OREM — Ralph Yarro says the Internet is a lot like the "lawless, wild West."

If that's the case, then the Utah County high-tech tycoon is something of a Wyatt Earp for today's family man — armed with a laptop and a diaper bag.

For the past 10 years, Yarro has been building and developing technology companies such as Altiris Inc. and SCO Group Inc. These days, Yarro and his team at the Orem-based ThinkAtomic Inc., a high-tech think tank, are putting that work on hold and using their technological know-how in the battle against Internet pornography.

"We started to kind of develop a concept (in 2003)," Yarro said. "The majority of my team, we are all hard-core technology businessmen, so we thought we'd take a look at it from that perspective. We're also fathers and husbands, so we care about this from that perspective."

The result is CP80, a nonprofit organization that proposes that the existing Internet infrastructure of ports and protocols be used to categorize all Web content into channels, allowing Internet users to choose the type of content they want to receive — much like cable television.

The group also calls for legislation to "support and empower its solution," making sure pornographic content is published only on adult-designated channels and putting laws in place to make pornographers who violate the law accountable, similar to the way the Federal Communications Commission regulates television and radio.

For the past three months, Yarro has spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C., where the CP80 Internet Channel Initiative is seeking political support.

Ralph Thomson, president and CEO of International Business Catalysts, has been lobbying on behalf of CP80 in Washington. He's been talking up CP80's blueprint with elected officials on Capitol Hill, as well as with the Department of Justice and the FCC.

"One of the things that we're finding is that CP80 has the right sound to it," Thomson said. "It's not a technology that has to be developed; the software and the hardware pieces are in place. Now it's just a matter of getting the policy in place so we can have at least some part of the Internet that is free of the filth and free of the degradation."

Yarro or members of the CP80 group have made presentations to Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, R-Utah, as well as state Reps. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and Jim Matheson, D-Utah. The group has also had phone conversations with Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.

"From my perspective, all of the local guys have been generally supportive," Yarro said. "We feel good about it."

In a statement issued last week, Hatch called Internet pornography a "clear and present danger to children and families," and he praised the efforts of CP80.

"We have to pursue creative and innovative solutions to this growing public health threat, and CP80 is one of the leaders in that effort," Hatch said.

Orem marriage and family therapist Jill Manning, who earlier this month testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution about the negative effects of Internet pornography on marriages and families, calls the initiative "a fresh, thinking-outside-the-box solution that we desperately need."

"It's effective, it's smart, it makes sense and it's a solution," Manning said. "That's what I love about it. When we're so focused on the problem, here comes along an innovative, fresh-thinking solution that makes sense."

The good news for consumers is that CP80 would be available for everyone to use — or not use — for free, Yarro said.

As a nonprofit, all of the costs associated with developing the CP80 Internet Channel Initiative — including payroll — have come out of Yarro's deep pockets.

In March, Yarro was the recipient of an undisclosed amount of money and 5.49 million shares of SCO stock — valued at about $22 million — in a settlement with The Canopy Group. Yarro was the former CEO of the Lindon-based venture-capital firm and was one of three former executives to sue for unlawful termination.

"I've seen a lot of solutions out there — tons," he said. "Every now and then, somebody will walk through the door and say, 'I know how to fix the porn problem,' and they'll offer us this new appliance that they're going to knock on every door in America and have the parents buy."

But families or employers who don't want pornography in their homes or offices shouldn't have to pay to keep it out, he said.

CP80 also isn't another content filter, which Yarro says are well-intended but flawed and can give parents a false sense of security.

"Filters don't cut it," he said. "They don't catch everything. Parents aren't being given the tools to choose what content comes into their homes. If you give them that, I guarantee parents will embrace it and will support it."

And that's what CP80 does, Yarro said: It creates choice for the end user.

Despite all of the content available on the Internet, he said, users really don't have any choice beyond Internet-on or Internet-off. And even that's not much of a choice anymore.

"More and more, it's not a choice if your kid gets online," Yarro said. "You almost have to have the Internet to function in today's environment. In education, our kids have to have access to the Internet. Because of that, they're exposed to the dangers that go along with that."

No matter what Web site children are visiting, Internet pornography is just one click away, Manning said. And with tricks and traps being employed by Internet pornographers — such as creating links that say one thing but take users to pornographic sites or using misspelled variations of popular Web sites to attract unsuspecting traffic — it's easy to unintentionally view pornographic material.

"If you can click a mouse, you can be exposed to porn," she said.

CP80's solution, with accompanying legislation in place that can be used to prosecute violators, would solve that problem, too, Yarro said, by keeping all adult content on designated channels or ports.

The Internet, he explained, is made up of more than 65,000 ports that are used to categorize content and services. However, all content viewed when users browse a Web site — news, sports scores, children's games or pornography — uses the same port: Port 80.

"Thus the name, CP80," Yarro said. "CP80 originally stood for Clean Port 80. It's really the process of cleaning up and providing more channels."

So why aren't more of the 65,000-plus ports being used for content? Good question, Yarro said.

"There is a plentiful amount of channels out there," he said. "Why are we not taking adult content and assigning it to its own channel? Doesn't that make sense?"

By assigning adult content to its own channel or channels, Yarro said, CP80 avoids the pitfall of previous legislative attempts to clean up the Internet: violations of the First Amendment.

"We had to preserve freedom of speech," he said, "and that's what we've done."

Instead of trying to censor the Internet, CP80 gives those who don't want access to pornographic material on the Internet the ability to restrict that, Yarro said. Pornographers will still be able to publish their content, and those who wish to view it can do so.

"It's not censoring," he said, "and I don't believe I'll hear a free-speech fight. Bottom line: The consumer who wants the Internet like they have it today, nothing has changed. You still have it all. Those who don't want it, on an opt-in basis, won't get it."

With the technology in place, the focus now is on legislation, Yarro said. Laws need to be enacted to mandate that adult content be broadcast on designated ports, as well as to empower the private sector to enforce compliance and require Internet service providers to assist consumers in the identification of violators, he said.

"There needs to be a legislative process to determine, dictate and be very specific in forcing adult content onto its own channel," Yarro said. "I don't believe we'll get the movement without legislation. We need the penalties associated with noncompliance."


E-mail: jpage@desnews.com