The chief executives of the UK’s leading internet service providers (ISPs) have joined forces to protest against plans to cut off users who illegally download content.

Charles Dunstone, of Carphone Warehouse, BT chief Ian Livingstone and Tom Alexander, the head of mobile and broadband provider Orange have outlined their views in a letter published in The Times today (September 3).

“We agree that the creative industries play an important role in the UK and understand the challenge that illegal filesharing presents. We do not condone or encourage such activity but we are concerned that the Government’s latest proposals on the ’how’ to reduce illegal filesharing are misconceived and threaten broadband consumers’ rights.”

Last week, Stephen Timms, the communications minister, announced that the Government was considering tougher measures, such as disconnect users, to tackle online piracy that had been outline in June’s Digital Britain report. It had proposed introducing a notification system for a 12 month period in a bid to reduce illegal filesharing by 70% before allowing regulator Ofcom to introduce technical measures, such as reducing speeds or banning access to certain sites. The new measures would be overseen by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is currently Peter Mandelson.

The letter, which is also co-signed by Deborah Prince, the legal chief at consumer lobby group Which? and Jim Killock, executive director of the digital campaigners the Open Rights Group, calls for penalties for illegal filesharing to be proportionate and says they should not be decided by a “kangaroo court”.

It adds: “The proposal that internet service provides – and by implication broadband consumers – should pay most of the cost of these measures to support the creative industries is grossly unfair since a vast majority of consumers do not fileshare illegally.”