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)


3 thoughts on “Broadband and the BBC

  1. I’ve been having huge arguments with people on ADSLGuide (aka ThinkBroadband)! I’m in a rather neglected area with regard to broadband, can only get 512K and that’s flaky, and there is nothing going to be done about these sort of areas. BT and the LLU operators are cherry-picking big towns and cities in England for upgrading broadband facilities. Call me a socialist, but I think telecoms infrastructure should be publicly funded not left to the whims of private operators who of course will only go for big profits! I said about 2 years ago on those forums that BT’s ADSL rollout was too little too late, but I just got rebuked for not bowing down to BT because they achieved the fastest and most widespread rollout in Eureope. Shame that it was also the cheapest, worst and was obsolete before it had been completed. Now, the same people are saying it’s right for areas with poor lines to be ignored while the private operators cherry-pick the decent areas, that’s how privatisation works and it’s right and proper and we wouldn’t have what we have now if it was publicly funded. Hrrrmph!

    Anyway, ISPs are not totally to blame – BT Wholesale’s pricing model for ADSL services is weighted against their customers, i.e. ISPs. BT Wholesale of course want to make as much money as possible so they shield themselves from competition and demand. So when there is more demand, as now, it’s the ISPs that have to bear the cost even though it’s BT’s infrastructure that can’t handle it.

    ISPs do advertise an “up to” service and I suppose you’re right in that you should get what you pay for, however the UK public are also to blame in always going for the cheapest option. If the market wasn’t so price-obsessed, we probably wouldn’t be creating so many problems for ourselves. Bandwidth *does* cost money, somebody’s got to pay for it.

  2. Well, I’m on cable, and am subjected to peak-time speed limits (not caps, they’re very clear about that, I can download as much as I like, just not very fast) – BT wholesale doesn’t come into it – VirginMedia/NTL/Telewests network doesn’t use it at all.

    However if it was publically funded (like many Government funded IT projects in recent years) we’d probably all still be using dial up. or worse

    It’s time that the ISP stopped seeing the customer as the enemy of their networks, and stop penalising them for using the service they’re paying for – and started embracing high-volume users, and yes, higher prices for more capacity is part of that. People who just surf the odd webpage don’t need the high-availability bandwidth contention. People who want to use these fast, high-data services will need to pay a premium for the service. Part of this is how ISPs are structuring their advertising and pricing. This needs to change.

  3. “Part of this is how ISPs are structuring their advertising and pricing. This needs to change.”

    Yep – VM and LLU companies etc need to sort out their own networks and change their pricing and product structure etc, however ADSL ISPs are stuck with BT Wholesale and they will find it extremely difficult to offer this sort of flexible structure due to the way BTw sell the service. In that respect, it’s BTw that needs to restructure, not the ISPs.

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