Something has been on my mind for a while now so I thought it was about time I wrote about it and got some feedback from people that this may affect.

I was called to one of my clients homes a few months ago to fix his very slow computer. With my hand inside the case, my client, (lets call him Dave) came over and said, ‚Richard, I have got a problem.

I feared he was going to talk about his martial issues or recent trip to the doctor, but no, he wanted to talk about porn. Oh dear, I thought. Can I really discuss this with customers? I really should stop jumping to conclusions: he ACTUALLY wanted to protect all his family from inappropriate material on the net.

He told me he had three adolescent kids and their friends with laptops, iPhones and PS3s, all connecting to his WiFi.
He found himself in a predicament where he had an unknown number of devices browsing the web and no way of controlling them all.There is software that you can install on individual devices, but this is costly, resource hungry and tailored for PCs and MACs. There isn’t software out there to filter PS3s with web browsers or the phone of your sons pubescent curious friends.

The solution was obvious to me: we needed something to filter the internet before it was sent out via WiFi. Without getting too technical, this involved making a small change on the WiFi router which was an old non branded Virgin router. It is important to note that this is a change to the DNS settings.

I use a great service called openDNS which is currently being used by 1 in 3 schools out in the US. This service routes the internet through different servers
which filter out the bad sites. Dave was really happy with the solution: it was effective and took me a short amount of time to implement, therefore I was able to give him a really good deal. I came away from this job thinking EVERY home in the country should have this.

So I guess you’re thinking: this is too good to be true,

So where’s the catch?

Well, the second part of the story tells all. When I got home that day, I thought I would make this same change on my new Virgin media super hub.
To my surprise, I couldn’t find the settings through the routers configuration portal (refined by Virgin). After searching the portal and about 100 message boards later
it was quite clear that Virgin had removed the option to change this DNS setting.

I couldn’t believe it‚ I had just implemented this great service but I couldn’t use it at home and when I researched BT’s new hub, the same restriction was in place.
What is going on?

Service provider irresponsibility?

My quarrel with the Service Providers is that you’re not just selling a broadband line, but also a home router with WIFI, which should provide all the standard router options OR
a free home router with WiFi but without letting you customise certain parts.

But why won’t they let us customise? This is the question I want answers to. Do they not realise that this setting can be utilised to solve all parental concerns within the home and those expressed by the government in recent months?
I can only guess they want to reduce call-outs to their support lines if things go wrong, when untrained users tamper with this feature or maybe they just haven’t realised the potential for content filtering with DNS?

Either way, I would really like to see this changed in any future version of Virgin’s or BT’s home hubs.

In the meantime, the only way around this (which the SPs suggest) is to purchase your own unbranded router so you can change the DNS settings yourself.
This is great but I now need to spend another £40 on a new router. So their claim of free WiFi with your broadband, in this instance, is incorrect.

Richard Stuart

(Owner of White Pacific and concerned godparent)

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