back to article BBC iPlayer upgrade prompts new ISP complaints

The BBC is facing more criticism that the way it delivers iPlayer traffic will make it harder for smaller ISPs to survive. The latest squeeze is a result of Auntie's decision to eschew its current content delivery network provider Akamai in favour of Level3. Content delivery networks are used to improve access to highly …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Pardon my ignorance, but

    why does changing the codec from whatever it is today to H.264 need a radical change in content delivery architecture? Or is someone somewhere telling porkies, porkies which the good people at Zen don't want to raise in public?

    Oh, and this Level 3 outfit, is that the same Level 3 outfit that many smaller independent ISPs did their best to get rid of in recent years, not because of L3's costs, but because of L3's *unreliability* as a carrier? If L3 can't make simple things like routers and cables work properly, what chance have they got when servers, software, and storage are added to the picture (pun not really intended)?

  2. Haku

    Sucks to be on a bandwidth limited account

    If the big ISPs do have some sort of "magic streaming box" installed in their system to deliver iPlayer content to it's users I get the horrible feeling that said content will still contribute to the bandwidth allocation per month that most ISPs enforce.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ISP's have been selling broadband as unlimited, (with the usual fair use clause) and have been taking the money as such for years. Most advertising has always been in the form of download a TV show in minutes on our super whizzo fast network. Now there is something that can legally use that capability they need to deal with it. If they can't at the moment then unfortunatly they need to either charge the end user more, take the hit or close shop. It's not a nice prospect but that's reality. I pay my ISP for a service I expect them to provide what I need, if they need to charge more then they need to do so, and it's down to me to pay for the service or go elsewhere.

    The ISP game has been dominated so far by the race to the lowest price at all costs, now quality and performance is coming into the frame. If you want good performance, great customer service, and large download capability then you pay the price. If like most people you want the cheapest price then you use a big player and forget customer service.

  4. Gareth Jones

    A solution?

    Could the BBC not make it possible for each ISP to host their own cache? That way the ISP's aren't forking out for transit bandwidth, the BBC are getting free content delivery, the public get quicker deivery because it's already waiting at the other end of their line and everone looks good.

  5. s. pam

    Yes another example of Auntie Beeb violating it's operating contract

    Yes boys -n- girls, you can have your TV License revenue and Edith too :(

    Ofcom is seeking public comment on the Beeb straying dangerously over the cliff from public service to commercial operating entity. This type of behaviour is yet another validation that the people running Auntie have anything other than the almighty £/$ Bank and Trust fund in their eyes.

    Whilst on one hand Auntie wants protection behind it's license, on the other hand Auntie must be quivering in her very boots given Ofcom's still seeking public comment on how the Beeb *is and should be operating / funded* for now and the next 10+ years.

    I don't dispute that Auntie needs to exist -- quite the contrary but these new 'lectronic forays they're up to in White City need to be transfered back to people with a Clue Bag.

  6. Hugh_Pym

    BBC Local Radio

    Doesn't the BBC have loads of regional offices round the country in the shape of BBC local radio centres. They could host their own content in their own distributed network instead of paying some nerks to do it for them... or is this not local enough.

  7. amanfromMars Silver badge

    And the Problem is always Right at the Top of the Stack/Gravy Train

    <<<Zen Internet is expecting the decision to increase its costs economically; all but a select few large networks must pay Level3 to receive traffic originated within their network.">>>

    So the BBC network and traffic, which is paid for/provided by License Fee Subscription/Stealth Taxation with the threat of Imprisonment for Wilful Avoidance, will then be subject to further Public payment for viewing? Or have I picked that up wrong.

    Indeed ....."As we reported earlier this year, the BBC is investigating building its own content delivery network in partnership with third party vendors." ..... third party vendors rather than partner suppliers would suggest that it is so.

    A Better Service should always be a No Increased Cost Service as more Viewers Flock to Learn what it has to teach them whereas a more expensive service normally means that the customers are leaving to be Edutained elsewhere because of a Lack of Creativity and Pathetic ISP Management.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Government broadcaster, Government policy.

    A rogering for the little guys, and a reacharound for big business.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do what the Dutch do

    The Beeb just screwed up by fighting against the ISP's.

    In the Netherlands, the ISP's and Public Broadcaster are cooperating:

    the ISP's setup edge streaming capacity in their networks, and the broadcasters can use this capacity.

    It allows the ISP's to optimize traffic within their network. It saves the broadcasters millions of euros they otherwise had to pay to Akamai or Level3. The number of viewers increases, so does the QoS. Theyre testing HD streams!

    And the backbones and Internet Exchange are offloaded, so there's actually more capacity for other services and the ISP's don't have to invest in extra capacity.

    For example, the Olympics are broadcast via this way. 17 million views in less than a week for a nation of just 16 million people. No costs. Compare this to 30 million views in the same period by NBC for the US: 300 million people. At full CDN costs. Do the math...

    The ISP's are supported by streaming specialists. See here for details:

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small ISPs

    >As many Reg readers frequently attest, the UK's smaller ISPs generally offer >much better customer and network service than the giants.

    ....great customer and network service so long as you don't actually want the throughput you're supposedly paying for.

  11. Outcast

    All very well

    If there's something worth watching.

    And will the new version of Flash work in Linux systems ?

    (~Ubuntu user here)

  12. Rob Crawford

    Why switch to L3 ?

    simply to save costs, the BBC don't want to pay to have their content delivered (MPs and others (around here) are always bitching about the Beeb spending money).

    Funny how people say that routers & cables are simple things when they don't have to deal with them

  13. Frederick Karno
    Thumb Down

    Ha Ha

    so now the TV watchers are the new fileshares.

    Filesharing was going to bring the net to its knees blah blah.....everyone involved have happily sat back for years knowing what was coming yet no one got them all round a table and thrashed this out.

    we all need fibre to the home it would serve us all better than having the olympics for example and the cost would be about the same.The government could have fronted the money as they are going to get every penny and more back in our subscriptions.

    my worry is that this could mean the end of the small isp Zen are noted as being exceptionally good whereas BT,virgin et al are not.

  14. James Bassett

    Public Service

    I don't have any problem with the BBC investing money in this sort of service. I have no idea who it was, but someone on the BBC a few months ago sugested a (to my mind) rather brilliant definition of Public Service Broadcasting. He suggested the BBC should only be involved in things that would otherwise either not happen or take longer to come to fruition were a large, publicly funded corporation not involved.

    His examples of things that wouldn't count were Deadenders (there are dozens of identikit Soaps so why is the tax payer having to spend Millions a year on another?), Jonathon Ross (if the Beeb needed to pay X million to get his contract, presumably that is because there was competition. If there was competition, the public gained nothing by the BBC signing him because he would be on the telly anyway) and How do you solve a problem like Maria (the license fee should not be spent on 10 hour commercials for West End Productions).

    Example of things that would fall into this category would be proper science documentaries, regional news, educational programming, local radio etc. Although it was never mentioned, I think iPlayer and a national content delivery system is EXACTLY the sort of thing the BBC should be doing and I have no problem with them investing large amounts of the license fee in it.

    By all means, drop the generic shite available on any commercial station and invest the money in new technology and the sort of content you just can't get made commercially.

  15. Ross Ryles

    Scrap iPlayer. Improve Freeview +

    Title says it all.

    Many Reg Readers have probably heard of Freeview Playback, now rebranded Freeview+, but the general public hasn't. I keep seeing adverts for Sky+ with celebrities praising all the great features like series link. Guess what? I've already got all of that without paying sky or virgin. Only problem is that the broadcasters don't always send accurate info.

    Why use all that network bandwidth to deliver a lower quality version of something that was broadcast within the last few days? If people can afford a £600 tele, a £300 PC and £120 licence fee then they can afford a £180 for a PVR.

    So Aunty, scrap the iPlayer and spend the dosh on improving the Freeview+ datafeeds and advertising it. Oh, and hurry up with the "digital switchover" too. Even my grandmother has a digibox already.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Yes another example of Auntie Beeb violating it's operating contract

    "Ofcom is seeking public comment on the Beeb straying dangerously over the cliff from public service to commercial operating entity."

    1. BBC license fee should be scrapped.

    2. It should keep it's public service duty.

    3. It should be funded by a levy on broadcasters who don't have that duty, Sky for example, should hand over half of it's subscription to the BBC to fund it's share of it's public service duty.

    4. Oh and Ofcoms 126 annual million budget is too much, 120 of it should go to the BBC too.

    Fair? IMHO, BBC are extremely popular right now, good programs, successful content delivery, iPlayer, Freeview, Freesat... Murdoch's lot are trying to stir up trouble, but that's because Sky is failing (largely their own incompetence).

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Bandwidth limit = BT


    Of course you will be charged for bandwidth if it is for data travelling from the ISP to you via BT's ATM network, as that's what they get charged through the nose for.

    If the streaming box were in your local exchange with its own backhaul and routing on the customer side then the bandwidth cost would be entirely contained within each exchange and hence negligible. But it would require a lot of local content delivery systems which would have to be funded somehow.

    No such thing as a free lunch.

    Paris, she's been responsible for a lot of bandwidth usage.

  18. Jess

    Higher resources?

    I would like a lower quality option, similar to youtube standard, so old computers and lower bandwidth connections are usable

  19. Kebabster
    Paris Hilton

    Small ISPs FTW!

    Anomalous Coward....

    >....great customer and network service so long as you don't actually want

    >the throughput you're supposedly paying for.

    Maybe you should try a decent smaller ISP before spouting garbage. As an ex. Tiscali sufferer now with the MUCH smaller ICUK I've seen my speeds go from throttled 50Kb/s (yes "b" not even "B") in the evening, to filling an 8Mb pipe at any time of day or night. And a customer service department that tell you when there's problems, explain the causes and generally put things right.

    The Beeb better sort this one out as the small guys are worth their weight in gold against the corporate ISPs who's customers are simply a collection of 1's and 0's on a balance sheet.

  20. Ross Ryles

    @Frederick Karno

    Frederick Karno said:

    "my worry is that this could mean the end of the small isp Zen are noted as being exceptionally good whereas BT,virgin et al are not."

    You're right. The way BT, Virgin et al are going Zen will be a big ISP soon!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    @ Gareth Jones

    To be fair, there's nothing stopping smaller ISP's running their own proxy that ignores all address' with exception to iPlayer address(s). This way they can cache the content (do a poll every 10 minutes or whatever).

    The question is, will it finally look good on my Wii on my 42"? :) Or should I stop being lazy and just Sky+ everything?

  22. Mage


    PVR, and Broadcast.

    Bottleneck of Interwebs bypassed.

    Several Gbps per user and no cap. Any number of terminals.

    What do you mean we've had that since 1936 for video?

  23. StooMonster

    Chickens coming home to roost

    The race for the lowest price -- or even 'free' -- broadband with speed 'up to' 8Mb (when really 1.5Mb) and downloads 'unlimited' (except for limitations) means there is a huge gap between customer expectations and reality of what these ISPs can provide.

    Now that we're getting IPTV services, of which the BBC is only one -- albeit the most popular -- the ISPs are going to have to invest in their networks or stop exaggerating the quality and performance of their service in their marketing.

  24. Steen
    Dead Vulture

    A bit sad ain't it?

    Watching Cory Enders repeats on your 'puter? What will they be showing on TV if the repeats are on the net? I wonder why we need iPlayer at all, I certainly cant find the time for it on TV let alone on my laptop. So who wants this?

  25. plpl
    IT Angle

    Ha Ha Ha (to F. Karno)

    Dear Fred, you truly are funny.

    It looks like you are one of those guys who still don't get the subtle difference between access network and backbone network.

    In that very case, by allowing more bandwith on the access side, while backbone problems are not solved, FTTH would just worsen the situation...

    Everybody wants its car pimped with the 22" golden rims, but nobody cares if the engine can make it turn...

  26. Stephen Booth

    Virgin got it right

    VM actually got things right with the i-player they upload the content into the cable-TV on-demand infrastructure.

    This means that we can watch catch-up TV programs on the TV (amazing concept)

    and use the same interface for catch-up TV from non BBC channels as well.

    Even better I can grab the laptop and use the broadband while my kids are watching the i-Player programs.

  27. Steven Raith

    New Flash/Ubuntu

    If you are suggesting what I think you are suggesting, then yes, Flash 10 [beta] works OK in Hardy Heron Ubuntu, but it sometimes has trouble with video stuff/firefox - causing the FF session to die on it's arse without warning.

    Given that my old intel 845 Centrino based lappy can barely play Youtube vids without stuttering, I don't hold much hope for HD iPlayer working on my machine, arf.

    Steven R

  28. Graham Wood

    Re: BBC Local Radio

    Unfortunately "local" in this case refers to network links rather than physical location.

    If your ISP is done through BT's wholesale service, then all of your data goes through their main network centres. In theory this means that if the show is "hosted" 10 feet away, the data is quite likely to travel a good few hundred miles to get to it.

    This is something that customers on Be, Sky (I think), and other "LLU" ISPs are not going to suffer from in the same way - you have to deal with their network instead of BTs.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    where are the multicast faithful

    where are the multicast faithful when you need them most? If it's bandwidth from BBC to ISP that's the challenge, surely multicast can handle something simple that (it's just routers and cables, it can't be that complicated ;))? Multicast is useless in the bit from ISP to end user, but that's another story, one which Mr Orlowski promised to write about much earlier in the year, but I'm still waiting patiently here...

    Anybody with a clue able to demolish the BBC's claim that they *need* to do this because of the change from today's codecs to H.264 codecs? Or is it purely a matter of bigger files = higher costs?

  30. David Perry

    @Virgin got it right

    My thoughts exactly Stephen. I'm sure there was talk months ago of the BBC working WITH ISPs to setup what amounted to a server (or cluster) strictly loaded with a copy of all the data held on the master iplayer servers - ISP takes each program's raw file once into server over their line, reroutes all iplayer media URLs to their own server.

    Surely what they're paying in bandwidth on iplayer content now they'd recoup the initial investment very quickly and save from that point onwards.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    It's Bills Fault

    Bloody Hell ! It's had a load of postings and not one blaming Microsoft or Apple. Come on fanbouys I'm disappointed

  32. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    @Steven Raith about YouTube

    Unfortunatly, a lot of an older system's resource (CPU/Memory) is taken up by the large animated looping flash adverts that YouTube now carries (ironicaly from Crucial, or maybe that is by design!) My EeePC701 used to play YouTube well, even at Higher Quality, but now stutters along. The newer releases of FireFox also appears to place a load on a system with this type of advert.

    If you can find or make an embedded link for the video so that the adverts do not show, slower PCs can still work quite well. Alternativly, try full screen (I know this sounds silly). Or download the videos, and watch them offline.

    I am happily running Ubuntu Hardy Heron on my EeePC.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ross Ryles

    Thats exactly what I did. On BT 8Mb Unlimited (total misuse of the term since its massively throttled) BitTorrent 300Kb Corrie xvid from UKNova took a day to download.

    BBC iPlayer (e.g. Dr Who which could only be streamed and not downloaded) kept pausing and quality was poor.

    So I went the PVR route. For fun I built a Linux 500Gb one. But even my mum now has a cheap 160Gb PVR from Tesco. Now I can watch quality (bit rate not content!) and it does not count against my valuable (unlimited) BT bandwidth.

    Quite simply the UK infrastructure and ISPs do not have/want to give the capacity for decent quality streaming media. Email and Internet shopping is all the Internet in the UK is good for.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    business advice to a Tiscali executive

    Look, if you Tiscali guys could run an organisation sensibly, you'd not be both

    1) consistently among the lowest rated ISPs at places like thinkbroadband

    2) still looking for someone to buy your hopeless outfit, best part of a year after you "let it be known" that management wanted rid of you

    Have a nice weekend

  35. daniel Silver badge


    It is me, or did Amanfrommars's comment seem to make almost sense?

  36. Lyndon Hills
    Thumb Down

    HD trial

    Tried HD last night. The picture quality was MUCH better, however it would play for 4~5 minutes, then stop and download some more. Sufficiently bad that I reverted to normal def, which works fine. I have 20 meg from Virgin (which I really do get at times) so I doubt it's that at fault. Maybe there's something in Safari that can be tweaked?

  37. James
    Thumb Down

    Two steps backwards

    In the longer term - the next few years - the BBC should be moving to multicast delivery anyway, which is apparently what the iPlayer had been intended to use originally, except the older BT ADSL connections don't support that yet. (The new network being rolled out over the next four years, "21CN", does, along with the higher top speed of 24 Mbps.) This would be delivered, presumably, from the BBC's existing server farm connected to LINX, rather than going through some third party.

    Moving to Level3's CDN rather than Akamai's seems like a step back as well, from Akamai's ubiquitous and fast (but expensive) network which offloads peering links, cutting ISP costs, to making more money for Level3 (by charging ISPs for peering). It's probably cheaper for the BBC, but will be less efficient and more expensive for ISPs - when the move to multicast will be the opposite.

  38. Nick Palmer
    Thumb Up

    @Stephen Booth

    Thirded. I use VM's cable service and that along with the V+ box is excellent, and defintely the best way of handling iPlayer.

  39. pctechxp

    Local caches

    Don't some ISPs already do this for frequently accessed content?

  40. Richard Scratcher

    iPlayer = iCrasher

    When I try to use the Beeb's current iPlayer it causes my BT Home Hub to reset, so I lose my internet connection for a few minutes. Looking at forum threads on the web, this is a problem that's been known about for many months but not addressed by BT or the BBC. I can only imagine the HD version will make this problem worse.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's the way UK BB works!

    The cost that the ISP is paying to L3 is far less than they will be needing to pay to BT for transit over BT Centrals.

    The problem is that most ISPs are seriously underpriced. Last time I did the figures, it cost about £1 a gig to get data from the end user, over the BT IPStream network, to you as the ISP.

    Then there's obviously the onward transit costs which, however, are a lot smaller!

    The best solution would be to allow ISPs to hold their own iPlayer servers which would then mean they at least don't have to pay the central charges to BT.

    Even better, for the LLU guys, would be that they could probably install a couple of rack-mount servers in their exchange space that they rent in every unbundled exchange in the country serving up iPlayer data to the masses.

    This way they don't have to use their national network to unicast thousands of episodes of Craptenders to the masses. The data would already be at the exchange, and the few hundred people on that exhange all watching the same thing at the same time wouldn't hammer the centrals.

    BT need to invest in some sort of system to allow ISPs on IPStream to do this as well - did anyone notice what happened to the BT Centrals on all the major UK ISPs over the last few weeks while the olympics have been on? They ground to a halt! If one sporting event can do that then it's a good indicator that we really need to invest in some capacity.

    Sadly, even 21CN isn't going to completely solve our current problems - let alone those we're going to be having a few years down the line when 21CN comes online........

  42. Joe Montana


    Don't most ISPs already peer directly with the BBC? It would be stupid for that traffic to go out to level3 and back, instead of directly across the peering links...

    Aside from that, transit costs are relatively cheap compared to adsl backhaul from BT, that's where the costs are for ISPs except the large players who can afford their own backhaul.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No no, no no no no, there's no limits.

    It was bad when Too Unlimited did it, and it's bad when the ISP's do it.

    (For de yoots:

    Which is, again, the problem.

    If the ISP's had sold accounts with download charges then this would result in more revenue. Instead they have a model where they sell something that they want no-one to use.

  44. Tom Chiverton


    Re: H264 Flash on Linux - yes, the latest Flash 9 player on 'nix has this high-def codec support, same as the latest Flash 9 players on other platforms.

    Flash 10 (on right now) of course has it too.

  45. AB
    Paris Hilton


    Your posts are always an interesting read - and often cut straight to the heart of the matter - but I didn't have to use a decoder ring this time. Is everything OK?

    Paris, because you don't need to show her a ring to get the benefits...

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the multicast faithful are finally here to save us!

    "The new network being rolled out over the next four years, "21CN", does support multicast, along with the higher top speed of 24 Mbps"

    Seen any *evidence* of multicast support, or just loose talk from BTwholesale PR presentations? Afaict, multicast in the present context only helps the bit between BBC content and ISP. The BBC content in this picture doesn't even live at the BBC except briefly when first shipped out to the content delivery network's servers (Akamai today or Level 3 tomorrow). Afterwards, users access those CDN servers, not the BBC servers. So no big role for multicast in saving BBC bandwidth there; maybe a little one if they use multicast between BBC and multiple Akamai content servers?

    Then there's the bit between the content servers and the end user. Today, the bottleneck (the most expensive bit) in that journey is BTwholesale's ridiculously overpriced "Centrals". Multicast doesn't help here because of the logical layout of the BTw network, and its mixed IP/PPPoA nature - by the time the traffic leaves BTw it's effectively already replicated into lots of single streams; even if they look like multicast streams, they're not actually saving bandwidth.

    In the much overhyped BT 21CN, the overpriced Centrals aren't there as such, instead the ridiculously expensive bit is bandwidth in the dozen or so regional "points of presence" where non-LLU ISPs (ie most of the quality ones) can choose to connect to their customers in that region.

    Even though 21CN is touted as an all-IP network, it's hard to see where multicast might sensibly fit in and make a worthwhile saving in bandwidth (unless you've seen details of how it's done?).

    "This would be delivered, presumably, from the BBC's existing server farm connected to LINX, rather than going through some third party."

    Maybe, but that's not the way it works today; as per above, the server farms in this picture currently aren't BBC server farms, they're Akamai server farms (which the BBC pay for).

  47. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Still don't see the point of iPlayer

    PVR, VHS, DVD recorders are cheap and do a better job.

    Save the Internet bandwidth for better things.

  48. Gerry

    @ S. Pam

    We Linux fanbois are often accused of of being ranty - but regarding iPlayer all we asked for was platform neutrality, no favours, just choice. BBC preferred working exclusively with the market dominant player.

    Now BBC appears to be stiffing small ISPs (ones we can choose to use or not) in favour of larger market dominating ISPs.

    Does anyone know what this has got to do with BBC's public service remit?

  49. PH

    iPlayer... an interface abomination

    Why oh why oh why oh why oh why did Beeb web underlings not revolt when the tossers in charge of iPlayer announced in the bar:

    "Hey, y'know that excellent web/radio interface thingy we've got, you know the thing that pops up in the one compact window with the list of all the programmes that you can see right in front of you in the player, the one that lists shows by station or by genre, yeah? Yeah? Well, we've been having a think in the strategy meetings, kicked around a few ideas, and we've concluded it's just not black and glossy enough.

    We want a new player that oozes sex - glossy like an Apple icon, sexy like a First Direct homepage, like a Prada thong carelessly discarded on a Christmas Eve, yeah?

    And that easy-to-use interface - guys, let's ditch that while we're at it. What are you like?! What's this - public service or something?! Guys, up-size that click path - say, five-fold. Get the punters jogging round the site - do them some good. Put them through, oh I don't know, say, though some long rambling Listen Again schedule, one day per view, or a programme A to Z, maybe - that's what we're thinking.

    What? Add an audio stream search? Ha - yeah, good one! No, no no, absolutely not - route all those via the main search and then whatever you do don't send directly to the feed they're trying to listen to.

    What's that? What's the real reason behind this interface redesign? Ahem, well we can't say at this stage but, well... lots of great things will come of it: at least now it'll now be a little harder to spot that BBC7 really just endlessly recycles the same handful of tired old shows. Eh?"

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    bad bbc

    if you do a traceroute to bbc most likely you dont go via level3. bbc host their own servers or atleast host them with someone your isp can peer with. this is how isps work, they make deals with other companies and set up links. they usually also have a level3 connection as backup/networks they dont peer with.

    level3 are a big transit company, they charge smaller companies to connect to them.

    level3 will probably be hosting the iplayer server for very cheap or maybe even free, because they will get money from isps.

    it is kind of crap that the BBC has done this, level 3 is flakey at best and while saves the BBC a bit of money it is much more expensive for all isps, worse for everyone other than the BBC. assuming complaints dont matter.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No need

    There isn't really an overwhelming need for this iplayer, especially as it is carried as a seperate channel in cabled areas. I don't really see the justification for having it duplicated via the internet as well.

    I really don't buy into this idea that the internet must be capable of delivering any conceivable form of content yesterday. Sure, its a nice little luxury bonus if you can watch old TV shows but whats wrong with buying a DVD recorder? I feel ISPs may start blocking this kind of bandwith guzzling stuff fairly soon.

    Instead of using iplayer to rerun bloody Eastenders, why not use it to show some decent music shows from their vast archives or some classic Dr Who? If you forgot to watch something first time, you probably weren't that interested in the first place.

  52. Richard Porter

    "one of the million-plus big league providers"

    No, there can't be that many big league providers!

  53. Alan Parsons


    google for get_iplayer, and just download the stream and watch it in mplayer, that way you get to keep the show for as long as you want.

  54. Chris Hills

    H.264... right.

    I have it on good authority that Level3 has been calling around Akamai customers offering hosting for 1/10 of what they are currently paying. I don't for one moment believe that Akamai cannot provide H.264 services.

  55. Ben Tasker

    If your on BT Total Broadband

    This will make no difference to you whatsoever, yes BT won't notice the difference, but given that BT claim there is a compatability issue between Iplayer and the HomeHub (try and get details of the issue/cause and they will say they don't know) you probably won't be watching Iplayer anyway!

  56. Laurence Penney

    Re: Public Service

    @James Bassett...

    Was it Sir David Attenborough you were thinking of, in his 30 April 2008 speech on the theme of “The BBC and the future of Public Service Broadcasting”?

    “[Ofcom's Chief Executive, Ed Richards] says [public service broadcasting] is broadcasting that aims to do four things: to increase our understanding of the world; to stimulate knowledge and learning; to reflect the cultural identity of the United Kingdom; and to ensure diversity and alternative viewpoints.

    “You could argue that good situation comedies - like Porridge - increase our understanding of the world; that gardening programmes stimulate knowledge and learning; that East Enders and Coronation Street reflect a UK cultural identity; and that even reality television such as I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here ensures diversity and alternative viewpoints.

    “But I am pretty sure that programmes like those are not what OFCOM means by PSB. There must be something missing in that definition and I suspect we all know what it is. When we talk about PSB these days, we are referring to programmes that, for one reason or another, only attract small audiences.”

    Also note the transcripts of Stephen Fry’s and Will Hutton’s speeches in the same series:

  57. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Are you Sitting Comfortably, then We'll Begin ....

    "Does anyone know what this has got to do with BBC's public service remit?" .... By Gerry Posted Friday 22nd August 2008 14:00 GMT

    Well I never. After reading of the demise of entertainment in TV on the BBC ..... ..... I quite naturally thought to connect with ITV to see who there would be interested in Internet Service Provision of CyberIntelAIgently Designed Future Content, as one would. And the BBC had quite thoughtfully provided a hyperlink on its [above cited] News page.

    However, IT only returned ....

    <<<Content Encoding Error

    The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because it uses an invalid or unsupported form of compression.

    The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because it uses an invalid or unsupported form of compression.

    * Please contact the website owners to inform them of this problem.

    Try Again >>>

    Eventually though, after a number of tries, connection was established, but it did further embed the very real notion that the Royal Charter mandate of the BBC has been dumped into the trash can and a new loadsamoney heavy wideboy has muscled into the scene intent on upping the premium to be paid for everything with its positioning/product placement of manipulated news ....Higher "vital" commodity costs based upon manufactured/staged evidence and deliberately contrived conflict situations ....... Random Destructive Chaotic Events and War Game Fluffing...... as everyone struggles to pay for Gas and Oil and Water and Food and Clothes and Accomodation and and and ....with their relentless profitable rise in the Greatest Scam on Earth for Fifth Columnists building their Fourth Reich in its Banks of Vaulted Peers ....... Little Adolf Mad Hatters

    Has the BBC lost the plot and been overrun with NeoCon Imperialists hell bent on dumbing down society to their lower levels of intelligence and conflict experience in order to maintain neaderthal media control of puppet regimes?


    And would Register that story-line as a Fiction for AIdDocumentary in Creative InterActive Audio-Visual ProgramMIng for a Blockbuster Movie Run for Holywood Control of Virtual Reality Simulations for Operational Conversion XXXXtraOrdinarily Rendering AI Progressive Actuality via Virtualisation of FutureVisions in Shared Semantic Sees.

    An EndPoint Utopian Future in Gardens of Eden on Earth are not built with Imagination from a StartingPoint in Chaos, they are Reverse Engineered in IT Virtualisation and then Realised as Concrete Substantial Fact with the Immediate Product Placement of Endpoint Architecture and Critical Technology InfraStructure into Chaotic Present Day Time Zones/Disparate Deluded Society Models this to Assist AIMaster Future Template Align and Configure a Mutually Beneficial Universal Operating System for All from an Enigmatic Intangible Artificial Intelligence Network, Administering Guidance and Provision of Logistic Support from QuITE Alien Virtualised Services, Floating Free and Capturing Market Share in the Cloud ..... and ITs Storming Phorming Cloud Banks.

    CyberIntelAIgent NIRobotIQs Registering ITs Floating Points and ISP IP Prior to an Artful IPO of Virtualised Stock Options and Derivative Futures for Mutual Consideration dDelivering HyperRadioproActivity and the Promise of ITs Singularity.

    I Kid U Not.

    I suppose now, all that an Alien would need would be Earthbound Honest Brokers Channeling Funds into AI and ITs Virtual Holding Account Generating Interest for Capital Spend on Future Provision.

    And I would like to commend that all of a similar age to Stephen Fry read what he has to say,.... *... and marvel at what has graced the Past and is Memory and what now is the Future ... Just Imagine and IT is True .... and especially simply so whenever IT is Shared 42BTruly Realised via Virtual Reality Ways and Means and Appropriations.

    * Thanks for that link and Trip down Memory Lane, ... Laurence Penney Posted Friday 22nd August 2008 23:15 GMT.

  58. Anonymous Coward

    Iplayer is a pull client not the server side push server so the codec doesnt matter

    "As we reported earlier this year, the BBC is investigating building its own content delivery network in partnership with third party vendors.

    Rose said the aim of any rollout will be a system that best serves viewers ISPs and the BBC."

    first of all Iplayer sysyem is very simple content pulling client, it's in no way using any form of server side push server model, so the codec doesnt matter any more than your VLC or MPC streaming client app is pulling Mpeg4-AVC/Part10,Mpeg4-ASP/DivX or Mpeg2 from a generic http server.

    Rose and the BBC tech team already know the best option is to forget using antiquated Unicast point to point distribution and just move over to near realtime Multicast Video streaming.

    its simple, you book your content interest on a generic http webpage, and as soon as 2 or more people want that same content, or say a 5 minute (teabreak type timelimit) timeup accures, they serve that content through a Multicast tunnel.

    a tunnel is currently because the worlds largest ISPs dont want reactiveate this generic multicast option as found in all Industrial ISP grade ki,t or to give this bandwidth saving ability all the way to and from theend user.

    theres a UK company usingthis generic Multicasting protocol already , alas its only in the Janet network were they have always kept this Multicasting option switched on as a default, and a very few small ISPs that have seen this option as a very good thing for all concerned, not least saving their external bandwidth bills and given their end users the ability to use the BBC Multicast BBC TV video and audio streaming trials for a long time now.

    its pritty simple, just use and their years of operations in this Multicast marketplace, tie it into the long standing BBC multicasting Mpeg4-AVC trials and put a nice generic http end together that doesnt obscure the real URL to the files, and every OS wins, the vendure wins in masses of saved bandwidth, the end so called end users are finally "best served" as Rose likes to put it.

    BTW, Virgin Media did NOT DID/DO NOT DO IT RIGHT, they _opted_ for the cheapest end of life antiquated Mpeg2 ONLY decoding STBs and transcoding kit in their head ends, activly killing off the alredy existing full trial of NTL dual purpose Mpeg2/AVC STB boxs.

    and VM did this ,MANY QUARTERS AFTER IT WAS CLEAR AVC Encoding/Decoding WAS were the world market place were going, indeed several EU countrys had already put their AVC decoding STBs and related kit online and were selling these services to their end users.

    Virgin Media due to their save a penny this quarter choice to kill off their NTL AVC STB trials and orders for the cheap and nasty end of line USA favoured Mpeg2 STBs , will now need to take all this current and near future generic EU/US wide AVC/H.264 Encoded content and fully Re-Encode itto the antiquated Mpeg2 codec, not mearly transcode it without any loss of quality in to their TS(transport streams) for play back on all the VM STBs incapable of playing native AVC content, not to mention athe 150%+ bandwidth its then wasting in Mpeg2.

    all told even if you dont understand it AVC/H.264 talk, is the old Unicast way and the old Mpeg2 is wasting your bandwidth, AVC/H.264 and Multicasting make it far better for your bandwidth and your quality of Video playback (if you have an AVC capable STB or PC/mobile running the best AVC codec decoder "CoreAVC",end of story.

  59. Anonymous Coward

    Your Wrong, Multicast is NOT useless in the bit from ISP to end user, it works great infact.

    "where are the multicast faithful

    By Anonymous CowardPosted Friday 22nd August 2008 11:12 GMT

    where are the multicast faithful when you need them most? If it's bandwidth from BBC to ISP that's the challenge, surely multicast can handle something simple that (it's just routers and cables, it can't be that complicated ;))?

    Multicast is useless in the bit from ISP to end user, but that's another story, one which Mr Orlowski promised to write about much earlier in the year, but I'm still waiting patiently here..."

    Anybody with a clue knows about the old MBONE knows it proved that your contention that the "Multicast is useless in the bit from ISP to end user" is WRONG.

    that proves it works, and it works well, IF THE ISPs turn on the already existing and powered Multicasting abilitys in every single ISP grade router and related kit today.

    you must already know being so wise in these matters ;) that the IP Multicast, and IP Broadcast spec was written up before even the IP Uncast spec was fully evolved.

    your not thinking longer term growth AC, when the call to Multicast to the end users is asked for, its not just about cost effective mass digital video streaming to and from the end users/customers, its about finally providing a framework thats existed in real industrial IP kit from day one the the end users/customers that companys and app writers can then retrofit into their existing apps and products to save everyones bandwidth.

    muticasting near realtime video is only one option to start it off, Multcasting P2p in another, interactive Multicasting http Messageboards with whiteboards, massive multicasted VOIP conference calls and townhall meetings and so on.

    this this from mearly turning back up the Multicasting abilitys of the existing router and related kit already in place, even the old MBONE prived you could setup a Multicasting point to multipoint tunnel to interested partys and stream your data whatever it was/is and send it once to multiple clients rather then the current unicast model of sending one copy to each/

    hell even the BBC are still running the Multicast AVC trials and they asked the UKs ISPs to take part YEARS AGO, most of the ISPs failed to even talk to the BBC trial techs and see what benefits this old school MBONE Multicast could bring to all involved, and so the end users could even try these free BBC Multicast services even if they wanted to.

    in hindsight, the BBC or indeed ANYONE running a WAN/WEB server could STILL setup a capable multicast tunnel and end users app and/or home installed Multicast cache/proxy and totally bypass the ISPs unwillingness to provide these Multicast abilitys directly to the end users/customers.

    sure a tunneled Multicast point to multipoint service over IPV4/6 Uncast isnt as good as a direct Multicast IPv4/6 service, but it still gets the job done if the ludites that think ISP to end users is not viable today, IT IS VIABLE AND WERTH DOING ASAP to get the apps writers to start coding and using it.

    hell heres just such a thing,

    written in java no less, and originally for use with dialup never mind broadband so dont come here implying its not viable or useful for BB app writters and end users world wide TODAY.

    " multicast Tunnel - mTunnel


    The mTunnel is an application that tunnels multicast packets over an unicast UDP channel. Several multicast streams can be sent over the same tunnel while the tunnel will still only use one port. This is useful if tunneling through a firewall.

    The applications primary goal is to allow for easy tunneling of multicast over for instance a modem and/or an ISDN connection.

    The mTunnel has a built in Web-server allowing for easy access to information about current tunnels. This server listens by default on port 9000 on the machine where started.

    The mTunnel also listens on session announcements for easier tunneling of known sessions.

    If you download and install this package please send me an email! :-) (

    The latest public version is 0.3 released 980102.

    README Changelog

    Download: Windows UNIX

    This version is NOT compatible with earlier versions of mTunnel!

    I have also written two papers about this application: Paper1 - 1998 Paper2 - 1997


    "Inuk has developed a platform for the distribution of broadcast quality TV and audio over IP-based networks using multicast delivery.


    BTW as a side note, the new Docsis3 also mandates Multicast all the way to and from the end users home installed cable equipment.

    "bronze" cert for docsis2.0b/3 banded downlstream multicast and silver cert for docsis2.0b/3 bonded upstream multicast, full DS3 cert having it all OC,thats were the real (ok so we cant trust the UK/Virgin Media based company to keep to the mandated spec and keep it turn on )enduser MultiCast choice will be.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    Muticast AC Sat 12:56

    Understanding why multicast is irrelevant requires an odd mix of understanding. I'm moderately familiar with both IP multicast and with the underlying architecture of the BTwholesale network used by most of the UK's ISPs, and in particular used by the *quality* ISPs. It was in that context that my words were written; I'm not greatly interested in combining DOCSIS and multicast, 'cos if you're on cable, there are various ways of sharing your bandwidth with other users interested in the same content at the same time, and some of them don't need multicast between "BBC" (or whoever) and end user. 50% of the population can't get cable so it's BTw they're interested in too.

    The BTw broadband network may allow multicast to appear to work via workarounds like tunnels, but in doing that, *there is no bandwidth saving*, and therefore there is no cost saving, and this is all about cost savings.

    Draw yourself a map of the path the data takes from content provider to ISP to BTwholesale to typical domestic end user (who aren't on JANet, mbone, etc). If you don't know how, go read about it (eg at thinkbroadband). See where the multicast data would have to be replicated into one stream per viewer rather than one stream per program. Today, it's no good for multicast. Today, that replication *must* take place before the data leaves the ISP to go to BTwholesale, because BTw Centrals want the data in PPPoA format rather than pure IP. BTw Centrals are also the most expensive (per Mbit/s) piece of the whole picture, therefore they are the bandwidth constraint in this picture. The data stream doesn't get converted back from PPPoA into pure IP till it hits the end user.

    So, basically from ISP to end user via BT Central it's one stream per viewer (even if that stream may appear to be multicast if you tunnel it), rather than one stream per program, through the worst bottleneck (the BTw Central). So, 10 viewers watching one program at the same time = 10 times the bandwidth of one viewer = 10 times the cost of one viewer. So, where's the multicast cost/bandwidth saving?

    I haven't seen enough details of BT's much overhyped 21CN yet to see how this works in depth (pointers welcome) but afaict the need to keep separate ISPs traffic logically separate means that 2 viewers on 2 different ISPs watching the same program at the same time would require twice the bandwidth of one viewer, as would 2 viewers on the same ISP (there's nowhere sensible at the "point of presence" to do any replication?). Again, where's the multicast cost/bandwidth saving?

    All kinds of things have been speculated about, such as content caches in the 5000+ exchanges, but there's usually at least one regulatory or commercial or technical or political reasons why these aren't likely in the near future, even though the technology is eminently feasible and affordable (but not necessarily profitable for an operator).

    Then there's the small matter of the majority of the SoHo routers out there not actually doing IP multicast right, even if they claim to. Just ask someone with a clue, e.g. Zen (that name again), who took part in the BBC multicast trials (weren't they during the 2004 Olympics????

    Sorry if you find that disappointing, I do too, but till this picture changes, multicast is just hype as far as TV over IP in the UK is concerned.

  61. Ron Eve


    I got into a real panic at the start of these comments when I found I actually understood (and agreed!) with amanfrommars comment ("And the Problem is always Right at the Top of the Stack/Gravy Train ").

    Had the IT OverLords taken MindControl of Our FearleSS Commentor?


    The last comment ("Are you Sitting Comfortably, then We'll Begin ...." ) was an absolute MasterClass in AlienTechnoSpeak. (Actually, it started off ok but halfway through my head was hurting real bad.)

    Brilliant stuff.

    ( Err sorry, slightly off topic...)

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >Maybe you should try a decent smaller ISP before spouting garbage.

    Thanks but I'd rather stick with business broadband and a connection load balanced in my favour.

    > As an ex. Tiscali sufferer now with the MUCH smaller ICUK I've seen my speeds go from throttled 50Kb/s (yes "b" not even "B") in the evening

    Seems you've traded bad for poor then. IIRC ICUK were advertising unfettered connections but actually employing traffic shaping on P2P and other inconvenient traffic, which is kind of the point of this article.

    Better just to bite the bullet and just to pay for an ISP which provides an SLA, rather than one with a warranty disclaimer such as ICUKs which actually entitles you to nothing at all - if you bothered read it.

  63. Mike Smith

    Lol @ ISPs

    I didn't read all the comments above, but here is a little something on how I think ISPs work

    ISP: Want an 8meg line? We'll give you all the bandwidth you want, unlimited!

    Customer: Wooo, cool! Boy oh boy, this is cheap

    ISP: Lol, dunce, we won't really give you 8 meg, and theres a fair use policy, and we're going to limit your P2P traffic! Ahahaha, owned XD

    And now, this is what's happening.

    Customer: I like the iPlayer :D

    ISP: OMG WTF?! You're actually USING the bandwith you're PAYING for?! How DARE YOU! I want to EAT cake, but still HAVE cake. Well f*ck you, customer, I'm going to remove adverts from small internet sites who depend on advertising to survive, and stick my own adds in there! Mwahaha! See how you like using the internet now it's all run by businesses, and there's no indie sites or new content!

    And then everyone will moan at ISPs for killing the little guys, and big businesses will sue the ISPs for replacing their adds, then the little ISPs will fade away anyways.

    Ok, so I'm childish, maybe a little closed minded and ignorant, but you get the point. ISPs seem to be getting annoyed at their customers using what they pay for, and it's pathetic.

    Who cares, give me my high def iPlayer!

  64. Anonymous Coward

    @Mike Smith

    There's enough in the original article to moan about when you stick to the facts, Zen are one of the ISPs with a legitimate complaint here, others just haven't gone public yet, Zen and other smaller "quality" ISPs affected are not the ISPs behaving in the way you're ranting about, so please if you can't deal with the difference between real and imaginary, shut up or spew somewhere else.

  65. Chris


    Leaving the Beeb out of it, and Level 3 (PLEASE leave L3 out of it...), I don't like the sound of Zen mumbling about 'increased costs'.

    They in particular could be in trouble here. Zen is currently one of the most expensive ISPs in the country, possibly the most expensive, with their decidedly tight bandwidth limits and high top up charges.

    I don't believe they can increase their charges. So, what next? Even tighter bandwidth allowances? Reduction in their excellent English speaking support?

    The first is effectively raising prices.

    The second destroys one of their major advantages and places them on a level with the majority of ISPs who are far cheaper - effectively raising prices.

    Sad to say, if this is going to be a real issue for Zen, I suspect their days are numbered.

    Zen are, for most of us, teetering on the brink of being just too expensive anyway.

    Time, I'm afraid, to search out the best alternative. This has happened to me about every 3-4 years. It seems to be a sort of 'life-cycle' with ISPs. Oh well, such is life.

  66. Anonymous Coward


    Don't make me laugh. Zen from what I can see have been very bold in making this statement as it will impact end users of all ISP's at the end of the day. The BBC are quite clearly working with the big providers and muscling their way into a lucrative area that those big players will ultimately exploit to the customers cost.

    Just look at some of the recent changes in internet services that are all being done in the name of safety, security, the customers benefit.

    1. A new code of practice - developed by the big 6 ISP's and Ofcom (Why only those big players initially?)

    2. Phorm - Big 6 (Them again) ISP's working to give you a better browsing experience with ads that "You" will want.

    3. Voluntary three strikes - Big 6 (Big who?) ISP's and Government and the BPi working together to get a big slice of the music download pie by encouraging their users to not download music files. (Sky, Virgin etc now offering music downloads, I wonder why?).

    I don’t think Zen being the most expensive makes the slightest bit of difference as they will always attract customers who want little downtime, a good reliable service, UK call centres (As you put it) and a package that delivers just what it says it will. Rather than that killing them off surely it's going to continue to be their saviour.

    Think about it - Most if not all of the other ISP's today traffic shape you, offer you lots but deliver very little when you look a little closer including poor service, offshore in many cases, they also usually tell you what you can and can't do with your connection and at what times of day or night and throttle you if you don't adhere to it. These very same ISP's all have one thing in common - very little room to manoeuvre other than raise prices or give you an even poorer internet service and belive me when I say one or the other will happen if you want all for nothing Internet services to continue.

    Something or someone has to pay for it. And guess who that is going to be? Penny dropping now is it!

    Rather than seeing Zen and similar ISP’s like A&A, Newnet etc. Suffer, many bigger ISP’s would love to see the back of them because they represent what they themselves don’t and that is good solid internet services at a decent price or in other words “Value for money” properly planned and priced well enough to provide it without all the nonsense the majority appear to have no option but to use because they play the numbers game. Get as many users onto the network and worry later how to deal with them.

    Bandwidth costs - Fact! Like it or not any one of us has to be very concerned at where that performance is going to come from and at what cost to us and you’d be very foolish to think it’s NOT going to cost YOU the Customer.

    I'll thankfully continue to pay my ISP a premium for non traffic shaped connectivity, no downtime on my connection in over 6 years now and the reassurance that should I have to call them they will know what to do, will do it quickly and in a language that I can understand as a UK citizen.

    Can you guess who my ISP is yet?

    Clue - It isn't a big 6 ISP nor will it ever be.

  67. Industry Observer

    Re MIke Smith

    If you really wanted to get a true 8mb you'd be paying your ISP £60 a month for it assuming BT could provide it on their archaic copper backbone (Incidentally they can't).

    You are not alone in your views and sadly typical of a large proportion of UK consumers in so much as you don't understand the technology, when it's clearly pointed out you choose to ignore it, want all for nothing and then moan about it when it doesn't happen.

    If I was in a position to run my own ISP I'd do it properly and ban users like you from the start. That way all my customers would get the best experience with no hidden agenda's.

    It's not all the consumers fault though because the bigger providers and some smaller ones have consistently hidden the real truth or manipulated it into a way that drags you in (Gullibility works well for these isp's) you take the bait, believe the claims and then suffer for 12 - 18 months in a contract that should wake you up to the fact that the tenner a month eat all you can ISP service was nothing like and actualy in real terms probably actually cost you around £40 a month.

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

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