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By: MarkJ - 28 December, 2009 (6:56 AM)
piracyUK ISPs have warned that plans put forward by the recent Digital Economy Bill (here), which aims to tackle illegal music, film and software file sharing (P2P) among broadband consumers, could push up subscription fees by a staggering £25 extra per year.

The Bill proposed a series of letter warnings to consumers "suspected" of involvement with such activity and promised to punish repeat offenders by slowing or restricting their connections. Personal details would also be passed to Rights Holders for possible court action (heavy settlement fines etc.) and the most serious of cases could see individuals being disconnected from their ISP.

Impact assessments for the bill suggest that up to 40,000 households could be disconnected and the letter-writing campaign alone could increase individual subscription fees by £1.40. However the bill did pledge to make copyright owners pay a fixed fee to cover ISP costs after having to issue warning letters to customers. The Times reports today that ISPs are now calling on copyrights holders to contribute more to help cover their costs.

Charles Dunstone , CEO of The Carphone Warehouse and TalkTalk , said:

“Broadband consumers shouldn’t have to bail out the music industry. If they really think it’s worth spending vast sums of money on these measures then they should be footing the bill; not the consumer.”

Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary, said:

“It is grossly unfair that Labour expects millions of innocent customers to pay extra each month because of the actions of a minority. By their own admission this will make broadband unaffordable for tens of thousands of people, which flies in the face of government policy to increase take-up in disadvantaged communities.”

The government, which expects its measures to rake in an extra £350m from VAT thanks to a boom in legal sales, believes that the "overall benefits to the country far outweigh the costs". Similarly the music industry (BPI) has also suggested that the costs should be significantly lower than the "stratospheric sums suggested by some ISPs".

Many believe that the proposals themselves are simply unworkable and will end up causing more damage to innocent individuals than the guilty ones. Law firms currently track suspected illegal P2P activity by monitoring IP addresses, which are assigned to every computer when you go online, yet IP's can easily be spoofed, redirected, shared over big networks or even hijacked (open Wi-Fi networks etc.). The download itself could also be encrypted, making it nearly impossible for the ISP to verify.

Suspending connections based on unreliable data and without a trial seems like a gross abuse. Public wireless broadband networks could also be made unworkable, whole businesses and families could face a loss of access because of the actions of a single individual or hacker. There are also many ways to circumvent the methods used to track such activity, such as encrypted VPN's.
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