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If you thought internet metering was taking things too far, try being a Virgin ISP customer. In a joint venture with the British recording industry group BPI, roughly 800 letters have been sent out to file sharers subscribed to Virgin, with thousands more on the way. These aren't 'Thank you for being a customer' notices, and instead the envelopes read "Important: If you don't read this, your broadband could be disconnected."
Despite the ominous warning and pressure from the BPI to implement a three strikes policy - where users of file sharing networks would be given two warnings and then disconnected on a third offense - Virgin claims the wording was a "mistake," saying:
"It is important to let our customers know that their accounts have been used in a certain way but we are happy to accept it may not be the account holder that's involved. It could be someone else in the family or someone living in a shared house. it could even be someone stealing Wi-Fi. We are not making any form of accusation." - Asam Ahmad from Virgin
Virgin went on to claim that there was "absolutely no possibility" it would take legal action against its customers under the current campaign, and that it wouldn't hand over user information "under any circumstances." Normally such strong statements would be comforting, but if that's the case, why send out the letters in the first place?
Perhaps Virgin underestimated public response or maybe BPI presented a compelling case in favor of sending the letters, but no matter what the reason, recipients of the letters are understandably peeved. Some customers are reporting feeling "betrayed," and others claim they never shared any files, yet still received a notice.
Angry users aside, the music industry continues to lobby the UK government to force broadband companies into taking increasing measures to stop file sharing, and Ministers have set a deadline for next spring for both sides to come to a voluntary agreement. If not, the government might push through laws of its own.
What do you think? Can file sharing really be controlled and regulated in today's Wi-Fi landscape?
Image Credit: Virgin