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A leading North American ISP has been blocking access to file-sharing sites, amid growing controversy over the degree of responsibility broadband providers have for the internet usage of their customers.

According to a report from Ispreview.com, the move from Comcast blocks sites such as BitTorrent and Gnutella, as well as online business applications such as Lotus Notes.

The development could have implications for UK providers, after Lord Triesman, the Parliamentary under-secretary for Intellectual Property and Quality at the Department for Innovation, recently said that British ISPs must take more responsibility in the fight against online piracy and inferred that if they do not work with the government then legislative action could ensue.

However, Lord Triesman's comments received short shrift from the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), which argues that broadband providers are "merely a conduit" for such material.

A spokesman for the association told BBC Online: "ISPA does not support abuses of copyright and intellectual property theft.

"However, ISPs cannot monitor or record the type of information passed over their network. ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope."

"ISPs deal with many more packets of data each day than postal services and data protection legislation actually prevents ISPs from looking at the content of the packets sent," he added.

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