UK internet service providers (ISPs) continue to lead the world in tackling this issue and the majority are committed to taking all steps available to them to prevent users accessing illegal images of child abuse. This is evidenced, for example, by their commitment to and funding of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and the reduction in the proportion of illegal sites reported to the IWF that are hosted in the UK from 18 per cent. in 1997 to 0.4 per cent. in 2005.
Recently, it has become technically feasible for ISPs to block home users' access to websites irrespective of where in the world they are hosted. It is clear from the various meetings that Ministers have had with the ISPs, that the industry has the will to implement solutions to block these websites. Currently, all the 3G mobile network operators block their mobile customers from accessing these sites and the biggest ISPs (who between them provide over 90 per cent. of domestic broadband connections) are either currently blocking or have plans to by the end of 2006.
We recognise the progress that has been made as a result of the industry's commitment and investment so far. However, 90 per cent. of connections is not enough and we are setting a target that by the end of 2007, all ISPs offering broadband internet connectivity to the UK general public put in place technical measures that prevent their customers accessing websites containing illegal images of child abuse identified by the IWF. For new ISPs or services, we would expect them to put in place measures within nine months of offering the service to the public. If it appears that we are not going to meet our target through co-operation, we will review the options for stopping UK residents accessing websites on the IWF list.