The U.K. government has beefed up its consultation document on tackling unlawful file-sharing to include measures that would allow for the suspension of Internet access for persistent offenders.

In June the Digital Britain report proposed that regulator Ofcom would have the power to oblige Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to introduce technical measures if there had not been a 70% reduction in illegal file-sharing after a year of targeted action using educational warning letters. The report outlined measures such as bandwidth capping and blocking of sites, but not suspension of Internet accounts.

However, a new consultation document published today (Aug. 25) for the Digital Economy Bill outlines tougher sanctions and is seeking views on the introduction of immediate technical measures to clamp down on piracy.

Such measures would involve an obligation on ISPs to take action against repeat infringers by blocking access to download sites, reducing broadband speeds, or by temporarily suspending the individual's Internet account.

Ministers at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have decided that the 12-month assessment period before any technical measures were introduced "might be too long to wait given the pressure put on the creative industries by piracy." Instead, evidence on whether such action is required would be provided in regular reports from Ofcom to the secretary of state.

The earliest that technical measures could be introduced under the original Digital Britain proposals following the enactment of legislation and the assessment period would be 2012, according to BIS.

"The government is also considering adding account suspension to the list of technical measures that could be used only as a last resort against the hard core of copyright pirates," said a statement confirming the tougher proposals.

"Technology and consumer behavior is fast-changing and it's important that Ofcom has the flexibility to respond quickly to deal with unlawful file-sharing," said Stephen Timms, minister for Digital Britain, in a statement. "We've been listening carefully to responses to the consultation this far, and it's become clear there are widespread concerns that the plans as they stand could delay action, impacting unfairly upon rights holders. So we look forward to hearing views on our new ideas, which along with those already received, will help us determine the best way to tackle this complex challenge."

"We welcome the government's recognition that this problem needs to be addressed urgently, so today is a step forward that should help the legal digital market to grow for consumers," said Geoff Taylor, CEO of U.K. trade body the BPI, in a statement. "The solution to the piracy problem must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. We look forward to working with government and ISPs on the details of these proposals to ensure these objectives are met."

The move was also welcome by umbrella trade group U.K. Music.

"Throughout this debate, U.K. Music has voiced concerns that the original time frame of proposed legislation, and particularly the trigger mechanisms that would grant Ofcom reserve powers to implement technical measures, would have failed to meet these ambitions," said a statement. "More than that, these trigger mechanisms would have required our members to take legal action against individuals - a move the U.K. music industry has consistently resisted."

The government is also proposing that some costs, such as the operating costs of sending out notifications and Ofcom's costs as the regulator, should be shared equally between ISPs and rights holders.

The consultation process will now be extended until September 29.