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‘Six strikes’ ISP policy could be a disaster in the making

Published Dec 7th, 2012 2:37PM EST
ISP Six Strikes

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ISPs have delayed implementing their “six strikes” anti-piracy program so many times now that we’re beginning to wonder if the whole thing isn’t just a giant bluff. All the same, TIME’s Matt Peckham has written an interesting piece about how the long-threatened policy could be a nightmare for apartment building owners and small businesses that rely upon shared connections. Basically, Peckham says that the new policy could amount to a form of collective punishment for users on such connections, who may have to implement measures such as deploying tracking software to discover where copyright violations are happening.

“Who’s responsible for each infraction?” he asks rhetorically. “Who should be punished? The entire complex, by throttling or at some point terminating our Internet service? Each unit in the complex pays for shared Internet equally as part of our monthly association fees. We’re not a business — there’s no CEO. The few of us who manage the Internet on behalf of the rest can’t act unilaterally to preempt potential infractions by blocking aspects of the service by introducing content filters the way a private company might.”

Ars Technica earlier this month reported some details on exactly how the oft-delayed six strikes policy will work in practice. Basically, there are three “stages” ISPs will go through before taking action: a “notice” phase that “involves letting users know they’ve been tracked on copyright-infringing sites”; an “acknowledgement” phase in which “the customer will have to actually acknowledge having received those notices”; and finally, the “mitigation” phase where “users who have traded copyrighted files are actually punished” through either having their speeds throttled or having access to certain sites blocked.

Peckham admits that he doesn’t know for sure how this policy will impact shared connections such as the one in his apartment complex, but he’s worried because ISPs haven’t yet outlined any of the specifics yet and is worried that this could be one of the major reasons why they keep delaying implementing it: Because they have no idea how to make it work practically.

“I’d like to see the CCI and participating ISPs lay all the details about ‘six strikes’ on the table, proactively, instead of letting them trickle out in leaked documents and casual interviews,” he writes. “Don’t just backdoor the policy and expect users, especially where Internet’s shared, to somehow reverse-engineer what they’re responsible for, what happens if they fail to meet some new policy threshold and so forth. Be upfront with customers.”

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.