Verizon boots illegal file sharers

Verizon Communications, which once seemed opposed to working with the music industry on fighting piracy, now admits to suspending Internet access for illegal file sharers.

A company spokeswoman, Bobbi Henson, confirmed to CNet that it reserves the right to end service, and it already has for some subscribers. “We’ve cut some people off,” Henson said. “We do reserve the right to discontinue service. But we don’t throttle bandwidth like Comcast was doing.”

That comment is disingenuous, though, because Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent users was intended to reduce strain on its network. Verizon, on the other hand, seems to be adopting a “graduated response” program being pushed by the Recording Industry Association of America. Though Verizon hasn’t explicitly said that it’s cooperating with the RIAA, the motivations are different, and in any case Comcast has voluntarily stopped throttling in response to government scrutiny.

music-piracy

Verizon began cooperating with the RIAA in November by sending warning letters to accused file sharers. The Internet service provider seemed late to the party, joining AT&T, Comcast and other ISPs who were already sending out the letters. However, Verizon’s letters don’t mention disconnection as a possible threat.

Verizon has said in the past that it is not working with the RIAA on a “graduated response” to piracy, but it may still be responding to individual copyright complaints. Previously, the ISP told CNet that “it’s important for our customers to be assured that they won’t have their privacy rights trampled.”

Not long ago, it appeared that disconnection of illegal file sharers wasn’t gaining traction among service providers. Comcast has said that it won’t suspend Internet access, and AT&T has said it won’t do so without a court order. The scary thing about Verizon’s policy, is that it doesn’t appear to give consumers any chance to defend themselves. Then again, if it’s between this or the RIAA learning the identities of alleged file sharers and suing them for millions of dollars, this might be the lesser of two evils.