When should an ISP cut off service to users? Some answers seem clear, on the surface. Known or suspected terrorist threats to national security, child pornography and hate group sites are often mentioned, but laws can be vague, freedom-of-speech issues arise and different ISP’s can have different standards. Below are some of the situations that face ISP’s today, as well as some responses to those situations.
- Piracy – Copyrighted materials are constantly being pilfered, something that might not occur as frequently if ISP’s were to cut off service to known pirates. Now, stern warnings are about as far as it goes.
- Spammers – As far back as 2004 ISP’s have been called upon to take steps to control spammers; Savvis Communications, Inc. succumbed to anti-spamming groups and cut off service to 40 companies that used the ISP.
- Infected Users – Sometimes computers are infected with malware that the user may not even be aware of; these “zombie” computers can spread trouble, and there are those who say the ISP should cut the service of these infected users.
- Bandwidth Hogs – A bandwidth hog is described as a user of a network who uses considerably more bandwidth than other users of the network, and there have been calls to limit or cut off service to those users.
- National Security – Egypt cut off internet service during recent periods of unrest, which has led to much debate over the practice. There is considerable debate in America about whether or not the President should have the power to cut off service to suspected threats.
- Hate Groups – There have been numerous calls for ISP’s to cut service to known hate groups such as racial supremacists, but it is difficult to determine what constitutes free speech.
- Pornography – Pornographers have worked their way into a status whereby their “product” falls into gray areas involving free speech, though there have been many people who say that ISP’s have an obligation to clean up what comes out under their banner.
- Competition – There has been a lot of commentary about ISP’s and their relationship’s with companies that have products that are similar to products offered by the ISP itself, such as in the case with Netflix. There are fears that ISP’s may unfairly limit or cut the service of their competitors.
- Use Contracts – Buried in the fine print of contracts issued by ISP’s are provisions that allow an ISP to cut off service for a variety of reasons, but there has been a lot of hesitation in this regard.
- Hackers – ISP’s actually do have authority to cut service to known hackers, but the hackers are too sophisticated, and are able to go online despite attempts to thwart them.
ISP’s are dealing with changing circumstances on a daily basis, and spheres of responsibility change as well. It will be interesting to see how the ISP’s evolve in the near future.