Australia’s big four ISPs have signed a deal to allow them to use the internet in the way that the rest of the world uses it.
The agreement was struck between the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and ISPs Optus, iiNet and Telstra, but will only be effective for the first three years.
In a statement, the ISPs said they had “a strong interest in maintaining an open and free internet”.
“We will work closely with the ACCC to ensure the rules are in place to protect consumers,” the statement said.
“We hope the agreements can serve as a model for other ISPs in the future.”
The deal was signed in August by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The ACMA will be responsible for enforcement of the agreement, which comes into force on 1 November.
However, ISPs will still have to pay an annual $1.8 billion licence fee, a levy which the AFP said was “to be determined”.
The AFP said it hoped to have the agreement in place by the end of next year.
The ACCC’s statement said that ISPs could apply for exemptions to the agreement by giving “a specific justification to justify why an exception should not apply”.
The statement said the “existing and future internet usage laws in Australia are in full force and effect”.
It said the agreement would “help Australian consumers to protect their right to an open internet and to access content and services online without being restricted by a provider’s control”.
But critics said the deal could limit access to free speech and information online, and could also open up internet services to greater regulation.
“The agreement is a major step forward for Australian internet users, but it has serious privacy implications for internet users everywhere,” the Australian Greens MP, Scott Ludlam, said.
The deal also raises questions about how the agreement will affect Australian ISPs.
“While the agreement is good news for Australian consumers, it could lead to the ACMA being empowered to force ISPs to sell users’ personal data to third parties,” he said.
AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said in a statement that the AFP had “no objection” to the ISPs using the internet.
“This agreement will be a significant step forward in ensuring the internet remains open, fair and accessible for Australians,” he added.
“Australia is a free and open country and we will continue to work with all interested parties to ensure it remains this way.”
The Australian Government has also been lobbying for an agreement.
“As Australians, we know that the internet is a vital tool for digital freedom, innovation and economic development,” a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said.