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Web users suspected of file-sharing are being cut off without warning by internet service provider (ISP) Karoo, based in Hull. Karoo, the only ISP in the area, makes customers sign a document promising not to repeat the offence in order to get their service restored. Some customers have had their accounts suspended for more than two years. While the firm calls its policy "the responsible approach", a digital rights group has called it "unfair".If a copyright owner such as a major music label notifies Karoo of their content being illegally shared, as soon as the ISP can confirm this information it suspends that user's internet connection. The customer must then sign a waiver stating that they will not do it again. Only then will Karoo reconnect them. Compared to other ISPs in the UK, this direct action against illegal file-sharing is surprisingly severe.The music industry has called for a "three strikes" rule - with disconnection as a final option after formal warnings. However, the recent Digital Britain report said disconnection was not the government's "preferred option" given that internet access is now seen to be as critical as traditional utilities such as electricity.Nick Thompson, director of consumer and publishing services at Kingston Communications, told the BBC: "I think it's the responsible approach, because we are protecting people from illegal activity." "There are no benefits for us. In fact, when we cut off customers we're actually reacting against our own interests because we don't charge customers for that period when the service is suspended."Andrea Robinson, a Karoo customer from Willoughby, told the BBC that she was cut off without warning on Tuesday; her account advised her that her password had expired. On Thursday she received a letter from the firm, claiming that she had been using the peer-to-peer file-sharing service BitTorrent to download the film Terminator Salvation. On calling Karoo, she was told to pay a visit to resolve the issue. "They gave me a form to sign to get reconnected," she told the BBC. "The form basically said 'if I admit my guilt you'll reconnect me'. So I didn't sign it and walked out. I'm still not reconnected."'Totally unfair'Karoo's approach is, for many, not a popular one. "It's totally unfair to disconnect people without giving them any warning at all. In fact, disconnection is something that should only even possibly be considered as a result of court action." said Jim Killock, executive director of the digital rights activists The Open Rights Group. Kingston Communications is the primary supplier of telecommunications and data services in the City of Hull. British Telecoms has no lines in the area, and with no other choice of ISP, the residents of Hull often have no choice but to use Karoo if they want an internet connection.The terms and conditions Karoo enforce are not new - the BBC has spoken to customers whose accounts were suspended over two years ago. However, Karoo's policy once again throws open the discussion on how ISPs should deal with illegal file sharing.
Internet service provider (ISP) Karoo, based in Hull, has changed its policy of suspending the service of users suspected of copyright violations. The about face was made following a BBC story outlining the firm's practice.Karoo issued a statement on Friday, saying that it has been "exceeding the expectations of copyright owners". The firm will now adopt a "three strikes" rule, in which suspected file-sharers will receive three written warnings before action is taken."We have always taken a firm line on the alleged abuse of our internet connections," said Nick Thompson, director of consumer and publishing services, in the statement. "However, we continually review our policies and procedures to reflect our customers' changing needs and evolving use of the internet. "It is evident that we have been exceeding the expectations of copyright owners, the media and internet users. So, we have changed our policy to move more in line with the industry standard approach."The firm's approach is more aligned with many other ISPs' approaches to suspected file sharers, mirroring the "three strikes" rule that the music industry itself has called for. While she said that her service had still not been restored, Mrs Robinson called Karoo's policy change "a step in the right direction". "I'm still a bit upset about it, but it's an improvement that they've done that - rather than just zero chance for any negotiation or to put your case across," she told BBC News.