The veil covering the highly secretive negotiations between the music industry and ISPs over how to handle online piracy was lifted slightly today with Verizon now admitting to operating a graduated response program.

In an interview with CNET, Verizon spokeswoman Bobbi Henson confirmed that it has already discontinued the Internet service of a small number of subscribers engaging heavily in piracy. "We've cut some people off," she said, without detailing how many or for how long.

The admission represents an important milestone in the music industry's effort to enlist ISPs in their fight against online piracy. The outfit outlined the graduated response plan last year when it announced the end of its user-focused litigation campaign.

Verizon last year claimed it was not participating in the program when it was first announced, and of the companies participating, it wasn't clear what that meant. Henson's admission shows that Verizon at least is going beyond mere warnings and taking punitive action and discontinuing Internet service. According to Henson, most users stop their infringing activity after the first letter is sent.

Under the program, ISPs send warning letters to subscribers identified as being heavy downloaders of illegal copyrighted content. The RIAA identifies the infringing accounts and sends Verizon a request to issue the warning letter.

Until now, most ISPs have kept mum about their participation in the RIAA program, and the RIAA has added little information in return, causing several outlets to speculate that the RIAA had exaggerated the extent of its ISP agreements.

But as ISPs head into a year that will be marked by a high-stakes fight over net neutrality, they may prove more open to the concerns of the content and entertainment industries in an attempt to win their support. Cox Communications is the only other ISP known to have participated to this degree in the graduated response program.