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BBC Moots ISP Friendly iPlayer Content Delivery Network

Posted: 19th Mar, 2008 By: MarkJ
The BBCs free iPlayer Internet TV (IPTV) service is no stranger to controversy and last year came under attack from several ISPs (news), most vocally Tiscali, due to the impact they feared it would have on their networks.

ISPs feared that the situation would either force them to restrict iPlayer access or introduce a "two-tier" system for customers, charging those who wanted to download TV and other bandwidth-heavy content more for Internet access. Ironically this method is nothing new and many providers already use something similar.

However, it was also suggested that the BBC could do something radical and contribute towards the ISPs costs. This suggestion was apparently taken very seriously by the BBC because tentative plans to develop its own Content Delivery Network (CDN) have now been revealed:

The principle is very simple: by installing servers in ISPs' networks, iPlayer streams only have to be carried to that point once, instead of hundreds of thousands of times. That obviously slashes backhaul bandwidth costs.

iPlayer honcho Rose implied that the more the BBC could invest, the better. "The closer you can get the content to the edge of the network the better for everyone," he said. "Closer to the edge" means installing hardware in the hundreds of local exchanges across the UK.

By storing programmes on these boxes locally, as well as reducing the BBC's impact on ISPs' bottom line, Rose hopes it will be possible to improve the reliability and quality of stream for viewers. Comparing iPlayer to user-generated content from YouTube, he said: "It's not like it's a video of a cat where you say 'if it works then great, if it doesn't, no big deal'."

This sounds like a far better option than the ludicrous idea of forcing the BBC to contribute directly to ISPs. However, as things stand, it’s presently just one of several potential "solutions" being considered.

Meanwhile it's worth remembering that much of this problem stems from ISPs themselves, many of which have adopted aggressively cheap pricing levels to stave off competition and continue to market themselves via misleading "unlimited" terminology.

Budget pricing like this leaves less money available to spend on improving customer support, value services and perhaps most important of all, the network infrastructure itself. ISPs with tight margins leave themselves vulnerable to the growing demands of modern Internet usage. More @ The Register.
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