The government has revealed it will not terminate the internet connection of web users accused of illegal file-sharing.

Under measures to tackle internet piracy set out in the Digital Economy Bill, and heavily backed by Lord Mandelson, a three-strikes rule would see those accused of illegal downloading issued with warning letters and emails.

Repeat offenders faced disconnection from the web.

In a response to a petition on the Number 10 website that called for the abandonment of "Lord Mandelson's plans to ban individuals from the internet based on their use of 'peer to peer' file sharing", the government said it "will not terminate the accounts of infringers".

"It is very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most extreme - and therefore probably criminal - cases," the government said.

"We added account suspension to the list of possible technical measures which might be considered if our measures to tackle unlawful file-sharing through notifications and legal action are not as successful as we hope."

The government revealed that 'technical measures' that could be implemented if web users continue to offend would be in the form of "a bandwidth restriction, a daily downloading limit or, as a last resort, temporary account suspension".

"This is but one of a number of possible options on which we would seek advice from Ofcom - and others - if we decided to consider a third obligation on technical measures," the government said.

It also said there would be "a rapid and robust route of appeal available to all consumers if we decided technical measures were needed".

But the Open Rights Group said that this was "semantics" and that the government had simply chosen a different form of words to mean the same thing.