Blog Post

Why Hull’s KC Communications Could Regret Its Piracy Clampdown

Hull’s KC Communications, which runs the city’s sole residential broadband provider Karoo, came under fire on Friday for cutting off illegal downloaders without warning (via bbc.co.uk) and then forcing them to sign a good behaviour agreement promising to not do it again. But following the bad publicity, the company quickly u-turned on the policy and instead imposed its own three strikes policy under which users will be cut off after two warnings (via the Reg). It’s certainly bold, but here are three reasons KC may regret becoming the first UK ISP to introduce a three strikes policy…

1. It goes against everything in Digital Britain: Lord Carter’s Digital Britain white paper recommended that Ofcom work with ISPs warn file-sharers and collect information on repeat offenders and only then, if a substantial reduction hasn’t been achieved in 12 months, will “back-stop” powers be enforced to introduce technical anti-piracy measures such as bandwidth capping and site blocking — there was no explicit mention of disconnection. MP and former minister Tom Watson notes the disparity with Digital Britain and in an open letter calls on Lord Carter to do something about it.

But KC is effectively saying “balls to all that” and going ahead with its own disconnection policy. Will Ofcom let KC do as it pleases, or intervene to bring it into line with UK policy? Karoo’s director of consumer and publishing services Nick Thompson says the move puts the ISP “more in line with the industry standard approach”. It is tempting to ask which industry he’s referring to.

2. It could be incompatible with EU law: MEPs have for months been debating controversial telecoms legislation — a key amendment to which would force member states to force ISPs (including the likes of KC) to seek a court ruling before cutting off users. Mindful of that debate, France’s govenment toned down its Creation Et L’Internet bill to transfer the decision on who gets disconnected to a local judge. Has KC considered that it may have to give its 90,000 users the right to a fair trial under law before disconnecting any of them?

3. KC seems uncertain about its piracy stance: KC has already backed down once on this issue following an outcry from customers — and judging by the speed at which it reversed its good behaviour agreement scheme, don’t be at all surprised if it does again sometime soon.