It has been 7 months since the federal Copyright Alert System, also known as the six-strikes system, went live, customers have been assured that permanent removal from the Internet was not a part of the system. According to new Alerts being sent out by AT&T, however, this does not seem to be the reality of the situation.
The letters include this verbiage,
Using your Internet service to infringe copyrights is illegal and a violation of the AT&T Internet Terms of Service (TOS) and Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), which apply to all users of your account, and could result in mitigation measures including limitation of Internet access or even suspension or termination.
Other providers, such as Comcast, acquired by Ars, do not include language that talks about account suspension at all. Prior to the system being implemented, AT&T had assured customers that only under court order would they terminate accounts.
This is all important because in a lot of markets there is only a single Internet provider. For example, where I live, only my cable provider offers Internet access. If my account were to be terminated, I would be completely isolated from the Internet, something that the program was assured to not allow. If you are an AT&T customer, this might no longer be the case.
Obviously, the easy way to prevent this is to not transfer content that will get your account terminated. The big problem with that is that not everyone protects their networks. Imagine your parents, who might have a wireless router that, no matter how many times you tell them they need a password on it, refuse to allow you to set one. Their neighbor kid could hop onto the open network and torrent without knowledge. Then, the account gets shut down and your parents no longer have access to the Internet.
Clearly, as everything with the government, this was a plot that was not planned out well and implemented even more poorly. With such a clear, avoidable flaw, it is evident that the government's fear of technology is still rampant.