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ISPs slam Digital Economy Bill's multi-million pound price tag

Why should broadband users bail out the music industry?

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Internet service providers have grumbled that the anti-piracy measures proposed in the Digital Economy Bill (DEB) could cost consumers up to £500m.

According to the Times, ISPs have claimed that their subscribers would be saddled with charges of around £25 each to help pay for warning letters, slowed down web connections, and eventual cut-offs meted out to illegal file sharers, if the Bill gets the thumbs up in Parliament.

Meanwhile, various press outlets are reiterating findings in the government's DEB "impact assessment" that was published in November, which suggested that the initial letter-writing campaign could cost £1.40 per subscription to execute the proposed crackdown on internet pirates in the UK.

According to the report, such an implementation could lead to between 10,000 and 40,000 ISP customers ditching their web connections.

At the same time the government's assessment found that the DEB could plump up £350m in extra tax for the Treasury, as well as bring in around £1.7bn in sales to content owners.

But the likes of BT and Talk Talk aren't happy with many of the proposals contained in the Bill. Some ISPs have declared that content providers should foot any charges associated with what will effectively be open season on illegal file sharers, if the DEB does indeed come to pass ahead of 2010's General Election, which the Tories are widely expected to win.

“Broadband consumers shouldn’t have to bail out the music industry. If they really think it’s worth spending vast sums of money on these measures then they should be footing the bill; not the consumer,” Talk Talk CEO Charles Dunstone told the Times.

BT also put the boot in about the government's anti-piracy plans.

“Put yourself in the shoes of a small businessman who has a rogue member of staff. Your internet access could get cut off because of the actions of one individual. It really feels like the UK is out on a limb with these proposals compared to the rest of the world,” said BT Retails' consumer division managing director John Petter.

The Bill is set to be scrutinised by a committee on 6 January. ®

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