Telco bosses rail against anti-piracy proposals

The heads of BT, Talk Talk and Orange have united to criticise government proposals that could lead to the internet connections of file sharers being cut off.

In a joint letter to The Times, chief executives Ian Livingston, Charles Dunstone and Tom Alexander claimed that the proposals were "misconceived" and threatened the rights of broadband users, as well as stifling the development of new services.

Members of Which?, the Open Rights Group and Consumer Focus co-signed the letter, which said that disconnection was a "harsh" and "punitive" measure, and needed "rigorous" and "objective" assessment by Ofcom.

The letter said: "We must avoid an extrajudicial kangaroo court' process where evidence is not tested properly and accused broadband users are denied the right to defend themselves against false accusations."

It continued: "Without these protections innocent customers will suffer."

The letter also said that the approach was likely to encounter consumer resistance, and that disconnecting users was a "serious limit on their freedom of expression".

The proposals, which were alleged to have been sparked by a meeting between business secretary Peter Mandelson and record company boss Peter Geffen, has already been criticised by ISPs and campaigners.

The government responded, admitting enforcement would be tough, but that a tribunal system to appeal would be part of the new policy.