing and looking after that data, the power costs of powering servers with hard disks spinning, will still have to come out of individual end-user customer price rises. They will not be massive, but they will still be price rises,” he added.

“The taxpayer is going to pay in the end, one way or the other. The citizens of this country will end up paying to be spied on,” said Hare.

Hare also raised the spectre of the vast repository of consumer metadata being compromised by hackers.

Sophos vice president of product marketing John Shaw said he shared concerns about the amount of data that would need to be kept by service providers, and cited the recent TalkTalk hack – which compromised the personal details of over 150,000 customers of the ISP – as an example of how the industry is not adequately prepared or able to protect private information.

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