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EE, BT Mobile and Plusnet Mobile to Zero Rate BBC Bitesize Data

Monday, January 11th, 2021 (10:55 am) - Score 16,656
children_working_education

Mobile customers of BT, Plusnet and EE have today been told that the operators will remove mobile data (mobile broadband) charges for BBC Bitesize content by the end of January 2021. The move forms part of BT’s new “Lockdown Learning” scheme (here), which was kicked off last week to help struggling school children.

At the time BT pledged they would “aim to remove all mobile data charges, for some of the most popular educational websites before the end of this month, while schools remain closed.” BBC Bitesize content, via either their website or the App, is the first to benefit from this.

Better yet, in order to make the process as easy as possible for families, no registration will be required, with zero rated access being automatically provided to “all of our mobile customers” (PAYG and Pay Monthly) until schools reopen across the UK.

Marc Allera, CEO BT Group’s Consumer Division, said:

“We want to ensure that no child is left behind in their education as a result of this pandemic, and recognise that we all have a role we can play to help families and carers continue their children’s education while schools are closed.

That’s why, as part of our ‘Lockdown Learning’ support scheme launched last week, we’re proud to partner with the BBC and be the first network to zero rate BBC Bitesize and allow all of our mobile customers to access its incredible content without using up any data.”

BT’s partnership with the BBC is the first zero rating of educational content, with announcements on further popular learning portals to be made soon. But we’d rather they announced all such sites/services together, than doing lots of smaller announcements in a piecemeal fashion.

Take note that only content accessed via the BBC Bitesize website, Bitesize App, or Bitesize content on iPlayer are include. Zero rating sadly doesn’t extend to any included content or videos from third-parties on those same services (in this case we don’t think the BBC has much of that, so it’s less of a concern).

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24 Responses
  1. Avatar Billy Nomates says:

    it’s great.. but by the end of January they might be back to school again. Then again we’ve had 3 lockdowns already so there’s probably going to be a fourth.

    1. Avatar Nick says:

      The lockdown will never end, just a few breaks here and there, the economy is dead, the politicians do not want to be held accountable for that.

  2. Avatar Owen Rudge says:

    From a technical point of view, how can they distinguish between “BBC Bitesize” content and the BBC web site in general? Likewise for iPlayer, how could they distinguish educational content from everything else? It doesn’t look like the content is served from a different domain or IP address. Are they effectively just zero-rating the BBC web site and BBC iPlayer?

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      This is probably why they’ve described it as a partnership between BT and the BBC, rather than BT just doing it unilaterally with caveats. I assume they jointly found a way to identify it correctly.

    2. Avatar Richard Denton says:

      The content is probably being moved onto separate servers which will have a different IP address, otherwise it would be done much quicker.

  3. Avatar Andrew Campling says:

    @MarkJ
    It would be interesting to know whether this works when using the BT DNS, or if it also works with cloud-based DNS resolvers, including encrypted ones, with browsers and CDNs trialling ECH (the replacement for eSNI) and/or with VPNs. It’s fine if it is limited to people using the BT DNS as this covers the vast majority of users, I’m just curious whether it will work with the other options too.

    1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      As it is only temporary BT/EE may have applied a number of possible solutions including allowing other traffic to be included.

      T&Cs normally include something like “You must not operate, whether directly or through a third party, any device to route or re-route voice, data or other Services”.

      They don’t prevent the use of other DNS, VPNs etc but BT/EE can only reasonably be expected to apply this to traffic that they control. BT will have direct connections to the BBC infrastructure and if anything goes via the Internet these proposals are unlikely to apply. i.e traffic is from phone to VPN server not phone to BBC.

    2. Avatar Andrew Campling says:

      @Meadmodj
      Quote “BT/EE can only reasonably be expected to apply this to traffic that they control”

      Agreed, my assumption is that this relies on DNS or SNI, thought it worth checking with Mark in case an alternative method has been used.

  4. Avatar Chris says:

    I think the sentiment is nice however just like the unlimited data offers operators have done in the past for facebook and netflix this violates net neutrality.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want kids to learn but I also want them to live in a future where all their packets are treated the same regardless of where they are routed or what they contain. Given the circumstances in this instance though I would be happy to make an exception.

    I imagine all the ISPs listed offer this are already peering in some capacity with the BBC:

    https://support.bbc.co.uk/support/peering/

    1. Avatar Richard Denton says:

      You’re willing to make an exception so our kids can be educated? Very big of you!

    2. Avatar boggits says:

      A lot of the content from the BBC video still comes in via CDNs so may well be being delivered from on-net caches as well as peering.

    3. Avatar Chris says:

      Ah yes boggits you’re right, akamai, atos, level3 and limelight were the CDNs they used the last time I checked.

    4. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      @Chris
      Why do you believe that it “violates net neutrality”? As long as data from other sites is not slowed down or capped in any way this seems fine to me. I don’t believe that simply zero-rating certain data is, by itself, a contravention of net neutrality.

    5. Avatar Chris says:

      @New_Londoner

      Zero-rating has always been quite hotly debated in NN circles, it’s not just me that has this opinion.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-rating

      “Commentators discussing zero-rating present it often in the context of net neutrality. While most sources report that use of zero-rating is contrary to the principle of net neutrality, there are mixed opinions among advocates of net neutrality about the extent to which people can benefit from zero-rating programs while retaining net neutrality protections. Supporters of zero-rating argue that it enables consumers to make choices to access more data and leads to more people using online services, but critics believe zero-rating exploits the poor, creates opportunities for censorship, and disrupts the free market.”

      It’s easy for people like Richard to feel like I’m the bad guy for disagreeing with zero-rating educational content but it is a slippery slope. When companies can start paying news companies to zero-rate only their sites then the real NN issues start. What’s happening at the moment with BBC Bitesize is a more consumer friendly side effect but it still hurts the industry as a whole which in the long run is bad for consumers.

  5. Avatar Anthony says:

    So generous!
    Data caps are arbitrary and extra data like this doesn’t cost more money to move.

  6. Avatar Mandy says:

    All well and good but if your in a blacks pit for Internet and can only receive satellite broadband how will that work

    1. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

      It’s not really their problem is it? If you live in a complete black spot for any kind of connection, it is not an individual mobile network provider’s responsibility to ensure that you are provided usable internet. Bearing in mind that these are private, limited liability, for profit entities.

      No, if you live in a black spot and have satellite broadband, then if this works for educational content – and there’s no reason it wouldn’t – then perhaps cut back on the boxsets and other uses that gobble up bandwidth. At least just while your kids are reliant on it for education.

      If you don’t like that private companies aren’t giving YOU something for free, something which the government have pledged as a USO, then write to your local MP and press the matter. Because you want to be holding the government to account for it, not anyone else.

  7. Avatar Global Britain says:

    BBC UGH! Makes me sick, it calls itself British, but it’s unpatriotic to England, defund it!

    AND yet more free stuff for kids! Disgusting! Some one should tell’em that this is Global Britain now!

    Their lazy pot noodle eating parents should get on their bikes and stop smoking and cancel their SKY and sell their wide screen tellys and smart telephones and pay for it themselves! Not us responsible red white and blue patriotic British tax payers!

    1. Avatar Craig says:

      So it gets defunded, what do you then watch instead mate?

    2. Avatar Global Britain says:

      @Craig: Watch OAN and Newsmax and look at the Express and Mail for the TRUTH!

  8. Avatar EUNICE FINCH says:

    I am interested in getting a better WiFi signal from EE
    I have been with EE 5 years
    and signal not strong enough
    to use my laptop. Will new WIFI System help me in London
    SW6 3TB?

    1. Avatar EUNICE FINCH says:

      Will this latest system enable me to get a stronger wifi
      Signal and speed.

    2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The above article has nothing much to do with WiFi, it’s about mobile.

  9. Avatar Mark says:

    @ Stephen Wakeaman. Perhaps uou need to understand something before bleating off about”Private companies” remember not every lives in a data enabled area, so in my area its 2G only on the masts, never upgraded for whatever reason,and so you know trying to access that free data is useless. So it is the mobile networks fault for not sorting it out, for ever logistic reason, which cant be much sine these are modern times. The MP and Government won’t help, the problem rests with the networks.

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