Tell ISPs: Don't Cut Off Your Users

Five of the top American ISPs have been working with the major media industry groups on a new set of "graduated response" policies. But the millions of subscribers who will be affected by it—the same subscribers who elect the politicians, buy the content owners' goods and pay subscription fees to the internet access—weren't invited to the table. Under the new agreement, unproven accusations of infringement could lead to escalating consequences from users, from "re-education" programs up to bandwidth throttling and account suspensions.

The "graduated response" technique echoes "three strikes" laws being pushed around the world, but until now such laws have been a media company pipe dream in the U.S.: legislators have balked at the obvious collateral damage it would cause to innocent Internet users. So the content industry went directly to the big ISPs and, with the help of pressure from government officials, persuaded them to adopt a “voluntary” version.

Right now, it appears those measures will not include permanently terminating a user's account. But there is no doubt that the media companies will treat this backroom deal as a first step, and come back with more extreme demands later. That's why we need to make sure the ISPs draw a firm line in the sand now. Tell AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon to respect their users' rights, and publicly commit today that they will never terminate a user account as part of a “graduated response” program.