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ISP’s Threaten To Restrict BBC iPlayer Access

Posted: 13th Aug, 2007 By: MarkJ
Several UK ISP's have raised concerns about the BBC's new iPlayer video-on-demand (VoD) service and the strain it could place on their servers (bandwidth usage).

However The Carphone Warehouse, Tiscali and BT have gone one step further by threatening to restrict access to the iPlayer unless the BBC contributes to the cost of streaming videos over the Internet:

"The internet was not set up with a view to distributing video. We have been improving our capacity, but the bandwidth we have is not infinite," said Mary Turner, chief executive of Tiscali UK. "If the iPlayer really takes off, consumers accessing the internet will get very slow service and will call their ISPs to complain."

Ms Turner said that unless they could agree a strategy with the BBC to share network costs, Tiscali would have to restrict users' access to the iPlayer. While it would not block access to the iPlayer, it could make it painfully slow at popular times.

The alternative would be for ISPs to create a "two-tier" system for customers, charging those people who want to download TV and other bandwidth-heavy content more for internet access.

The Financial Times (here) correctly notes that the BBC is not the only company offering online TV services, yet points out that the issue stems from the likelihood of it becoming the most popular.

Typically there are lots of UK ISP's and it's highly unlikely that the BBC could contribute resources to all of them, let alone just one. Naturally Tiscali and BT both have their own IPTV services to worry about and may also feel threatened by the BBC’s “free” approach.

Interestingly ISP’s have long had the ability to introduce more expensive packages, with many providers already using cap’s and traffic shaping/management to offer services that appeal to different types of surfer; consequently the “two-tier” approach is nothing new.

Perhaps ISP’s claiming to offer the world for a pittance are for the first time meeting with the difficulties of handling modern content through such a low price point. Readers have already started a discussion forum topic on the subject – here.
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