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UK Broadband Consumers Face Double Whammy As ISPs Warn Cost Of Government Snooping Will Be Passed On To Them

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Internet service providers in the UK have warned the Science and Technology Select Committee that consumers will have to shoulder the cost of the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill that, if approved, will force ISPs to retain information on users' online activities for an entire year.

The bill, otherwise known as the snoopers charter among its opponents, will require ISPs to store information on what websites every Internet user in the UK visits for the entire year. The information will include only the website's main domain but not the pages the user visited or the searches made on the website. For instance, if a user visits techtimes.com, the ISP will include that in its log, but the record will not include what articles the user reads.

In the jarring words of Matthew Hare, CEO of Oxfordshire-based ISP Gigaclear, the UK government wants to spy on Internet users and those users will have to shoulder the expenses for that.

"The taxpayer is going to pay in the end, one way or the other," Hare says. "The citizens of this country will end up paying to be spied on."

Hare says the amount of information required by the bill to be retained every year far exceeds the budget the government has set aside if such a program is passed into law. The bill proposes a £175 million budget, approximately $266 million, to be implemented — a budget the ISPs consider far too small to be feasible.

"Even if the hardware costs are met upfront, the ongoing costs of storing and looking after that data, the power costs of powering servers with hard disks spinning, will still have to come out of individual end-user customer price rises. They will not be massive, but they will still be price hikes," says James Blessing, chairman of the Internet Service Providers Association.

Blessing, who was also at the committee hearing, says ISPs will comply with legislation without putting more burden on users if given an infinite budget. However, as Hare points out, even a 1 GB FTTP connection will generate up to 15 TB of data to be stored in ISPs' servers. Given many people in the UK use broadband plans than bigger than 1 GB, ISPs will need a lot of resources simply to store and maintain all that data.

Hare goes further to question the usefulness of the program, pointing out that the government's claim of going after terrorists, pedophiles and other criminals is questionable, since most of them would already be using encrypted communications anyway.

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