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BBC Threatens to Name & Shame iPlayer Restricting ISPs

Posted: 03rd Apr, 2008 By: MarkJ
The BBC's Director of Future Media and Technology, Ashley Highfield, has posted an update to his personal blog in which he threatens to name and shame any ISP's that restrict access to its iPlayer (IPTV) service:

"Content providers, if they find their content being specifically squeezed, shaped, or capped, could start to indicate on their sites which ISPs their content worked best on (and which to avoid). I hope it doesn’t come to this, as I think we (the BBC and the ISPs) are currently working better together than ever."

Highfield then goes on to make several suggestions about how ISP's, content providers and customers could improve the situation:

Internet Service Providers:

  1. ISPs should be clearer in their marketing (Ofcom can help them). Unlimited broadband should mean unlimited.

  2. There should be industry agreement on what you buy is what you get: for a start, an 8Mbs-1 tariff should deliver ‘at least’ 8Mbs-1, not ‘up to’. (I recognise the difficulties with the quality of the line and contention ratios etc., but this issue needs tackling).

  3. ISPs who offer genuinely unlimited broadband, i.e. without a cap (or with very high caps) should (and probably will) more aggressively use this fact as a key point in their marketing.

  4. I would not suggest that ISPs start to try and charge content providers. They are already charging their customers for broadband to receive any content they want. If ISPs start charging content providers, the customer will not know which content will work well over their chosen ISP, and what content may have been throttled for non-payment of a levy.

  5. There could be an industry standard for ‘high definition broadband’. HD Broadband (working title) would be a minimum guaranteed speed of connection (probably 8Mbs-1). All ISPs could market the service (like Sky HD and Virgin HD) and drive up revenue per sub. If this happened then..

We'd certainly agree that the idea of ISP's charging content providers is unworkable and stems from the fact that far too many of the largest providers now operate within ultra-thin margins of their own making. It is the ISPs responsibility to adapt its packages to what the Internet offers and not the other way around.

However, Highfield then makes the same mistake as most consumers by buying into the marketing myth that "unlimited" broadband actually exists. Though it is possible to deliver an unrestricted broadband service, doing so usually means a noticeable quality loss and other access restrictions. Bandwidth is not free and must be shared between users.

There are a number of other suggestions too, some more tangible than others, including a bizarre reference to Moore's Law. The full blog can be read here and is well worth a quick read through.
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