Previously, I reviewed RescueTime which is a website that tracks your activities (free) and can also limit your internet access (if you pay for the pro account).   Dr. Steel also suggested a different software for blocking time: Internet Access Controller, and I’ve been using it ever since.

Overview of Internet Access Controller

It’s a filter program that you download and install on your computer.  When you enable the software, it will block the internet according to the rules that you set up in it’s filters.  If you try to access a blocked site, it will simply tell you that that site is not available.  It costs 15 USD for a single permanent license, with different pricing options for families and businesses with multiple computers.

A few of the features

  • Different filtering styles:  You can define your filters based on a list of allowed or blocked sites, as well as setting which programs, services or IP addresses can access the internet.  So if you only want to block facebook, then that’s possible; or if you only want to allow gmail, then that’s also possible.
  • Applies to all user accounts:  The software is automatically available for all user accounts of your computer, and you can personalize the filters for each user.  So you can set up a “fun” user and a “work” user on the same computer, with different internet filters applied. 
  • Groups subdomains together:  The filters can be set-up to block all subdomains of a given site.   So you can block ALL the videos, TV show pages, and news items just by blocking CTV’s main address.  
  • Password protection:  You need to enter a password in order to enable/disable the software, or to make changes to the filter.  So it’s harder to turn off the filters, and access something that you don’t want to access.  
  • Scheduling:  The filters can be applied according to a schedule, so that you have certain hours that access is controlled, and other hours where it isn’t freely available.  So you can allow yourself time for distractions, while still blocking certain sites when you’re trying to get work done.  

What I like about it….

It’s always on, automatically.
In my battles against procrastination, one of the hardest things to do each day is to get started.  If I had to turn on my internet filter each day before I could start work, I think I would just keep delaying that action.  But when it turns itself on (according to my schedule), it triggers me to open up a work file and get something done.  This doesn’t take up any of my energy, which leaves me to focus my energy on my work.

Very easy to use.
Learning to use the software is fast and simple, the screens have short explanations when needed without needed to use the help files.  I was able to set up the filters that I wanted in less than 20 minutes.

The one-time price.
Once you’ve purchased this software, it’s yours.  There are no subscription fees or other such nonsense.  I like this style of payment because it shows a real respect for the users, it isn’t just a moneygrab.

What I dislike about it…

Sometimes it’s finicky for blocking subdomains.
Occasionally a site can sneak through the filters.  I don’t know why, maybe the site has a different type of structure?  Anyways, you just need to try different ways of listing the site’s address in the filters until you find one (or two) ways that work.  This isn’t a big flaw, just something that can take a bit of trial and error.  Also, it didn’t happen very often, and I was always successful in blocking the sites that I wanted to block.

You can’t include different filter in a single schedule.
This is my biggest dissapointment.  I would love to block my email access, but to allow myself email “breaks” when email is accessible but all my distracting sites are not.  However, this isn’t possible with the schedule function.  You can create a work-around solution where email is allowed on one user profile, but not allowed on another – so you have to sign into a different user account to then access your email.  I didn’t think it was worth the effort for me, but it is a possible way to solve the problem.

A note on social networks

I’ve read that social networks are addictive because they are unpredictable in terms of when they will give you a “reward.”  The fact that you never know when there will be new content means that you’re like to check the network often.

For me, this is entirely true: I have a couple of social networks that I check constantly!  And I was surprised how much it had become a reflex.  Once internet access controller was enabled, I knew that the link would only lead me to a “this webpage is not available” screen, and yet I would still click the links to my networks.  It took a number of days before my body seemed to realize that clicking the link wasn’t fun any more.   This experience was both interesting and embarrassing all at the same time.

Bottom Line

This is an excellent piece of software.

highly recommend it for anyone looking to prevent themselves from wasting hours on useless sites.