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An internet service provider (ISP) has begun severing connections without warning to broadband customers that it suspects of illegal downloading.

In what is being reported as the first instance of a broadband supplier taking such action, Karoo has begun cancelling its users' accounts and is also handing out suspensions of up to two years.

According to the BBC, banned users have complained that they were given no forewarning, despite the three strikes approach favoured by much of the record music industry.

Traditionally, ISPs have been reluctant to pursue users suspected of illegal filesharing, despite mounting pressure from content right holders.

However, Kingston Communications, which owns Karoo, defended its new policy.

Nick Thompson, director of consumer services at the firm, told the news provider: "I think it's the responsible approach because we are protecting people from illegal activity.

"There are no benefits for us. In fact, when we cut off customers we're actually reacting against our own interests because we don't charge customers for that period when the service is suspended."

Karoo is the only broadband provider to offer residential services in large parts of Hull and the surrounding area, meaning that customers who have their broadband packages terminated are left with few alternatives.

That is despite the fact that prime minister Gordon Brown recently claimed that broadband access is now as fundamental to consumers as water supply and other utilities.

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