Earlier this week, I bought a Mobile Broadband modem from Vodafone. It’s a neat little device that plugs into the USB port of my Macbook Pro and allows me to access the Internet pretty much wherever I am. Perfect for those all-too-common mornings before work when I’m sat in Starbucks and their T-Mobile hotspot is on the blink. Speeds are good (a bit less than 2mbit/sec), and it’s really nice to be online when I want to be. (I’m on a train to Southampton right now as I write this post, for example).

I’m feeling a little less enthusiastic after attempting to check my Flickr account for any new comments and messages overnight.

Instead of seeing Flickr open up in my browser, instead I was greeted with this Vodafone page:

Vodafone Content Control

Naturally, the “About Content control” link completely fails to mention how to remove this restriction (isn’t this always the way with these sort of pages?) Presumably, a simple phone call to Vodafone will sort this out (although that’s going to be interesting … I don’t own a Vodafone mobile phone, something their online systems aren’t geared up to coping with).

I’m just amused that

  • … this restriction (which is documented in their ‘personal’ or consumer section of their website) is in place on a product that’s sold as a business product (which is how they get away with their practice of advertising prices that are exclusive of VAT). C’mon, make your mind up – it’s either a consumer product (in which case, I want the price you advertised, not the price I’m having to pay), or it’s a business product (and therefore it doesn’t need parental controls enabled by default).
  • … there was no mention of this restriction when I bought the device. It’s a good job that I’m not a professional photographer, losing money because I can’t access Flickr. Vodafone already know that I’m over 18 years old, as I had to provide my age when I bought the device. It’s flattering to think that I still look as good as I did half a lifetime ago, but I’m pretty sure you’d have to be registered blind to get away with that (I think the grey hair might just give the game away 🙂 )
  • … Flickr is considered an 18-rated service, but YouTube isn’t. (I haven’t tried more overtly 18+ sites yet. Maybe when I get to the hotel this evening …) There’s a lot more smut on YouTube than on Flickr. Who decides these things? Some irate nimby numpty from the English home counties phoning customer services to complain that their kids have seen something inappropriate on their phone?

Needless to say, there’s a lot of mileage in this one. But the bottom line is that I can’t access Flickr on this mobile broadband device until someone from Vodafone decides otherwise.

It’s great to live in a free country, isn’t it?

PS: It looks like their gateway also attempts to reduce the size of images being downloaded. So maybe access to Flickr will prove to be the least of my worries!


  1. Bahi says:
    November 22nd, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    A comment about image sizes; I’ve used 3G for years via Bluetooth to access the web using various mobile phones in various countries and with different providers and have noticed that Flickr images have consistently been presented in lower resolution together with an on-mouseover prompt to “use control-R to see image in higher resolution”, or words to that effect.

    I believe it’s the Flash plug-in responsible for this cleverness, though I haven’t tested the theory.

  2. hannah says:
    July 3rd, 2008 at 3:21 am

    i have been a vodafone customer for 5 years now. and am seriously thinking about leaving vodafone at the moment they charge me when a phone breaks to nofault off my own, im sick off the poor service.I have the same usb broadband internet and its cheap and there is alot of usage but i try to acess websites for my wedding in 3 weeks and they deem a site that sells corsets as a plus 18 website. i have a wedding to plan for god sakes i have rang vodafone 4 times to get the content control removed. And still i cant acess the site i need. i will be calling them first thing in the morning and making a formal complaint too head office which will then cost them £300 its cost me a fortune ringin premium numbers maybe they should spend some of that money on customer service.

  3. Stuart Herbert says:
    July 3rd, 2008 at 6:32 am

    @Hannah: I got the content control removed by popping into the shop where I bought my mobile broadband modem from. They were able to remove the content control there and then for me.

    Hope that helps!

  4. Adam says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    That’s pretty lame! They should really do their homework.
    I chuckled when you said you plug your modem into your Macbook Pro. Have you tried it on a PC? Why do Mac users insist on naming their products? I’ve never heard anyone say “I’m typing this on my Dell Fast Track Inspiron 15” ha ha
    Hope you got it sorted!

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