Mandelson puts 'three strikes' internet plan in motion

Proposals that could force ISPs to cut off the internet connection of persistent copyright infringers will be included in a bill going before parliament next month
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Business minister Peter Mandelson has reiterated the government's 'three strikes' proposals to disconnect suspected copyright infringers from the internet, drawing sharp criticism from the UK's biggest ISP.

Speaking at a cabinet creative industries conference on Wednesday, Lord Mandelson said anti-piracy proposals made in August will form the basis of the Digital Economy Bill, expected to go before parliament in late November.

Under those proposals, suspected unauthorised file-sharers will be issued two warnings. If those are ignored, the government may take a technical measure, such as ordering the ISP to stop service for the individual in question.

"We will put in place a fair, thorough process, involving clear warnings to people suspected of unlawful file-sharing, with technical measures such as account suspension only used as a very last resort," Mandelson said.

TalkTalk said it is disappointed Mandelson is pressing ahead with the government plans. "We will not disconnect people unless a proper court order is given," a spokesperson for the ISP said.

TalkTalk last week began a campaign against the plans, following a test in which a security expert from the ISP demonstrated the ease of illegally downloading files by cracking home Wi-Fi networks. The experiment was designed to show how easy it would be for a file-sharer to hack into an innocent person's broadband service, leaving the customer to bear the brunt of any investigation.

However, Mandelson said in a statement that an appeals process would be put in place to guard against this. "Only persistent rule breakers would be affected — and there would be an independent, clear and easy appeals process to ensure that the correct infringer is penalised," he said

Mandelson told ISPs in his speech that they will not be expected to foot the whole bill for putting the proposals in action, such as notifying suspected unauthorised file-sharers. "Neither do we want internet service providers to be unfairly burdened," he said. "ISPs and rights holders will share the costs, on the basis of a flat fee that will allow both sides to budget and to plan."

A source at a British ISP, who wished to remain anonymous, said the measures could be extremely costly for ISPs and, ultimately for their customers, depending on how the government proposals were implemented.

For example, ISPs may have to use deep packet inspection (DPI) technology to scan each data packet, which is expensive at a network level, according to the source. Not only would using DPI have privacy implications, but the costs could be passed on to the consumer, the source added.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are also concerned about the government proposals. ZDNet UK understands that the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) believes the plans could increase officers' workload, as determined unauthorised file-sharers are likely to encrypt their traffic. This would make monitoring peer-to-peer networks virtually impossible.

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