Virgin rolls out network-level filter

Virgin is the last major ISP to roll out its parental-control filters

Shona Ghosh
28 Feb 2014

Virgin Media has rolled out its network-level content filter, making it the last of the major ISPs to bow to government pressure regarding online child protection.

The new tool, Web Safe, will block content across eight categories, including porn, violent content, self-harm and crime. Hacking is also included as a category.

Virgin Media told PC Pro it had partnered with categorisation firm Nominum and security company F-Secure to create the new filter.

As per the government's recommendations, any new customer signing up with Virgin Media from today will have the filter switched on and will have to approve their settings on setup. Current customers will be prompted to make a choice about the filter later this year. The filter will block content on any device connected to Virgin Media broadband.

The tool only comes with two filtering options - "child safe" and "virus safe". It's also possible for customers to switch off the filter through their Virgin Media account.

Keeping the child-safe option switched on means customers will be blocked from accessing any site that falls into one of Virgin Media's eight categories.

The ISP told PC Pro it would be possible to whitelist some sites, though it didn't say if there was a maximum number to choose. It will be possible to block sites for a certain period of time - for example, ensuring Skype remains inaccessible to a child doing their homework.

Asked by PC Pro how Web Safe would avoid blocking legitimate websites by accident, an issue that has plagued BT and Sky, a spokesperson pointed out that the major ISPs were working on an industry-wide whitelist. That includes charities and sex-education sites that may be excluded from all ISP filters.

Speed boost

Virgin will also boost broadband speeds from today, after announcing the improvements last year. The company announced a new top-tier speed of 152Mbits/sec, up from its current top package of 100Mbits/sec. Pricing remains the same, at £28 a month plus £15.99 line rental.

Virgin will boost speeds for customers on cheaper packages too, with customers on entry-level 30Mbits/sec packages jumping to 50Mbits/sec and customers on 60Mbits/sec going to 100Mbits/sec.

Virgin said customers should see the speed boost by the end of the year.

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