Verizon's P2P-loving customers can breathe a collective sigh in relief

Verizon is tied for third place in terms of broadband customer base in the U.S.  As one of the nation's top players it was  shock when a Verizon spokesperson was quoted in a CNET interview as saying that in lieu of a recent campaign of warning letters to customers, cautioning them on the dangers of filesharing, that Verizon supposedly had begun severing filesharers at the request of copyright protection organizations (like the RIAA).

Specifically, CNET writer David Carnoy quoted Verizon spokeswoman Bobbi Henson is quoted as saying, "We've cut some people off.  We do reserve the right to discontinue service. But we don't throttle bandwidth like Comcast was doing. Verizon does not have bandwidth caps."

Ms. Henson personally responded to our story on the topic writing:
This is Bobbi Henson from Verizon with some clarification on this story.
We have had a copyright notice and education program in place for some time now and communicated it to our customers and the public on our Web site back in April 2009. This is not an automatic ‘three strikes’ graduated response program. This program has been effective in reducing instances of repeat notices and has not resulted in the termination of any Verizon customer’s service.

The intent of the program is to educate customers and give them every opportunity to take action to address notices from content owners that their Internet connection may have been used to download or share content in violation of copyright laws. Our goal is to protect our customers’ privacy and due process rights while recognizing the importance of copyright protection and acquiring content legally.

We believe our program strikes a reasonable approach and is working very well.

Now CNET has released a follow-up defending it's writer's original piece.  CNET's Greg Sandoval points out that Verizon essentially agrees with most of the stories' facts except that it's cutting off filesharers via a so-called "graduated response" (such as a "three-strikes" plan).

Despite Ms. Henson's claims that Verizon has cut off no customers, CNET has emails from Ms. Henson where she responded to an inquiry about how many people were cut off, stating, "David, we don't give out these numbers, but I can tell you that they are small. Our impression is that litigation in this area is significantly down and to the extent that we get subpoenas or court orders, they are isolated and not at all widespread. Same goes for disconnections. These are not things we want to do and the purpose of the notification program is to educate customers and give them every opportunity to understand and take action to download legally."

So were customers cut off?  Ultimately for all the he said, she said between Verizon's Henson and CNET's Carnoy, the bottom line is that Verizon is promising not to cut off filesharers.  That's good news for customers as if Verizon does at some point begin cutting people off it may be stuck in the a legal mess (can you say class action suit).  But its bad news for the RIAA, who already has had to drop most of its litigation campaign due to soaring expenses; the incident marks yet another failure by the RIAA to find any ally in the internet service provider business.

Ultimately it appears that Verizon is in the same boat as other telecoms -- it doesn't make sense for them to cut off the large portion of paying customers that are downloading copyrighted works, even if they are doing so perhaps illegitimately.  Such cuts could have adverse impact to both the company's bottom line and its reputation.  So ultimately the RIAA is back to square one in trying to figure out how to deter the pesky and ubiquitous pirates.

DailyTech would like to thank Ms. Henson for contacting us and trying to set the record straight on Verizon's stance on this significant topic.

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