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The results are in: BBC right, ISPs wrong

by Steve Kerrison on 12 April 2008, 12:40

Tags: iPlayer, BBC

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The HEXUS.community has spoken

The BBC's iPlayer can't keep out of the news - and for all the wrong reasons. When iPlayer first appeared, users kicked off about the lack of support for anything other than Windows XP, but now that steps have been, and continue to be taken to fix that, it's the turn of the ISPs to sound off.

Bandwidth bills for some ISPs have grown 20% per month since iPlayer's launch, and the ISPs, bewildered that customers actually want to use the 'unlimited' data transfer that has been advertised, are feeling the pain.

So Tiscali's Simon Gunter suggested that the BBC should help foot the growing bill. The BBC didn't like that and threatened that ISPs which start to target and bandwidth limit iPlayer traffic, could be named and shamed - they even suggested that other content providers might want to do the same.

Simon Gunter wasn't too taken by that, retorting with remarks that it was a "bit rich that a publicly-funded organisation is telling a commercial body how to run its business". The exchange of opinions was covered this week by BBC News (who else?)

The Beeb and ISP's can scrap amongst themselves until the cows come home, but we wanted to know what you thought, so we fired up a HEXUS.community discussion thread with a poll, in order to get your tuppenceworth.

And get it we did. So far seven people (5%) have voted in favour of ISPs getting help from the Beeb, and we know at least one of those was cast by accident. Only three people so far are sitting on the fence, with the remaining 93% taking to the street waving BBC banners.

We've had some good opinions brought to the table, so here's a pick of just a few.

"I'd like to see ISP's try and bill Microsoft each time they release a service pack or IE upgrade. ISP's should fork out for equipment they need to provide a service, if they need to bill the customer more so be it."

ISPs provide unlimited(*) bandwidth, if they can't cope with that then they need to bring back bandwidth caps. If it's really costing them that much more in bandwidth bills then surely they can just up all their packages by ~£1 extra a month."

"I pay for my licence fee and i dont want any of it to go to the ISP companies - it would be like paying for the ISP service twice."

Indeed, many people seem to think the ISPs are after a free way to upgrade their own networks. Our own David Ross chipped in.

"If ISPs had not done a race to be the cheapest they would have money to invest in such requirements - at the end of the day its a content rich internet which is forming - and we as consumers should pay for what we consume - but only if the ISPs decide to charge for it."

Salazaar thought along similar lines, although a little more succinctly, suggesting that ISPs should "change or die." Ouch.

BT, wholesale provider of connections for the majority of broadband ISPs, came under fire from our readers too.

"AFAIK the cost/performance of our net connections all boil down to BTs network/BTs charges to the ISP, and unless you are lucky enough to be in a cable area, then a BT phone line is the only reasonable choice. [...] BT are absolutely raking it in and they will continue to do so, because they have no competition."

But others had a different take.

"A fully redundant backbone is not a cheap and simple thing to upgrade and maintain, and furthermore, BT has obligations that few to none other private companies ever have. BT have government mandated requirements on their service that they are required by law to meet."

The other problem with getting the BBC to foot the iPlayer bill, is that other content providers should be expected to do the same for their high-bandwidth content... YouTube, 4OD, erm... The Pirate Bay? This opens a whole 'net-neutrality' can of worms.

"Were the BBC to pay for infrastructure upgrades, they could quite legitimately ask for 'payback' in the form of improved QoS for their traffic. Ultimately (IMHO) a bad thing for all users. However, the current situation will also be bad for users as the demand for video streaming over the internet increases and the available bandwidth slows up the net for all."

A number of people suggested that ISPs could work with content providers like the Beeb on implementing caching servers for content within their own networks. However, that relies on two things: ISPs getting along with content providers (which clearly isn't always the case) and ISPs having a decent enough internal network to support the bandwidth needs of customers, regardless of where the data's coming from (no need for any witty remark here, is there?).

So there you have it. The vast majority of our readers say that its up to the ISPs to sort themselves out and that the money the BBC gets from the license fee should go into content creation.

What will really happen is anybody's guess, so with the matter still very much open, let's see where we stand in a few months time.

We'd love to hear from you if you've got a different opinion to those expressed here (especially if you're an ISP or content provider). Join in the discussion below.

HEXUS Forums :: 73 Comments

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I'd like to see ISP's try and bill Microsoft each time they release a service pack or IE upgrade.

ISP's should fork out for equipment they need to provide a service, if they need to bill the customer more so be it.
no.. no they shouldnt, would start a bad precedence

if isp's need to charge more then so be it, thats fine.
Its the typical UK ISP mentality: Give the broadband as cheap as you can, tie in a few small print conditions like ‘fair use’ and throttling, then moan when things don't go your way.

I don't think most people have an issue with paying a few quid more for a better service. I've lost count the number of times I've almost gone to Zen for this reason, but their download limits are too low for me.
I'd like to see ISP's try and bill Microsoft each time they release a service pack or IE upgrade.

ISP's should fork out for equipment they need to provide a service, if they need to bill the customer more so be it.

:thumbsup: yep
Just had a better idea - if the iplayer causes such as issue for an ISP all they need to do is block it - everyone wins the: ISP crappy infrastructure is not hammered so other customers can use the internet, if the customer wants to use iplayer then they can change ISP.

tbh I think a lot of the whining is from Simon Gunter of Tiscali, might be something to do with iplayer free and Tiscali TV costing money