A petition has collected more than 17,000 signatures against the proposed law that will see alleged illegal filesharers disconnected from their broadband connections.

The petition, hosted on the Number Ten website, is titled ‘Don't disconnect us' and is petitioning the Prime Minister to abolish the proposed law.

Petition Creator Andrew Heaney, said in a statement on the site: “This petition has been set up in response to the Government's proposal to cut off internet access to those who are caught illegally downloading copyrighted files. We think this has one fundamental flaw, as illegal filesharers will simply hack into other peoples WiFi networks to do their dirty work.

“This will result in innocent people being disconnected from the internet. What's more, such a punishment should be dealt with in the proper way, in a court of law. This guilty until proven innocent approach violates basic human rights.”

Among those who have signed it is presenter and writer Stephen Fry, who said on his Twitter page ‘We mustn't let Mandy do this WRONG thing'.

Writing on the Open Rights Group (ORG) blog, who directly oppose the plans, Jim Killock said: “This will be a huge boost to our campaigning next year. If Mandelson doesn't drop his plans, you will be guaranteed that we will be fighting to defend your rights even harder and more effectively because of the surge in ORG supporters.”

He also claimed that ‘signing a petition is not enough' as although it was a great signal, he encouraged followers to lobby their MP and join ORG as a supporter.

In a statement issued by the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), it claimed that it ‘strongly opposes' the measures introduced to tackle file-sharing. It said: “Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the government should be asking rights holders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding.”

Writing on the dontdisconnect.us website, Charles Dunstone, CEO of the TalkTalk Group, said: “We don't support copyright infringement in any way but we live in the real world and understand that no amount of policing and censorship will solve the problem. It doesn't matter how many websites are blocked, how many services are shut down or how many individuals are pursued, people will always find ways to access copyrighted content for free.

“There is an army of ‘Robin Hoods' out there developing tools which allow completely undetectable access to content. No amount of monitoring can spot it. Shut one service down and twenty will pop up in its place.

“As things stand, victims of WiFi hijacking will be caught in the cross-hairs while the most persistent offenders will remain undetected. Until now the proposed legislation could be best described as unwieldy and ill-conceived. In addition it now looks to deny people freedom of speech and infringe their basic human rights. Current legislation allows for people to be taken to court and a case proved against them before action is taken and that must be maintained.”