back to article ISPs vs BBC iPlayer: Missing the point?

The last month has seen substantial media coverage of the latest row that has erupted between BT Retail and a number of content providers including the BBC. However, we think a fundamental issue is being missed. Instead of BT Retail focusing attention on the BBC et al to contribute to its increasing costs, it should instead be …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank god..

    ... that someone is actually covering this from the right angle. Content providers already pay their fair share, we pay for our transit and peering. Part of the problem is actually LLU believe it or not - Ofcom restrict the prices that BT Wholesale & Openreach can charge, if they are too low then it is deemed unfair to LLU providers - so anyone using IPStream/WBC/etc. gets screwed and their business models fail to work with increased usage.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Totally agree...

    ...after all the BBC will be paying upstream and hosting costs themselves. If this is BT's attitude, then the like of the BBC / Amazon should cross chage them for cost of servers, staffing and drive space, after all they are providing services that make people want to get broadband in the first place.

    Should Amazon charge the Post office due to giving them business? No?

    Should BP be charging Ferrai for producing thirsty cars therefore using their petrol stations more often? No.

    If BT retail cannot provide the service the customers want for the price, then simple economics, you have to up the price or cut the service. However the thieving low life marketing scumbags that promise "unlimited" broadband should have their ponytails cut and be forced to read the Complete Oxford dictionary from start to end 100 times.

  3. Tim Croydon
    Thumb Up

    Agree entirely

    ISPs have been selling their packages on the ability to watch video and download huge quantities of stuff since what feels like the late 90s. I don't see how they can complain when customers actually do that.

    I do understand the need to throttle at peak times as an interim solution to ensure that everyone can get a bit of bandwidth rather than completely denying some users because someone' downloading films. However, it would be nice if ISPs can provide a real time indication of exactly how and what they are throttling.

  4. Tom 15

    How do they justify

    How do BT justify this demand for money? They have the most expensive broadband packages around, more customers than most (economies of scale, etc) and crappy speeds and FUPs.

    I'm with Be, where none of that applies, where you can happily download several GB in a night and they're not moaning about how they can't afford to provide the service, despite providing a much faster, cheaper, more reliable service than BT (this isn't an advert for Be but I'm making a point).

    So how do BT justify it? Where does all of the money go? If BT Wholesale are charging them too much for the broadband, perhaps they should consider LLUing their own exchanges?

  5. Anonymous Coward


    This article may originally have been posted on Enta's opinion site but the link at the end of the article took me to a different article when I clicked it, and right now the site simply hangs indefinitely :(

    Whilst I do entirely agree that BTwoolsale are the biggest villain in this picture, I can't help wondering if

    1) this is the same Entanet that used to offer 300GB/month off peak allowances that were clearly neither technically or economically viable

    2) this is the same Entanet that bought bigtime into the BTwoolsale much overhyped 21CN story, much to the later distress of their end users?

    Other than that, yes, BTwholesale are a bunch of under-regulated overpriced technically and managerially incompetent (just ask AAISP) monopolists.

    Enta themselves don't appear to be a great deal brighter based on what I've observed.

  6. John Robson Silver badge

    They already pay

    At the data centre the BBC are already charged for their share of the bandwidth

    The ISP has simply sold futures in bandwidth to their customers and lost the bet...

  7. s. pam Silver badge

    So if the ISP's really clued-up this wouldn't be an issue!

    If the ISP's policed their networks to stop all the Botnets, etc with the same zeal that they are using against "rich media experience" tools they would have one heck of a lot more available bandwidth. But there would be no posturing, sabre rattling, etc in that would there? Face it, if they ran clean networks that fixed the solution of promiscuous Botnet traffic, the whole of the Internet would be far better off.

    This is the dirty little secret of the ISP industry doesn't want in the press -- the fact that they won't do SFA to stop the Botnets.....and they have not only the technology and the wherewithal to do so.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Paid in full..

    Surely the BBC have paid for their own internet connection in full. Any traffic that goes over this leg is already accounted for.

    If BTs customers are using BBC iPlayer a lot then surely that is something between BT and the customers. Customers are likely to leave BT in droves if BT start banning services and reducing access to certain services, seemingly on a whim.

    Frankly, I think BT are shite and always have, so it's not a problem for me.

  9. Gordon 10

    Article somewhat isses the point too.

    Its the ISP's who are running unsustainable business models with no planning for increasing demand. I havent seen any stats but I would be willing to bet that Iplayer actually didnt spike the overall bandwidth demand curve for the last few years. There will always be increasing deman for bandwidth.

    Basically they are selling their products too cheaply. Instead of throttling they should be offering base package with some capacity growth planned in.

    The ISP's have got themselves in this mess with an unsustainable price war. Its up to them to dig themselves out of it.

    BTW actions are fairly irrelevant. It doesnt matter whether they charge £5 or £50, the ISP's are selling on at a price where they cannot cover their costs. Basic business FAIL.

  10. Paul Hates Handles

    It's all balls

    They take money to let us have internet access and whine when we use it? :D

    Also, don't most decent ISPs have local caches of Youtube + iPlayer to cut the traffic right down?

  11. Joe Montana


    "the [service] they want at the price they expect"

    If they hadn't been advertising unrealistic levels of service at unrealistic prices and relying on customers not trying to actually use what they'd been sold, then people wouldn't be expecting it now would they. ISPs only have themselves to blame for this.

  12. David S


    Does this account for Virgin Media's roll out of 50Mb/s, then? And there was me thinking it was just about striving for ever-higher numbers.

    I don't know; I keep thinking back to when my erstwhile employers had ISDN installed in the office, and we were suddenly connected to the internet through super-speedy 128Kb/s link. We thought all our birthdays had come at once.

    Jeez, I'm old...

  13. Neil Stansbury


    Arrgh - I can't stand the telecoms industry - these people are such fascile idiots.

    BT et al bitching and winging about the BBC's iPlayer service shows how truely ignorant they are

    Their argument is the equivilent of the UK Highways Agency demanding Ford & Honda etc pay directly for the cost of the motorways because their customers are buying too many cars...

    Go BBC - love your service, tell the ISPs to get a grip and do their jobs properly.

    Someone - just shoot BT - lets put them (and us) out of their misery

  14. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Bound to happen sooner or later

    The situation was entirely predictable from years ago and is not an easy one to solve. At its heart is the question of who pays for what. Unless we all are given more bandwith than we need and not charged for use Net Neutrality is just a utopian dream.

    To imagine we will get free access is equally so and once people are paying they want to know why they are paying to subsidise others, so the notion of tiered packages comes into play, and goodbye Net Neutrality.

    Maybe we could embrace the dream of unlimited bandwidth for all but who's going to pay for it ? We live in a capitalist world not a socialist utopia which is the root problem and that isn't going to change any time soon. Why should bandwidth be any different to provision of other basic utility services ?

    Net Neutrality is a socio-political issue which won't get fixed by bleating that wholesale providers aren't playing the game how we like, nor laying the blame on any particular group in the chain. To get Net Neutrality you need to have a society which supports it and that means a major shift in mind-set and outlook at the highest and across all level.

  15. James Hughes 1


    I find it amazing that BT (etc) think that their business model should be subsidised by the BBC. If they cannot make money because of the bandwidth that their users HAVE PAID TO HAVE, then they need to increase prices. Just like Orange have just done to me (Up £2/month because BTW have increase prices for them). At least I get an upgrade to 8MBs, if it ever happens.

    If all the ISP's are in the same boat, then they all have to increase prices, leaving the competitive level the same.

    However, that said, BTW and the backbone providers really need to get their acts together, and get decent bandwidth available to all in the first place, and charge a sensible amount of money for it to the ISP's

  16. DR

    It's not even the whole salers problem.

    It's not even the case that BT retail should be begging BT wholesale to reduce their prices and bugger up that side of the business too!

    The problem is simple, people pay for the amount of packets that they transmit/recieve.

    BBC/Google et al already have an internet connection and already pay for their content to be uploaded when they lease this connection.

    (imagine that BBC for example may lease from BBC Whole sale)

    BBC already pay BBC whole sale to shut packets onto their network.

    BT retail uses BTWholesales network and thus BTR pat BTW for the packets shunted through the network.

    IF BT retail are finding that they can't make money or that users are requiring so much bandwidth that they are struggling to make a profit because the whole sale provider takes too big of a cut then the problem is simple.

    it's not that the free ride is over for content providers, the free ride should be over for content consumers.

    BT retail should adopt a realistic pricing strategy and chanrge it's customers for what they use.

    if it costs £5 per 1GB to move data across the network, then BTR should realise the folly in selling an unlimited package at £11 a month, (assuming that the customer downloads more than 2GB).

    it's not the people who place big content online that are to blame for BTRetails woes, it's their customers bandwidth hungry habits, and it's their customers who should be paying for what they use.

    we don't need an end to net neutrality, we need an end to stupid unlimited packages, an end to ISPs over selling their capacity at a knock down price to try to compete with each other.

  17. jon 44


    ..has always been naff, well done for noticing! ;)

    I totally agree that the ISPs should cover their own costs. It's virtual costs anyway. The real cost is updating their networks... which they're not likely to do. The costs they talk about are not costs at all, it's the fundamental lack of capacity in their home stretch hops.

    Really it's just BT qq coz they will have to spend some money on plugging in a few fibres and pulling their fingers out over local infrastructure.

    lastly, :) content providers already pay to provide content, it's called peering and the BBC is already linked directly to BT backbone, so there is no extra cross-peer charges for BT to pay!

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Eat all you like, or PAYG

    The current model used by ISPs is the same as that of an 'Eat all you like' Chinese restaurant. Some will stuff themselves silly, others will eat a normal amount and some will be fussy and eat virtually nothing. All pay the same price.

    Now that is fine until all the fat people descend onto this EAYL Chinese restaurant. It wont be able to cook food at a fast enough, and will eventually go out of business.

    PAYG makes more sense from a business point of view. And from a consumers perspective, if the unit charges are reasonable enough, say 50p per 1GB, I would have no problem paying that. The trouble is ISPs will inevitably get greedy and they will charge much more.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already Pay?

    Good article.

    Surely the BBC and other content providers DO pay towards the costs of delivering their content already? I imagine that the hosting & bandwidth costs the BBC faces for the iPlayer servers are pretty hefty.

    Maybe the wholesale / backbone providers need to review their pricing structure and start charging companies putting the massive amounts of data onto their networks more, and the consumer isps that are downloading it to their networks a bit less?

  20. SlabMan

    Pot and kettle debate relative luminosity?

    Most of the ISPs whinging about the iPlayer have content provider ambitions, and serve up their own videos (that I suspect few customers actually bother watching). If the ISPs complaints were genuine, they'd be squaring up to Google over Youtube. Yeah, right. This smells like a Digital Britain land-grab - an attempt to top-slice some of the licence fee.

    Funny really: the content providers claim the BBC is anti-competitive, and that the ISPs collude in piracy. The ISPs want to charge the content providers for access to pipes that they are already paying huge comms costs for.

    Will no-one think of the poor customers?

    The TV license funds delivery of TV content to my screen. IF the ISPs keep whining, maybe the Beeb should become its own ISP and deliver iPlayer through licence-fee funded pipes.

  21. Richard Milner

    What is the point

    of anyone paying £25 a month for broadband, not to be allowed to look at websites because BT or whoever doesn't like them?

  22. JasonW


    ... I pay my ISP for an agreed amount of data transfer.

    If I choose to use that up on non-mainstream, insignificant traffic sources, then they have no problem.

    If I choose to use it with mainstream, significant sources they want the source to pay too?

    Isn't that the ISP trying it on to be paid twice for the same thing?

    Perhaps if the ISPs that are struggling to deliver what they've clearly oversold, they should try realigning their retail prices to their costs rather than all leading the race for the bottom of the sewer. By judicious choice of ISP, you can actually get what you pay for.

    A parting thought paraphrased, from the mid-19th century, for those in the beancounting department and marketing departments of the whining ISPs: Income 20 shillings, expenditure 19 shillings and sixpence result happiness. Income 20 shillings, expenditure 20 shillings and sixpence, result misery & ruin.

  23. Dave Bell

    Other missed points

    Has everyobne forgotten contention ratios?

    I always understood that I was paying for a connection with a specified top speed (and I don't like the "up to 8MB" advertising), but I was sharing network capacity with other customers.

    It works well if everyone is reading web pages. Nobody wants a continuous stream of data.

    Downloads are a bigger problem, but few are going to suffer if a Linux download is slow. Streaming video is different. It needs sustained bandwidth.

    If the ISPs want the BBC to pay for delivering iPlayer streams, won't the BBC expect them to provide the capacity needed to deliver the product?

    If the ISPs can't deliver, why should they be paid?

  24. Ian Stephenson

    Correct me if I'm wrong but...

    don't the BBC already pay for their upstream (and downstream) bandwidth?

    Or do they get a completely free ride piggybacking someone elses connection?

  25. Max Pritchard
    Paris Hilton

    Basic economics

    I will be the first to admit that my grasp of basic economics is weak. But does anyone else think there is something flawed in the idea that if demand is strong and growing at the current prices, that a wholesale supplier should be thinking of decreasing prices? Surely if demand is high, then a wholesaler's price will be high to maximise their revenue.

    Aggressive competition in residential broadband market (where some of the products are 'free') has kept the price to the consumer low, then margins for the ISP will get squeezed and this might result in complaints that they are charged too much for the underlying service. But basic economics would teach us (and I've just read a short article on it so I should know!) that this is perfectly normal and is no reason for BT Wholesale to decrease prices.

    To my mind BT Wholesale will only decrease their prices if forced to by competition (reduction in demand for their service) or regulation (in the absense of competition).

    Or is it me? My brain hurts now. Need tea.

    Paris. Because she probably understands this better than I do.

  26. HansG

    here here!!

    great article, glad this side of things is getting some coverage, not making the BBC look like the big bad wolf

    Everything else has already been said, looks like BT are the only ones that have this opinion!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just get BT out of the picture completely

    They just are unwilling to invest in making broadband decent in this country. Resellers of BT's service make a small profit on top of the huge wedge they have to give to BT, so the quality of service is poor.

    If you can get an unbundled line then you find the price drops.

  28. Rob Beard


    As an ex-Enta customer I really do take pretty much all of what Enta say with a pinch of salt. I do agree that it's not up to content providers to pay the ISPs (I mean they're already paying for bandwidth as it is), but on the other hand, well, just have a look in the Entanet Thinkbroadband forums at the many unhappy customers and you'll see why I left.

    Maybe Enta should sort out some of their own customers issues before going on about other ISPs.


  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pricing & Economics.

    There must be very few businesses where as the usage of their core service increases they make less money.

    Given that the ISP's have got themselves into this situation, what have they done wrong? - They've sold a product where they offer unlimited supply at a fixed price and discovered that they can't deliver it, so now, it's someone else's fault.

    Well, it's not, people have been warning you about this for ages, change the pricing model and all these problems go away.

    Ofcom & ASA should never have allowed ISP's to get away with the unlimited bollocks, it's killed the internet in Britain and destroyed consumer services.

    As for net neutrality, who cares? If BT Retail block iPlayer or even throttle it they'll start losing customers. That's how stuff works in a capitalist society, you want it, you pay for it. You want the customers you have to offer the service.

    Everything flows from this - with pay per byte comes investment in bandwidth so that there are more bytes to buy and sell.

  30. Tom 106

    Get rid of BTW.

    Firstly, to own a website, you pay the host for the bandwidth that your site will use, when your visitors come to your site and browse. For example, I have my own small website venture, and I pay for £6 per month and I am allocated 150gigs bandwidth each month, therefore, I ensure that I do not store streaming media from my server, because my bandwidth will be used up in no time at all. Obviously, I could pay more to my Hosting Provider for more bandwidth, but I choose not to.

    As a site owner, I accept no responsibility for how visitors come to my site or for their own monthly bandwidth usage as provided by their ISP. If a visitor to my site has taken out a contract with an ISP who limit their monthly bandwidth usage, then that is a contract solely between the vistor and the ISP and clearly has nothing to do with me as a website owner.

    Secondly, this is yet another example how here in the UK, we fall behind the rest of Europe and the USA in regards to technology. Our counterparts in Europe and the USA enjoy far greater speeds and bandwidth allowance than we do, and their infrastructure is supposedly better invested in by their ISP's.

    Surely, it's time for the BTW monopoly to be dissolved and to go that one step further and take the telephone exchanges away from BT too, as this may allow potential investors to help develop and deliver a much needed improved overall network for the future. Otherwise, we will forever be in debt to BT and it's outdated copper system.

    Thirdly, if an ISP takes the decision to request payment from website owners of face not receiving traffic because the ISP will block their customers from visiting a particular site, and once this becomes reported, I envisage those ISP's losing customers by the droves in favour of ISP's who do not block or restrict access to websites and content.

    Lastly, my conclusion is that the responsibility falls with the ISP to increase the bandwidth to keep up the the demand, in fact I would go further and suggest that ISP's should be increasing their bandwidth allowances and put an end to throttling, at the same time keeping prices and competitive, thus allowing end users to have a more competitive broadband market, than the contrived one which is currently available.

    2010,The Broadband Wars.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So charge the users

    ISP's should pass the costs on to the users consuming the services in the form of new access bundles. This will allow the smarter ISP's to differentiate themselves

  32. Bassey

    Or, to put it another way....

    instead of;

    “an increasing number of content providers were developing profitable business models that are delivered across BT’s network and that they should therefore be prepared to contribute to the costs"

    It could just as easily be...

    "an increasing number of ISP's are developing profitable business models that are based around delivery OUR content and they should therefore be prepared to contribute to the costs of creating that content"

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Just to play Devils' Advocate . .

    "Basic economics teaches us that, when demand is high and growing, providing bandwidth at lower prices will allow it to generate profit"

    Doesn't basic economics also tell us that when demand is high and growing there is ample opportunity for profiteering?

  34. Basil Short_Trousers

    What is USC?

    "as access becomes more widespread (especially with the introduction of the USC)"

    I've searched but can't find a definitive answer - what is 'the USC'?

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Old world meet new world

    The BT of old, the TELCO, could oversubscribe their systems because on telephone exchanges it is a pretty safe bet that not all subscribers will be using the phone at the same time (unless dancing on ice is on or it's new years eve, try getting a landline connection first time then!).

    BT the ISP started by using the same kind of mentality, I mean in the early days when people were on dial up, not everyone was online at the same time and the backhaul could cope.

    Now people are on broadband, always on and want to use more content rich sites the backhaul simply can't cope.

    ISP's cannot (and should not be allowed to) sell unlimited packages simply because they don't have unlimited resources. The marketing droids will still try to use weasel words, fair use policy etc but there HAS to be limits. the sooner ISP's start selling sensible packages with sensible limits the better.

    The global Telco / ISP I work for sells communications to businesses, if a business wants a 10 Mbps internet connection then it can have EXACTLY that, if they want to spend all day watching iPlayer or downloading torrents then they can do that, we don’t care.

    One thing you can bet your arse it will cost an awful lot more than £20 a month :-)

    An ISP is an Internet Service Provider, that is they provide a subscriber with a connection to the internet. If they don’t have the facilities to back up the number of subscribers they have they should stop taking on more subscribers, upgrade their facilities to meet demand or place sensible limits on what subscribers can do.

  36. markdownunder

    Aussie throttling

    Be glad you're across in the UK on a seemingly all-you-can-eat (albeit with a bit of throttling, and now, site blocking)!

    Down under, it's the norm to be charged exhorbitant rates for monthly packages that limit your up+down "usage allowance". If you haven't seen them before, check out these bargains...not: (current exchange 1GBP=A$2-ish)

    The article is right - consumption will continue to increase needing a rethink on wholesale. You can bet your local ISP will find it just to easy to follow the Australia model and pass the costs onto us.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    BBC already pay their bandwidth bill to their transit provider. That's their half of the bargain.

    The delivery to the home is the residential ISP's job.

  38. Mei Lewis

    unlimited adj 1 "not limited or restricted."

    BT sold unlimited packages, on terms they dictated to their customers.

    They should be held legally to their contracts, just like ordinary people are, and perhaps learn from their mistakes (yeah right).

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    The rocky road

    BT dont like services like Iplayer as it takes people away from buying BT's own tv services, Its ona par with mobile broadband providers telling me I cant use Skype over the connection (or any other voice services)

    We pay for our connection and we pay a licence fee for I player content as well via the TV Licence.

    And will BT be asking facebook, twatter and the rest of the content providers to cough up as well? Given the amount of video crap posted on arsebook, youtube etc etc I player probably isnt that relevant.

    I doubt it as they dont have the wedge whereas the BBC do, plus BT;s obsession with Phorm hits the problem that they wont be able to deliver targetted ads on the BBC website so they need some revenue from the Beeb from somewhere.

    If BT invested more than plastic cups and string in its backbone infrastructure this wouldnt be a problem but why do that when theres hefty profits and bonuses to be had!

    Paris, her infrastructure has a large capacity

  40. Dr. Mouse

    Sorry but...

    I pay my ISP (Be, incidentally, and I agree with Tom15 they dont complain over the HUGE amounts of data I transfer, normally filling the 18up/1.3down link) for a pipe to the internet.

    They tell me it is an unlimitted pipe (somthing I have issue with, especially as since IWF came into play it is untrue for the vast majority of ISPs), so I download what I want.

    They then complain I am downloading too much, as are other people.

    Me: "Hang on, you told me it was Unlimitted"

    ISP: "Yeah, but your DLing too much, its costing us too much, and we arent making enough money"

    Me: "Tough s**t! You should have thought of that earlier!"


    If you got a contractor in to do some repairs on your house, got a quote, he started then told you he needed to charge more because the materials cost more than he thought, what would you say?*

    All in all, it's the ISPs who need to sort it out, not the 'content providers'.

    * I know they do this regularly, and I know a lot of people accept it (which is WHY they do it), but think on the principal...

  41. Anonymous Coward

    bloody idiots

    What a bunch of wankers, I pay my internet connection (O2), the BBC I imagine pay their bills too, and I pay the license fee. What exactly is BT moaning about? They have been selling us "unlimited" web connection then do not want us to use it?

    I would like to see ISPs providing reasonably priced symmetrical connections, where you are charged according to what you use. This way heavy users like me (5 adults in the house, all with computers, all using voip/iplayer/youtube/p2p) will pay a fair price for our use, and get good service in return. I mean, 1mbps upload? That's shite! We'll get much better p2p (legal and, yes non-legal, but then you're paying for up/download remember! no more seeding for weeks on end), better voip (so what if it damages phone sales, all telecom comps sell web connections and they can buy shares in voip companies) and all round better internet experience. Now why would we want that?

  42. Jaymeister

    Unlimited isn't really the problem...

    Everyone keeps harping on about how the problem is the "unlimited" packages. This isn't quite the case, as if everyone was limited, we'd still have the same problems. Why? Because everyone gets home from work in the same few hours of the day and goes online. It's not the quantity of data transferred overall, but the quantity within a certain few hours of the day. This is why ISP's, an example being virgin media, throttle connections during parts of the day and especially in the evening.

    The result even if we do pay for quantity rather than speed, is that we all still suffer, because we all want the allocated bandwidth at the same time and the ISP's just can't provide what they've advertised.

    What needs to be done, rather than ISP's whining about this crap, is for them to start charging more. Yes, this sucks for the customer, but if they're charging more, they can then afford to expand their network capacity, and we'll all start actually getting that service we're paying for. Maybe, just maybe, we'll even be able to beat them about the head enough to stop with their rediculous capping policies.

    The first step, if you ask me, would be having the regulations changed so that when advertising broadband they have to say "At least xMb/s" rather than "Up to xMb/s", and specify the slowest possible speed the customer is going to get, INCLUDING the capped rates! That would at least give the customer a fairer insight into how fast their connection is going to be when they actually want to use it (which would be at the same time as almost everyone else). Wouldn't it?

  43. Gary 38

    Missing another point...

    Market share - if BT or others fails to deliver the service that customsers want this will present opportunities for other networks provider to gobble up massive portions of market share. There are other competitive businesses out there that will try and remain net neutral in order to maintain and increase their market share, because people want net neutrality. What the market wants...

    I would not be surprised if in the next few years we see ISP's advertising as net neutral.

  44. Jess

    The BBC are totally right.

    However, I would have thought it would have been sensible for them to offer a simple iPlayer caching system to the isps. (eg a BSD based live CD that caches the media in a way that the BBC are happy with.) They should offer the distribution as a free downloadable ISO. Everything else should be up to the isps.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its all crap anyway.

    They sell a 10meg line but they have sodl the 10mrg line to 100 other people. Thing is when everyone starts using their promised bandwidth it starts costing them.

  46. John Bayly


    It should be BT thinking the "Free Ride" is over. They advertise "unlimited" access to the internet, not specifically to low bandwidth websites. This is what happens when you don't bother upgrading your infrastructure and insist on a business model that is based on oversubscribing their service.

    Suddenly they've realised that people are now capable of using their 8Mb service, and using up all of the 30GB "unlimited" data tariff. Instead of working out how to improve & modify their service to keep customers happy, they're now trying to screw money out of a Government underwritten broadcaster. You don't see them going after YouTube.

    Not really surprising that they hopped into bed with the recording industry at the drop of a hat, they're both working on similar out-dated business models.

    As an aside, they're a bunch of inept wankers. I've spent the last 8 weeks diagnosing network issues. They finally believed me when I said there was no possible way that our ADSL issues were a result of any fault equipment in our building. An engineer was finally sent out and found that the problem was due to a hardware fault in the exchange. 8 weeks to discover that their own infrastructure is fucked. Now looking at how to invoice them for our time in diagnosing their issues.

  47. Da Weezil

    More grease Vicar?

    BTw is the main problem, a lot of people slated Enta for moving to IPSC/WBC but as I understand it - to some extent they were forced over by a far above inflation hike in BTw IP Stream charges last year. As ever the consumer is bent over By BTw while the ISPs take the heat for BT's abuses of the price structure (and OFCOM look the other way) - especially for those in areas where BT has a monopoly in fixed line broadband. Of course now there are huge problems showing up with WBC as BT have set it up and by the comments on some forums... BTw seem to have their fingers in their ears (or elsewhere) with regard to the problem.

    Now with the proposed Broadband tax I am to be screwed even further, as WBC wont hit my exchange till the end of the roll out - BTw are too busy trying to compete in LLU areas to bother with us market 1 guys - So I will be paying this "tax" while being doubly screwed over on a last gen connection with BT's useless profiling system while others who already have faster connections available (often at a lower cost) get the benefit - great idea that man... collect your bonus when you enter private industry!

    BTw have proved time and again that they are technically and morally unfit to have control of such a large slice of UK telecoms and internet services. It needs to be hived off to a not for profit organisation. a good start would be to remove the "phone tax", I dont need a "full service" phone line - either technically or personally so why am I forced to have one just to have broadband??

    Oh and while we are at it, get rid of OFCOM who seem to exist only to sell off spectrum and nod through any abuse by BT group. There is no protection fro consumers under the current set up, so they are pretty much redundant!

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "iPlayer caching system for ISPs"

    It's largely pointless having the content cached in the ISPs, because the place the congestion is occurring (because it's by far the most expensive bit in terms of £ per Mbit/s) is the link between the ISP and the ISP end user (ie BTwoolsale). This is an economic and regulatory problem not a technical one.

    If Ofcon hadn't allowed Murdoch/Sky to take over Easynet, we might by now have had a wholesale LLU network to compete (at least in attractive areas) with BTwoolsale. Ofcon did allow Murdoch/Sky to take over Easynet and consequently we are where we are, in a right mess, the worst of both worlds - market forces and a monopoly.

  49. frank ly

    @Paul Hates Handles re. It's all balls

    "....don't most decent ISPs have local caches of Youtube + iPlayer .....?"

    I hope that a BT-Retail or Virgin Media person (Anonymous I'd expect) will reply to you on that one.

    It would seem to be the most sensible thing to do; store the latest. most popular BBC iPlayer stream (or whatever) in a local cache and deliver it from there to the customers watching at home, instead of pulling all those copies over the national backbone.

    There may be all kinds of copyright issues with this though, who knows (comments please).

    Whatever the issues and the 'rights and wrongs' are, you can be sure they wont be resolved by sensible technical considerations with a view to providing a service. They'll be 'hammered out' by suits looking to preserve their own position and industry reputation for being a tough negotiator.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >Everyone keeps harping on about how the problem is the "unlimited" packages.

    >(...) Because everyone gets home from work in the same few hours of the day

    >and goes online.

    If people paid per byte though this additional usage would be valuable to the ISP's rather than simply a cost as it is now.

    >This is why ISP's, an example being virgin media, throttle connections during parts

    >of the day and especially in the evening.

    Although if they were making money from it reducing the data transfer would cost them money.

    >What needs to be done, rather than ISP's whining about this crap, is for them to start

    >charging more. Yes, this sucks for the customer, but if they're charging more, they can then

    > afford to expand their network capacity,

    Why would they expand their network capacity though?

    Under your scheme, they would have the money to either expand the network or pay the directors a big bonus, which do you think they'll do?

    A per byte charging scheme would actually result in less traffic because there would be an incentive to customers not to use it.

    There is a tendency in Britain at the moment to regulate to make businesses do what they would do if there was a proper market. Fundamentally unnecessary regulation is a bad choice.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ... it's not the transit bandwidth that costs with ADSL (well, it obviously does, but it's peanuts). It's the BT Central/WBC bandwidth that costs - £150+/mbit (For a 622 Central it's £200/mbit from memory, on WBC I believe it's a bit less). Caching wouldn't reduce costs by any significant amount compared to a drop in the cost of BT Central/WBC backhaul/connectivity.

    As for Enta, they have the right ideas it's just that anyone with "clue" has left when it comes to implementation - Although until this year the ADSL arm was fine and the only section of the business with any clue (although exclude ADSL billing from that). Now all depeartments seem to be as poor as each other (I recall Entacall disconnecting a line without notice - we only found out because Entanet mailed us about a DSL cease due to the line cease).

  52. James Grinter 1

    Caching iplayer won't help

    The BTW ADSL architecture means that ISPs pay a high tariff for all traffic that their customers

    consume, even that which originates within the ISP's own network Caching, local CDN nodes, etc only reduce their transit costs and have no impact upon the "BT Central" pipe between the ISP and the BTW ADSL connections.

    If the ISPs have got higher costs, then they need to start charging more to cover them.

  53. Anonymous Coward

    The Snake has no head.

    Its all well and good noting that BTW need to update their business model but having worked with BTW personally I can say without doubt this will never happen. BTW is ran by idiots who know as much about the industry as politicians know about telling the truth.

    PS Thanks for the new icons :D

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >> Everyone keeps harping on about how the problem is the "unlimited" packages. This isn't quite the case, as if everyone was limited, we'd still have the same problems. Why? Because everyone gets home from work in the same few hours of the day and goes online. It's not the quantity of data transferred overall, but the quantity within a certain few hours of the day. This is why ISP's, an example being virgin media, throttle connections during parts of the day and especially in the evening.

    If that is the case, then surely the problem is the fact that (for the most part) iPlayer requires streaming or P2P. Personally, when I get home, I watch the shows that I have already downloaded during the day with get_iplayer (as I can login remotely and initiate the download from work if I choose to). Or perhaps I will download programs late at night, when it only takes about 5 or 10 minutes.

    I agree the problem isn't unlimited connections, the problem is people expecting unlimited connections not suffer from congestion an the fact that there is no guarenteed minimum speed. If BT have to throttle their customers connections to 1 mbps when it is busy, so that their other customers can also achieve 1 mbps (and to avoid the extra delays caused by congestion), I have no problem with that. It is much the same temporary speed restrictions on the M25 when it starts getting business (except that it doesn't stay in place till 3am when there isn't another car in sight), they are just doing what it takes to get the bet throughput on their network - unless ofcourse they are be giving priorty to their own TV and VOIP packages.

    The real problem, so far as I can see, is that we are still stuck (for the most part) with ADSL over copper. Road congestion is inevitable in the UK as it isn't really feasable to build more or faster roads (though we could something about the trains). However, we could easily have faster and better Internet connections. At some point they will have to bite the bullet and install fibre to the door, and it may as well be now (it should have been 5 or 10 years ago). Ofcourse then we would have problems on the backbone, but much of the high bandwidth from central providers like YouTube and iPlayer could be cached and a lot of peer to peer stuff need never reach the backbone.

  55. Anonymous Coward

    BBC already paying - but not paying enough

    With iPlayer, the Beeb is basically trying to build a video-on-demand service without providing a suitable or sustainable infrastructure. If the Beeb wants a reliable delivery mechanism for its services, it should either stick to broadcast RF technolgy, or put its hand in its pocket. I just hope that the licence fee is abolished before the latter occurs.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    All this from Entanot?

    It's highly entertaining that Entanet feel they are qualified to preach on the business model behind Broadband in the UK, given they've very successfully hosed their network service quality by allegedly investing in all the wrong things recently.

  57. tonylemesmer

    long winded

    What a long winded way to get your point across. But yes, BT are obviously thinking so short term that they will end up asking all websites to pay for their bandwidth by the end of the year.

    Let the market decide the price and stop chasing the BBC for revenue.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    To whom would BT be selling broadband if there was no-one providing compelling content?

  59. Jaymeister
    Thumb Up


    >Under your scheme, they would have the money to either expand the network or pay the directors a big bonus, which do you think they'll do?

    Ah yes, appologies, I was momentarily blinded by an unexpected burst of faith in humanity. You are in fact right, they would just pay the directors bigger bonuses for being useless.

    >A per byte charging scheme would actually result in less traffic because there would be an incentive to customers not to use it.

    This is true, however every story I've heard of such schemes, the ISP's charge insane prices for it. Australia is a good example. They're paying silly money for their bandwidth (and now getting censored too! I'd hate to be them.)

    >There is a tendency in Britain at the moment to regulate to make businesses do what they would do if there was a proper market. Fundamentally unnecessary regulation is a bad choice.

    Of course, a proper market would be nice, but I don't forsee any method of actually getting that except by maybe doing something utterly crazy such as allocating some spectrum for a longer range cross-country wifi mesh network, completely sidestepping the need for wired infrastructure and allowing new, smaller ISP's to appear and offer a gateway from the mesh to the rest of the world that we subscribe to. This is of course, not without some serious technological challenges, and I am unsure if it is even something that could be sustained. Especially given the reduced bandwidth over such long range, building-penetrating links.

  60. Robert Forsyth

    Isn't lots of individual streams a stupid way to broadcast?

    It would seem logically flawed to try and transmit the same programme down hundreds of streams all fighting for the same backbone pipe from a group of servers in one location, to a tree of clients.

    What you need is a P2P file sharing network where one stream in and one out potentially fills the whole network, and your client streams from a close by host.

  61. Jaymeister

    @Anonymous Coward

    >>If that is the case, then surely the problem is the fact that (for the most part) iPlayer requires streaming or P2P. Personally, when I get home, I watch the shows that I have already downloaded during the day with get_iplayer (as I can login remotely and initiate the download from work if I choose to). Or perhaps I will download programs late at night, when it only takes about 5 or 10 minutes.

    Indeed, that's a nice idea, but unfortunately I'm on virgin so while I'm at work I'd have my bandwidth throttled into oblivion if I did that. To add to the problem, I also tend to watch more content on other legal streaming sources (Youtube, Funimation, etc...) which do not provide the option to download in advance.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    A couple of suggestions

    Both Entanet and BT could start revealing what it is they have sold their customers as per

    BBC iPLayer - on realising that at £15pm does not get very much - about 30Kbps of peak per second capacity per user, perhaps they shoud allow customers to schedule downloads.

    The price of bandwidth is still correlated with the cost of voice calls at the peak, loosely correlated, but never the less correlated. UK Bandwidth prices look to be twice that in the US but they do pay more for their access.

    We need to start with more transparency in the retail sector.

  63. Andy Livingstone

    Stop talking money - start thinking SERVICE.

    Both BBC and BT are wrong.

    They have totally forgotten the watchwords should be Quality and Service at fair prices.

  64. Anonymous Coward

    "your client streams from a close by host."

    Not relevant in the UK. What matters here in the UK is costs not geography. The most expensive part of the whole network (in terms of bandwidth costs) is the little bit between the end user and their ISP; the bit between the ISP and the rest of the Internet is dirt cheap in comparison. So there is no such thing as a "close by host", they are *all* equally expensive to reach, courtesy of BTwholesale greed and Ofcon incompetence.

  65. This post has been deleted by its author

  66. Mike 61

    Remove the unnecessary

    My ISP offers web space, e-mail, virus software, this that, and the other thing. All I want from them is an IP address and bandwidth, but none the less I pay for all of these additional services that I neither want or need. If there were a provider that offered me these two things, I would switch in a minute. I don't even need a tech support number. An outage reporting number, and current network statistics are all I really need, and then only if I am having issues. I should be able to call them up, read them my CMAC number and be good to go with some all you can eat synchronous connections. This fantasy ISP would save probably 60% of their operating costs compared to other providers, and if done properly could compete with the "other" ISPs and still deliver the bandwidth you are actually paying for. ALSO, I want to make one thing perfectly clear to the charge by the byte crowd, I pay for bandwidth, rated in mb/s, NOT for the total amount of data xfered. As an ISP you should expect me to run at 80% utilization 24x7x365. If you want to charge the "consumers" by the byte, you should charge the "providers" by the byte also, effectively putting popular services out of business due to the "surprise costs" and ongoing costs.

    NEVER ACCEPT A PAY BY THE BYTE SCHEME. (at least not without dinner and a kiss first, and maybe a reach around..)..

  67. Anonymous Coward

    @AC 10:48

    "If Ofcon hadn't allowed Murdoch/Sky to take over Easynet, we might by now have had a wholesale LLU network to compete (at least in attractive areas) with BTwoolsale."

    Your believing the myth that was LLU Stream from Easynet.

    At the time Easynet where issuing press releases to the stock exchange about deals that didnt exist to entice Sky to make the purchase.

    Easynets LLU stream was all about getting Easynet sold or partnered, it was never intended as a true competitor to BT Woolsale, hence the reason why its quietly disappeared since the takeover.

  68. Peter2 Silver badge

    Re: Isn't lots of individual streams a stupid way to broadcast?

    Yes, its a stupid way to broadcast, but doing it P2P wouldn't help because the problem is the links between you and your ISP.

    However, as long as the BBC is ok with paying for their connection then it's irrelevant. The problem is that some ISP's can't afford to deliver what they are selling , ie "unlimited" access packages for a fixed price.

    If a bar offered unlimited beers for £5 a month then they'd make a loss because the amount they would make lose from buying the bandwidth would exceed the amount they would make from selling it.

  69. WhatWasThat?
    Dead Vulture

    Death of Net Neutrality

    Net Neutrality has already become another professor's "also ran" in lecture talks...

    In the US, if you want to get the bandwidth to properly use a particular service, you have to pay (sometimes through the nose) to get that bandwidth. And yes, the more bandwidth you have, the more you pay, and the less the ISP will "throttle" your usage of certain services available on the Internet, public or private.

    When you have a "normal" connection, it is throttled based on what you do and how you use it; all subject to extra fees and fines based on what they think you are doing.

    As it relates to this story; the reason the US has "better facilities" is because we splurged during the DotCom bubble on laying wire and fiber... and the company that did it went out of business (MCI, anyone?), with its fresh assetts bought up on the cheap to be resold to our last mile consumers.

  70. Bruce Edelsten

    Somewhat misses the point

    No-one has mentioned multicasting. Shame. If the ISPs invested in delivering streaming content by multicasting and then throttled streaming by unicasting the problem would, more or less, be solved.

  71. SilverWave

    Is BT is abusing its Monopoly position?

    It certainly looks like it...

    Hmm is this something that needs to be reported to the EU Commission?

  72. James 100

    The real problem

    @Jess: Caching at the ISP end wouldn't help much: the root problem is that BT overcharges heavily for backbone capacity. For years, they've been squeezing down the price they charge per end user, making up for it on the backbone end, jacking up the per-megabit charges.

    In my view, the per-line charges have now fallen to silly levels, particularly looking at cases like TalkTalk's "free" broadband; with BT charging several pounds per line per month just to patch in the copper, just how much money is left to pay for providing any backbone at all? Add a few pounds per month to each line to pay for the fibre backhaul (every user needs to have that fibre, whether they use it constantly or for a daily email check) - far better than trying to rip off heavy users with traffic charging, letting ISPs cherry-pick non-users with subsidised offers not paying a penny towards the cost of the backbone on which they rely.

    That, of course, was always BT's model with phone calls: lose money on installation and line rental, then make up for it by screwing anyone who actually dared *use* the phone line they were paying for. Now they want to pull the same trick with broadband.

    Years ago, someone familiar with BT remarked that if they had American levels of telephone usage with their tariff at the time, they'd be the most profitable company on earth. They didn't come close, of course, because their tariffs had a stifling effect on telephone usage. Do we want the same to apply to Internet usage? I certainly don't - and a strand of STM-64 fibre costs the same whether you max it out 24x7 or just probe it occasionally to check it's still working.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Totally Agree with article

    Many misunderstandings in comments though.

    The cost that is being paid to Openreach is not for "internet" bandwidth to the rest of the world but the charge for connection between the ISPs own network and the exchanges where the ADSL equipment is (whether unbundled or not).

    There needs to be more competition or tougher price controls in this area.

  74. marblesuk

    What a load of rubbisgh

    I have BT internet, along with their phone line and television service, and in the last year have been mightly disappointed with all of them, especially the internet, not allowing me access to sites such as google and iplayer at what only seems like peek times, I believe my £35 a month contract should entitle me to look at what i want when i want online regardless of what time of day or month it is, they seem to offer an inferior product to the ones they specify in advertising and even told me that my connection speed was much more than it actually is, but that was my own equipment that was to blame, my own equipment consisting of the bt cables and home hub which was provided (or payed extra for) when I signed up, a thouroughly dissapointing service and no surprise at all that they act in this way.

    What is needed is an organisation that is going to monitor the update of the entire network, maybe moving from traditional copper wires to fibre optics which i believe can carry much more data at a higher rate, BT is quickly becoming dead in the water and I would recommend to anyone that they use a different company, the only trouble being, that at some point you are going to have to connect through BT, so maybe something for the monopolies commission to look at.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "No one's mentioned multicasting"

    No one's mentioned multicasting because it's irrelevant. This is a regulatory/economic issue. Multicasting doesn't help, because the issue is the hugely overpriced bit between the end user and their ISP (in particular, what used to be called the BT Centrals and their follow on in the much overhyped 21CN).

    By the time the "content" gets outside the ISP, it's already been unmulticasted (sp?). There are other technical reasons why multicast is no panacea but I'm still waiting for Mr Orlowski's article on that subject.

    Wrt LLUstream from Easynet: I thought it was a bit more than slideware (as did the F2S customers and others who were using it) but if you have evidence otherwise I'll take a look at it if you're willing to share it.

  76. John 76

    FFS, you are all idiotholes.

    The fact that the BBC has upstream internet connectivity that they pay for isn't the point. iPlayer, in one of its forms, is a Peer to Peer network so once seeded the traffic is "off net" from BBC's perspective, so the BBC isn't paying the full transit cost. So ISPs are right to be concerned about this, as they are paying to deliver the content provider's content.

  77. Anonymous Coward

    apologies in advance for bad SPAG and meadering

    re: "expect me to use 80% of bandwitdh 24/7"

    statistically this is not the case, with many figures being thrown about like "10% of the users use 90% of the bandwidth" (or summat - see virgin media PR about why they are throttling).

    With many ISPs racing to (apparently) £0 price tag, (is BTWholesale/openreach price still set by offcom? im a bit out of date there). geting more revenue from both ends of the pipe seems worth a cheeky punt.

    I believe this whinging is merely lobbying directed at offcom to see if they can get away with it, "get away with" being the apropriate phrase.

    BTW vs BBC omg ofcom may actually have to make a decision... which will probably screw the public over, then get overturned by brussels. Yay for Europe!

    re: p2p is "off net" so is payed for by isps

    while i can see the reasoning, its THE CONSUMER chosing (or not) to use such services that creates the extra nodes be be seeds/leeches (to use Bit torrent vernacular). The consumer has supposedly already been charged for using these services, and BTW/openreach is failing to provide the service.

    Whinging such as "its not fair the BBC can use our network" doesn't cut it

    (deep breath) THE BBC ISNT USING YOUR BLOODY NETWORK, YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE!! and they chose to use your network (that they cant really get access to due to lack of investment) to watch youtube, iplayer et al. If you cant afford to pay for the bandwidth/admin with your customers fees, then you are not charging enough.

    Pie in the sky suggestions:

    Like bus passes, economy 7 etc, there should be different charges for peak vs off peak.

    The price of an "Unlimited" Plan should more accuratley reflect the cost of providing an unlimited connection (and er... actually *be* unlimited) - business sdsl anyone?), and conversley more "limited plans" (flexability is key - peak or off peak? by time or by data? ive seen mobile tarrifs like this...)

    This shoud then be more "fair" ie sterotypical old ladies paying next to nothing for using less than a gig a month, and the likes of us having to think twice about that dvd iso download. The key point that may make it work is THROTTLE AFTER EXCEDING CAP, NOT SHUT DOWN, OR INCUR CHARGES (*cough mobilenetworks cough*). Actually stating what the cap is would be a good start (its one of the reasons why im with VM) or maybe having the choice to auto-upgrade to the next package (up to a preagreed limit)

    but of course, the norms will balk at the cost of a truely unlimited plan, and the "flexible limited" plans will be to complicated for non techs to be bothered with, and not as proffitable as charging old lady (O.L.) the same wedge as the heavy users for an order of magnitude less usage (more? less? YKWIM). Especially while the O.L. is willing to be fleaced for the piece of mind of not having to worry about it.

    if you are still reading after all that lot, you have my thanks.

    Paris because she has a rather liberal fair use policy.

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