Today the government announced it was going to cut off people’s internet access for filesharing, and force ISPs to pay part of the costs of the regimne to prevent illegal filesharing. These proposals are deeply flawed, and would harm the people of this country to benefit a few music industry fatcats.
The proposal to cut off internet access is flawed on a number of grounds.
1. It’s disproportionate. 50 years ago, people did most of their communication by talking face to face. If anyone had suggested a law cutting criminals’ tongues off or damaging their ears to induce deafness, it would have been seen as barbaric and disproportionate, whatever the offence.
But today, many people do most of their communication via digital electonic networks. This includes the telephone system, but mostly means the internet — especially considering that telephony is becoming just another application available on the internet.
So cutting off internet access is essentially cutting off people’s access to the outside world, to their friends, to accessing government services, to finding out what’s going on in the world. It’s the modern equivalent of cutting their tongue off or destroying their hearing.
2. It goes against the government’s target of getting everyone online. You can’t get people online, if you’re forcing them offline! Furthermore, once everyone is online, the government can save money by putting many public services online where it’s cheaper than an offline service. But if significant numbers of people aren’t online — particularly if the government have forced them off — they can’t do that.
3. It infringes on human rights by imposing collective punishment, because everyone in a household is punished because of one person’s filesharing. Collective punishment during wars is considered a war crime, so why does the British government want to impose it on our people in peacetime?
4. It will hit poorest people the hardest, increasing social exclusion. Two or three families might club together to buy an interent connection collectively if they can’t afford one each. This is easy to do and just requires an ethernet cable (or if they’re using wifi, not even that). But under these proposals, if one member of one family that collectively buys internet access is cut off, then all will be cut off. This will make it in practise harder for people to come to this sort of agreement amonst themselves. The people worst hit will inevitably be the poorest. If a child’s internet access is cut off and they can’t do research for their homework, when all their schoolmates can, that will harm their academic progress.
5. It stops people from being good neighbours. Some people deliberately leave open their wifi connection, as a service to their neighbours and the community. Under these proposals, these good neighbours will be treated like criminals and could face their internet access being cut off.
The government want to force ISPs to pay part of the cost of enforcing this crackdown. This is also flawed, because it will increase ISPs’ costs, which will inevitably be passed on to the public. People on low incomes will be hit hardest by this, which will increase social exclusion, and act against the goal of getting everyone online.
With all these disadvantages it’s surprising the government has announced this. Maybe they care more about music industry fatcats’ profits than they do about the welfare of the British people.