Tells Broadband Reports nobody's been kicked off yet...
Yesterday we directed your attention
to an article over at CNET
that claimed Verizon had started kicking accused P2P pirates off of the Internet, after recently agreeing with the RIAA
to send more DMCA warning letters. That claim was supported by a quote by a Verizon spokesperson confirming that "we've cut some people off." But in subsequent conversations with Verizon, Broadband Reports has learned that Verizon is neither booting people from the network for excessive use (common among carriers like Comcast or Qwest), nor have they booted any users who receive one too many DMCA letters.
In fact, Verizon spokesperson Bobbi Henson tells us she was misquoted by CNET, and that while the company reserves the right to boot heavy users or P2P pirates from the network, they haven't actually done so yet. "I'm not aware that we've ever terminated anyone's account for excessive consumption, although we reserve the right to do so," says Henson about the quote, reiterating that Verizon has no bandwidth caps. "That part of the CNET story is wrong," she says. "I did not say 'we've cut people off'; I said we reserve the right to do so."
So Verizon isn't booting heavy users off of the network like Qwest
, but are they booting customers off of the network for trading in copyrighted P2P files, like Cox
This program has not resulted in the termination of any Verizon customer's service.
"This is not an automatic 'three strikes' graduated response program," insists Henson of the company's ramped up DMCA letter forwarding campaign. "This program has been effective in reducing instances of repeat notices and has not resulted in the termination of any Verizon customer's service," she says. "Our goal is to protect our customers' privacy and due process rights while recognizing the importance of copyright protection and acquiring content legally," she says. "We believe our program strikes a reasonable approach and is working very well."
The letters sent to users inform them that "should we receive additional notifications alleging that you have engaged in online copyright infringement, we reserve the right to suspend or terminate your Verizon Online account." Verizon's revamped copyright website
doesn't even go that far, making no reference to account suspension.
The question then becomes is this essentially just a big bluff on Verizon's part? You'll recall there's been rumors over the last few months that the RIAA's proposed shift from "suing the hell out of everyone" (TM) to getting ISPs to ramp up DMCA letter notifications was little more than a scarecrow
. If so, it's a bluff that lets Verizon have their cake and eat it too, by allowing them to retain paying customers, reduce strain on their network but still please the MPAA and RIAA.
It's not clear Verizon's willing to take the next step and boot paying customers, given the legal repercussions of terminating accounts based on little more than an IP address and a wink from the entertainment industry. Taking a hardline stance against P2P piracy could have marketing and financial repercussions, with users migrating to more piracy-friendly ISPs, and existing users downgrading from faster speed packages that were used primarily for P2P transfers.
Most carriers aren't thrilled about the prospect of being content nannies, and are eager to show the MPAA and RIAA that they can reduce piracy with simple warnings. Should these warnings not work, you can be fairly certain the next step would involve entertainment lobbyists pushing harder for the kind of "three strikes" laws we're seeing in places like France and the UK. Carriers don't want these new regulations, so it's in their best interest to play along with the entertainment industry.
In a follow up this morning, we asked Henson whether Verizon would eventually migrate to a real "graduated response" system, but the carrier wouldn't offer additional comment. Meanwhile, we invite any reader threatened by Verizon with account termination to drop us a line
and share your experience.