Government plans to cut internet access for illegal downloaders

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom would, in 2012, have the power to slow down users' connections.

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The government is planning to cut off illegal file sharers from the internet.

The sanction, which was originally rejected in the government's Digital Britain report, is back on the table and the communications regulator Ofcom, is likely to lose its role in online anti-piracy enforcerment.

Under the initial Digital Britain proposals, ISPs would send warning letters to web users suspected of illegal downloading. If those efforts failed to reduce piracy by at least 70 per cent, Ofcom would, in 2012, have the power to slow down users' connections.

However, reports this morning say those regularly downloading copyright content will have their internet connection blocked completely should they continue their file-sharing activities after receiving the warning letters. Such a move would not be instigated by a failure to reduce by piracy by 70 per cent, but would up to the discretion of ministers.

The secretary of state, rather than Ofcom, would hold the power to introduce the technical measures.

"The previous proposals, whilst robust, would take an unacceptable amount of time to complete in a situation that calls for urgent action," according to a draft of the government's new plan obtained by The Guardian.

The newspaper says the about-turn is likely to increase speculation that the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, Lord Mandelson, reached a secret deal with Hollywood mogul David Geffen earlier this month to protect the film and music industries.

Geffen has been an outspoken critic of illegal downloading and is said to have met Mandelson while on holiday earlier this month in Corfu.

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