Broadband and the BBC

TV RemoteWell, here we go… it was only a matter of time really before the UK’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) got all het up over the BBC’s new, legal, peer-to-peer video download service.

It seems that ISPs are objecting to the amounts of data this service will require, and that they’ll have to provide the peak-capacity that their customers have been paying for. Now, if I’m paying for a 4, 8 or 20Mb/sec broadband service, I expect to be able to use services which are going to use that speed to deliver content quickly enough to play “streaming”. Of course, I know about such terms as “user contention” – and that home broadband is provided on a shared-bandwidth principle – ISP’s don’t actually buy enough bandwidth to give every user the full bandwidth they’re paying for all the time. If they did, broadband would be far more expensive, ISP’s work on the basis that not everyone who has (say) a 2Mb/sec connection on a particular exchange/head will use all that capacity continuously. The BBC player however will likely increase the amount of bandwidth they need to provide the service the customer is paying for.

Virgin Media (the ISP I currently use, not through choice, but because I live too far from the exchange for ADSL to be worth buying into) have “peak time, fair use” caps, so if you download too much between 4pm and midnight, you can expect your speed to drop. They suggest if you want to download large files that you schedule them to download off-peak (for example, in the early hours of the morning). While this is fine for Linux ISO Installation images, it is unfortunately not so appropraite for streaming video, as those “peak times” are exactly the times when people are likely to want to use the iPlayer…

Now, I know other TV stations in the UK have had their players on-stream for a while, but I suspect the BBC’s will garner quite a bit more interest from the public… being free and all…

(full story on Wired)