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The Almighty Buck The Internet The Media

BT Wants Cash For iPlayer, Video Bandwidth 229

Posted by timothy
from the what-do-you-want-cash-for dept.
eldavojohn writes "British Telecom is asking for more money for the bandwidth that iPlayer and video streaming sites eat up. The BBC's Tech Editor is claiming that 'Now Britain's biggest internet service provider is making it clear that, in a cut-throat broadband market, something is going to have to give — and net neutrality may have to be chucked overboard.' The BBC and BT are currently already in talks over how to get past this together. This might sound like a familiar battle from over a year ago."
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BT Wants Cash For iPlayer, Video Bandwidth

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  • by MosesJones (55544) on Friday June 12, 2009 @04:59AM (#28305449) Homepage

    BT have a TV over the internet offer called "BT Vision" its suffering (and just lost its CEO) in competition with Rupert "any view that pays" Murdoch's Sky. Now if BT could get a richer experience out of iPlayer and access to a longer back catalogue than simply the last 7 days then this would help them in competition with Sky.

    So I'd expect this to end up with BT agreeing to support iPlayer in the same way but an "interesting" tie-up between BT and the BBC around the delivery of iPlayer+ features to its BT Vision customers.

    • by FrostedWheat (172733) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:30AM (#28305567)
      BT Vision is awful. Depressing and misleading adverts, the sales people on the phone lie to get you to sign up, no lives channels beyond the standard Freeview stuff, poor image quality and even after paying your monthly subscription you still can't access most of their online content without paying extra. The sooner it goes away the better.
    • by ZigiSamblak (745960) on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:07AM (#28305729)
      This is just BT believing that because they used to be the national phone service they have a right to dominate any communications market and charge whatever they like. We have a similar company in the Netherlands KPN who used to be the national telephone and post service but since they were privatized have shown a total disregard for fair competition from other companies and tried every trick in the book to hold their dominant position so they can abuse it to make bigger profits.

      No doubt there are some influential contacts in the government who get paid well for these agreements. If you ask me the expense scandal in the UK is just the top of the iceberg and our governments are basically nearly as corrupt as the US, they just make more effort to hide it.
      • Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday June 12, 2009 @08:14AM (#28306415) Journal

        This is just BT believing that because they used to be the national phone service they have a right to dominate any communications market and charge whatever they like.

        There is a simple solution to this: the BBC should just ignore them. If they decide to limit or block access to iPlayer then I'm sure their competition will make mincemeat of them given its popularity. All they need to do is advertise that they have iPlayer access and let the market decide - this is one time that leaving things to the market might actually work.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by guruevi (827432)

          What they have to advertise is not 'we have iPlayer' but 'we don't have restrictions'. If you start advertising 'we have iPlayer', what will be next; 'we have Google', 'we have Wikipedia? After a while you just start getting a channel lineup much like current cable/satellite which the ISP's would love; you just cache the daily version of your channels or propose to have certain media hosted in your own data centers and they won't have to pay for the upkeep of pipes that create the Internet anymore.

          For most

    • by smoker2 (750216) on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:19AM (#28305801) Homepage Journal
      BT Vision is Freeview TV, with a hard drive. The part that needs broadband is minimal. Here are a list of "Features" : [bt.com]
      • Pause rewind and record Live TV
        The Vision+ box is a digital TV recorder that lets you pause, record and rewind live TV.
      • 160 GB hard drive
        Record and store up to 80 hours of Freeview TV with the huge 160 GB hard drive.
      • # Dual tuners
        The Vision+ box's dual tuners can record one or two programmes at once while you watch another recording.
      • Record whole TV series
        The TV guide shows scheduling 14 days in advance. Simply press the R button twice to record a whole series.
      • HD Experience
        The HD Vision+ box gives you selected films and TV in crystal clear, High Definition picture and sound quality.
      • # Convenient billing
        Any pay per view movies, sport, music or TV shows you watch will be added to your next BT Vision bill. If you take one of our Value Packs, you will be billed in advance each month.

      Combined with bittorrent, I already have what they are offering. Except their speeds are derisory. I recently switched provider to Be [bethere.co.uk], and experienced a doubling in download bandwidth, and a trebling in upload bandwidth, for 25% less per month including a fixed IP. Plus BT claimed that "it was not possible to get faster speeds on my line". Funny that, considering you need a BT phone line to sign up with Be. But now I'm not with BT broadband, I can't get BT Vision. So there was no net neutrality in this case. All their stuff was prioritised already.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by moggie_xev (695282)

        I recently switched provider to Be [bethere.co.uk], and experienced a doubling in download bandwidth, and a trebling in upload bandwidth, for 25% less per month including a fixed IP. Plus BT claimed that "it was not possible to get faster speeds on my line". Funny that, considering you need a BT phone line to sign up with Be. But now I'm not with BT broadband, I can't get BT Vision. So there was no net neutrality in this case. All their stuff was prioritised already.

        I am just about to move house but I have used Be for the last two years. I have called them a couple of times with technical questions and they have always solved them quickly ( under 20 minutes ). Even canceling my service with them easy.
        I have 18Mbits/second down and 1.5Mbits/second up. They are a great service provider.

      • by kyz (225372) on Friday June 12, 2009 @07:53AM (#28306309) Homepage

        BT, the monopoly provider of telephone landlines in most of the UK, only have IPstream [wikipedia.org] in their exchanges, which has a maximum speed of 8Mbps. Most broadband providers, including BT Broadband, are merely reselling this 8Mbps access.

        Be, Virgin and TalkTalk took advantage of the OLO (other licensed operator) scheme that BT was forced by OFTEL/OFCOM to provide. They put their equipment in BT's exchanges. They can provide broadband speeds higher than 8Mbps.

        However, in order get access to those other providers inside BT's exchanges, you need a BT line, even if you never use the BT line. Sure, it sucks to be you, but what's the alternative? Other operators would be forced to build and operate all their own cables and exchanges, rather than rent a corner of BT's exchange, and given they don't have access rights to the land like BT does, there are many places they wouldn't be able to go.

        That's the tradeoff - you can get better-than-BT broadband almost anywhere in the country because you need a BT line.

    • by c0p0n (770852)

      Err I thought that the bandwidth was already paid for with my monthly bill... it's that or they shouldn't be selling 10 meg lines with "unlimited downloads" in the first place.

  • Non-issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon (987471) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:01AM (#28305457)
    This shouldn't be an issue at all; the BBC's ISP should be charging them a fortune for their high bandwidth use and then the squabble is between ISPs for peering costs. Also BT should be charging by the gigabyte instead of offering unrealistic "unlimited" packages that cause problems when people actually use their bandwidth.
    • Re:Non-issue (Score:4, Insightful)

      by noundi (1044080) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:38AM (#28305601)
      These motherfuckers make me see red. You pay for a service and you're not supposed to use it!? Burn down the entire fucking BT HQ, because this mafia behaviour is really, really getting on my fucking nerves.
      • Re:Non-issue (Score:4, Insightful)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:13AM (#28305757)
        I've often suggested trashing local exchanges. Then I realised that I'd just end up in jail.

        Boycott them financially instead. It makes more sense. Money is your weapon.
        • by noundi (1044080)

          Boycott them financially instead. It makes more sense. Money is your weapon.

          Try to tell that to a nation (= any nation) full of clueless idiots that don't understand the meaning of consumer.

          Still my statement was merely symbolic. I do agree that civilised behaviour is better. Though I'm more pissed off at the people than the mafia corps. Mindless fucking zombies walking around eating this kind of shit without ever even knowing what hit them. Serves them right for being so ignorant, but then again it affects those that aren't as such.

          • Try to tell that to a nation (= any nation) full of clueless idiots that don't understand the meaning of consumer.

            Ah but this will hit "the clueless idiots" where it hurts. If the other ISPs advertise that you can get BBC iPlayer with them but not with BT I imagine that there will be quite an effect.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by noundi (1044080)

              Ah but this will hit "the clueless idiots" where it hurts. If the other ISPs advertise that you can get BBC iPlayer with them but not with BT I imagine that there will be quite an effect.

              Very true. But by allowing BT to open this box of Pandora you never know what's next. This time it's iPlayer, what happens when you have to choose an ISP based on a package of 100+ services? How is such a zombie consumer supposed to know the "right" choice? We both know what happens. Whatever is more convenient will be the choice, mimicing what the Telecom industry has become and killing anything even related to net neutrality, shifting the power to control internet to the corps. Nobody gives a rats ass abo

    • Re:Non-issue (Score:4, Informative)

      by SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:16AM (#28305771) Homepage
      BT are already on the ball. From 4pm to midnight, iPlayer is unusable for me, rebuffers every 10 seconds. Other services such as Youtube and Vimeo suffer too.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Phydaux (1135819)

        I've noticed this recently too. I used to be able to watch BBC programs using the High Quality setting without problem, but like you say, sometimes at peak times I can wait 30mins for a 5min you-tube video to load, or a BBC iPlayer program is constantly buffering. And I pay for an "Unlimited" package.

        If I had a viable alternative to BT in my area I would switch already, but I'm in one of the many areas that BT still haven't done LLU on my local exchange so the only real competitors are companies I hate more

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          I've seen similar issues on Virgin Media. When watching iPlayer streams, the player frequently buffers and then complains that there is insufficient bandwidth. Looking at the network monitor, it's getting around 40KB/s average. Strangely, if I use iplayer-dl, I can grab the show at 1.1MB/s, which typically only takes about 2 minutes and then I can watch it without any problems. Oh, and the CPU load is much lower using QuickTime on the downloaded version than using the Flash thing. For about two weeks,
        • Re:Non-issue (Score:5, Informative)

          by DrogMan (708650) on Friday June 12, 2009 @08:00AM (#28306343) Homepage
          You have a viable alternative - or rather about 130 of them, so get clued-up, ask BT retail for a MAC and migrate to another provider who can provide you with the service you want.

          The BT Wholesale network is actually rather good. BT Retail is just one of 130 ISPs who use the BT wholesale network, and they're a particularly bad example.

          It's vitally important to not confuse the two, and do not let BT tell you otherwise. I have BT copper to my home/office, I pay BT the minimum amount a month for this copper, but my Internet access is through the BT wholesale network, via another ISP, not BT.

      • That may just be peak hours.
      • Re:Non-issue (Score:4, Informative)

        by ijakings (982830) on Friday June 12, 2009 @07:06AM (#28306069)
        Really? No problems for me on my LLU ISP. Maybe you should consider one of those instead. Most exchanges are LLU these days, unless it is you really have no excuse to still be with BT's overpriced and underserviced offering. One example of this, on my LLU ISP when it was first activated it was only at 1meg down 256 up, I should have been on their max offering with 2.2ish down and 768 up. Were I with a BT ISP this would have probably taken a fault report to BT to get them to fix their DSLAM, but with this ISP it was done in 5 mins, no hassle. It was a freephone number too. BT are a fail, if you continue to give them money (even on an ISP that uses their network) you are asking for trouble.
    • Re:Non-issue (Score:5, Informative)

      by JTL21 (190706) on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:54AM (#28306001) Homepage

      Erm, the BBC don't have an ISP. They produce enough traffic in the UK that they peer directly with most UK ISPs at LINX.

      BT's cost is only on its internal network, they won't be paying someone else for bandwidth.

      BTs customers are paying for a connection speed e.g. 2Mbit and they should be able to get that rate from the BBC if they want. BT needs to change its customer charging infrastructure not bitch and whine

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jaseuk (217780)

        Ah, you are missing the key point in UK broadband economics. The link between ADSL ISPs and the exchanges are charged for by BT OpenReach or Wholesale (can't remember which one off the top of my head).

        These "centrals" are extremely expensive, because this is how BT Openreach/Wholesale recoup the costs of the network of exchanges.

        Take a look at:

        http://www.ofcom.org.uk/telecoms/ioi/bbpricing/model.pdf [ofcom.org.uk]

        Rental of a 155Mbit backhaul was £347K annually, with a charge of £2.76 per averaged

    • Re:Non-issue (Score:4, Interesting)

      by arkhan_jg (618674) on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:55AM (#28306007)

      This shouldn't be an issue at all; the BBC's ISP should be charging them a fortune for their high bandwidth use and then the squabble is between ISPs for peering costs. Also BT should be charging by the gigabyte instead of offering unrealistic "unlimited" packages that cause problems when people actually use their bandwidth.

      Both of these already take place more or less; the BBC does pay an ungodly amount for bandwidth already.

      BT's packages also have a 40GB soft limit in their FUP - virtually no british home user ADSL ISPs offer a truly unlimited service any more, you need to get a business class ADSL account for £80-100 a month or so.

      BT also throttle video streaming down to 750Kb/s in peak periods on the standard packages, so users already have limited access to the higher quality streams on iplayer in the evening with BT, something a number of other ISPs have been using lately in their adverts.

      So not only are the BBC paying for their bandwidth, and users are paying through the nose for a pretty limited service, BT now want to double dip and charge twice for the same content, with the BBC picking up the bill instead of the customers.

      Must be good business when you're an ex-public service monopoly and still the largest ISP, and can get away with bullshit like this.

    • This shouldn't be an issue at all; the BBC's ISP should be charging them a fortune for their high bandwidth use and then the squabble is between ISPs for peering costs.

      Please, how can large companies afford to pay their CEOs obscene salaries if their busy charging each other instead of ass raping their customers?

      Providing service and value for payment is so last century.

    • Re:Non-issue (Score:4, Interesting)

      by clare-ents (153285) on Friday June 12, 2009 @07:36AM (#28306233) Homepage

      The BBC are peered with every UK ISP. If you don't peer with the BBC you don't get any content at all. The BBC doesn't pay for bandwidth at all.

      Historically the ISPs have concluded that in the UK your broadband should come with access to the BBC.

      It's essentially going to be a peering spat, BT may pull peering from the BBC and try to get the BBC to pay. The BBC will cut off access to all streaming services if they do it. BTs customers will flee.

      If the BBC are really nasty, I bet they could get a superb deal for streaming from Sprint who transit BT and nail BT for a huge transit bill for delivering the content.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:03AM (#28305471)

    So video over IP is wasting BT's bandwidth eh? How about increasing the bandwidth instead of reducing the share of it subscribers are allowed to get? This is typical greedy telco mentality: let's milk the existing infrastructure for all it's worth, instead of investing in said infrastructure. Heck, if Japan or Korea ISPs can provide very high bandwidth residential internet to their customers, why couldn't the UK? This is called investing in the future, and it's what we need in times of economic crisis.

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:48AM (#28305641) Homepage

      Look, I'm going to type this really slowly so that you understand.

      The choice quotes in this article are slighly misleading. The issue isn't the "cost" to BT of carrying the bits. That's as close to nil as makes no difference. The issue for BT is that they are running out of capacity to carry those bits, and will have to upgrade their infrastructure, as you note.

      Heck, if Japan or Korea ISPs can provide very high bandwidth residential internet to their customers, why couldn't the UK?

      Who. Pays. For. It?

      Who pays the wages of the guys digging the holes? Who pays for the fiber that goes in them, and the switches and routers?

      That's all BT are arguing over: whether they have to increase the cost to consumers directly, or whether they can tax the producers (who will then have to tax the consumers through the 'television' license fee).

      The only issue here is who's going to look like the bad guys for making the populace pay for upgrading BT's infrastructure. BT would prefer that the BBC do the squeezing, that's all.

      • by slim (1652) <john AT hartnup DOT net> on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:10AM (#28305737) Homepage

        The only issue here is who's going to look like the bad guys for making the populace pay for upgrading BT's infrastructure. BT would prefer that the BBC do the squeezing, that's all.

        This is exactly right, but it's pretty evident that the BBC shouldn't be paying for general-purpose bandwidth. Just because iPlayer's the driver right now, doesn't mean all kinds of other services that rely on high bandwidth will benefit.

        If it's to be subsidised (for which there is a case - having consumers with good connectivity stimulates the online economy) it should be from some other form of taxation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by smallfries (601545)

        That's a really generic argument, so I'm guessing that you are not from the uk. Correct me if I'm wrong.

        BT have already squeezed the money out for their upgrade. After the Century-21 roll-out they have enough fibre in place to handle video traffic. After getting to maintain their monopoly for a few years beyond when they should have because DSL didn't fit into the legal view for breaking their monopoly on POTS - they got to rape the entire UK internet industry for bandwidth charges.

        They have already collect

        • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

          You're confusing BT Openreach - who own the 21cn infrastructure, and have plenty of bandwidth, with BT Broadband, a 2 bit ISP who can't be arsed to pay for any of that bandwidth to actually serve customers.

          It's BT Broadband who are trying to get cash out of the BBC.

      • by Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) on Friday June 12, 2009 @07:11AM (#28306091)
        As noted elsewhere, that's OpenReaches problem. But even if it was BT Broadbands problem, surely the answer would be to charge an appropriate price per MB/GB/whatever? I mean, really, it's fairly simple business issue -- you need to make enough money to cover your costs!

        Dodgy analogy: If Tesco were selling soooo many packets of Corn Flakes that they were running out of space in their warehouses, then using the BT-School-of-Business route, they'd want to charge the customer the same for the Corn Flakes and *also* charge Kelogs for the privileged of Tesco selling them! Whereas obviously, they need to make enough money by selling products to invest in building the infrastructure to deliver it all.

        Actually... I don't normally resort to expletives, but what sort of a fucking prick is John Petter? I mean seriously, either he's a clown with no business nouse at all (has he though of a career in banking?), or he *does* know exactly what he's doing and he's trying to take the public for a ride.

        I'm sick an tired of these cunts -- we need to have a cull!! :D
        • by rapiddescent (572442) on Friday June 12, 2009 @09:53AM (#28307433)
          sorry for ruining the dodgy analogy, but in the UK FMCG market (fast moving consumer goods), brands do pay the supermarkets for premium shelf space - and they will pay varying amounts depending on whether the goods are at eyeline etc. the problem with brand push economics is that it is not transparent to the public and will end up in some sort of sleazy monopolistic situation where some providers are being given preferential treatment over others no matter what is being paid.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xest (935314)

        I don't think anyone misses your point that someone has to pay for it. The problem is that we are paying for it and BT still aren't investing.

        The issue is that countries like Japan, South Korea, Sweden have much heavier internet users due to IPTV, VOIP and that sort of thing being more common place couple with piracy being even more prolific over there and yet still manage to provide faster connections at a lower price and hence a lower profit margin.

        BT has the money to do this but due to having an effectiv

  • WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AccUser (191555) <mhg&taose,co,uk> on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:04AM (#28305475) Homepage

    Let me get this straight... the BBC pays for their internet connection, and they will have to pay a tariff appropriate to the bandwidth that they use in providing these services, which covers iPlayer video being delivered from their servers. As a consumer, I pay for my internet connection, and pay a tariff appropriate to the bandwidth that I use in consuming services, included iPlayer video that I download and stream. So if both ends are paid for, what is the problem?

    It sounds to me like BT has suddenly realised that they have oversold their services on the basis that not everyone uses their internet connection at the same time. This is a classic telecommunications model. Except that, unlike the telephone, our internet access is largely un-metered (flat-rate charge), and we can use it even when we are not physically present.

    • You're spot-on about the bandwidth stuff, but why do you still have a metered landline phone? Mine has been unmetered for about 5 years, first with Virgin, now BT.

      • by AccUser (191555)

        We actually pay a flat rate charge for most calls, but some are charged additionally. Mostly, people call us though. ;-)

      • BT is NOT unmetered. I got kicked off BT for "excessive use" a couple of years back. They considered it wrong to be connected for long periods of time and using software to redial when they dropped it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Unmetered is not quite the same as unlimited. IIRC the terms of both phone contracts limit call durations to an hour, but (with BT's at least) you are allowed to call them back again immediately. It's designed for voice use - might even say this somewhere - not computer connections.

  • Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:13AM (#28305505) Homepage

    BBC shouldn't give a penny to BT. They should cut them off.

    From the perspective of BTs dumb mass audience, who chose BT because it bundled the prettiest ADSL modem, the word will quickly spread that BT is pants because your can't get "teh TVs".
    Problem solved.

    • Re:Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Keeper Of Keys (928206) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:38AM (#28305599) Homepage

      Nice idea, but the BBC is a public service and would probably be violating parts of its charter by doing this.

      • Well then the other option is to do nothing.
        If BT nerf the iplayer, inject phorm ads, or charge a surcharge to customers, the result will be -> "BT is pants"

        Apart from carphone warehouse or AOL (if they are still even in the ADSL market), anything is a better choice than BT

      • Re:Solution (Score:4, Interesting)

        by arkhan_jg (618674) on Friday June 12, 2009 @08:33AM (#28306571)

        As the iplayer is not currently covered by the licence fee (i.e. you don't need a TV licence just to watch the iplayer if you have no TV) they should be ok to not provide iplayer service to everyone, such as BT customers - after all, many people can't get a fast enough connection, or even any connection to watch what limited selection of content is available via iplayer at the moment.

        But don't cut BT users off from the BBC; redirect them to a page saying 'due to BT not wishing to let you visit us without being paid extra, we've had to stop BT customers like yourself watching TV via the iplayer service for free. You may wish to find an ISP that includes iplayer access as part of their broadband packages.'

        The cherry would be including links and switching instructions, but I suspect that would be seen as commercial advertising, which is against the charter.

      • While it may be a public service, the internet side of things generally are not, its considered value added services. All the BBC needs to do is find another service provider for the data side of things. My guess is that if they did switch, and BT decided to filter BBC traffic, BT's customers that really want BBC, will jump to another provider very quickly.

        • So all the BBC has to do is call their troll and refuse to pay. Is BT really going to risk their customers jumping ship by blocking iPlayer?

    • Re:Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Trahloc (842734) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:53AM (#28305667) Homepage

      Why should the BBC cut them off? If BT doesn't want their users accessing the video content THEY should block it. Once their clients realize that they can't get what their paying for over BT it will quickly lose its status as 'largest'. Market forces are at work and BT is plugging its ears and going nya nya nya nya, let them go the way of the Dodo.

      • Well, I guess that depends on whether or not customers can find another ISP...

        Personally I'd like to see regulation from EU... :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tony Hoyle (11698)

          What? There are only, like 100 of the damned things.

          This isn't like the US where the ISPs have carved out local monopolies.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by pbhj (607776)

            What? There are only, like 100 of the damned things.

            This isn't like the US where the ISPs have carved out local monopolies.

            BT operates at several different levels. They sell bandwidth to the 100 odd ISPs that operate in your exchanges because they control the actual physical infrastructure. If BT can get away with it (probably) then they can increase the charge to the ISPs for their customers accessing iPlayer. Whereas what they should be doing is charging a cost for bandwidth regardless of its use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kieran (20691)

      Speaking as an ISP senior network engineer for over a decade:

      Yes. BT can get stuffed, and any other provider who violates net neutrality will see me vote with my feet.

    • Every ADSL subscriber in the country goes through BT some point. I suspect that BT wholesale is providing the BBCs net connection directly.
  • Competition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonbryce (703250) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:14AM (#28305511) Homepage

    When people sign up for broadband, one of the main things they want it for in this country is iPlayer. If iPlayer doesn't work well on BT Internet, they will go to another ISP where it does work. That will be a selling point for their competitors. For that reason, BBC can tell them to get lost.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      Remind me, which other UK ISPs don't use BT's backbone?

      The only real choice is which intartubes wire you get your bits from: the copper going to the local BT exchange, or the copper going to the local Virgin Cable hub.

      Given that Virgin Cable provide iPlayer through their TV Watch Again service, if BT squeeze iPlayer too hard, then it'll be Virgin that benefits, and nobody else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rich_r (655226)
        BT Internet are a separate division to the organisation that owns the physical backbone. In theory, BT internet buy their wholesale access in exactly the same way as any other ADSL provider.
        So if BT internet play silly buggers with iPlayer you can migrate and you will see a difference, provided that the problem lies with the isp and the amount of money they're prepared to spend on their backhaul and pipe. If the problem is that if the BT Wholesale network can't cope, then that's a different kettle of fish!
      • by Snaller (147050)

        "Remind me, which other UK ISPs don't use BT's backbone? "

        Remind us where it matters?

        Its a numbers game, if people go to someone else they pay someone else - that that money may end up with BT is not really relevant.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        As others have pointed out, this is BT Broadband, not BT Openreach, so your question isn't relevant. That said, Virgin Media doesn't use BT's network at all and they have coverage for about 60% of the UK population (figures from a couple of years ago, may be more now). An increasing amount of Internet access is via cellular networks; both T-Mobile and Three have products with 15GB monthly caps - enough for a few iPlayer programs - at quite attractive prices, and these are likely to go down more as the HSP
  • That's the way BT is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aceticon (140883) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:24AM (#28305535)

    Don't forget that BT is the incumbent telecoms operator in the UK - they were originally a state owned monopoly and got most of their infrastructure in place using taxpayers' money.

    These are the same guys that were holding back broadband in the UK a couple of years (all the while broadband adoption in the rest of Europe was taking of like crazy) ago until laws were passed forcing them to allow other ISPs to use their lines. Even now, they will still make it extra hard to use ISPs other than themselves.

    They currently censor their customers connection using the list from the Internet Watch Foundation (a state controlled quango) - the same guys that were blocking Wikipedia some months ago - and will voluntarily give contact data for an IP address to any "content owner" who asks for it.

    These guys are not the good guys and they haven't been so for many years now.

    • by Jellybob (597204) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:47AM (#28305639) Journal

      I feel I need to put some of that in perspective - BT aren't saints, but they're not as bad as you're making out. This is from experience working for a UK ISP (not BT, one of the other ones).

      These are the same guys that were holding back broadband in the UK a couple of years (all the while broadband adoption in the rest of Europe was taking of like crazy) ago until laws were passed forcing them to allow other ISPs to use their lines. Even now, they will still make it extra hard to use ISPs other than themselves.

      That was indeed the case, but is not nearly as bad now. BT Broadband (the ISP), and BT OpenReach (the infrastructure operator) are required by law to be separate entities, and can not give each other preferential treatment. In my experience that's also the case, with it being no more hassle to get a line setup regardless of who you're subscribing to.

      They currently censor their customers connection using the list from the Internet Watch Foundation (a state controlled quango) - the same guys that were blocking Wikipedia some months ago

      So does every other major ISP in the country. There's an agreement in place since the government essentially said "do this voluntarily, on your terms, or we'll make it a legal requirement". Believe me, the terms written up by a bunch of network engineers are far better - the original request included logging anyone who hit something on the list, which was thrown out early on due to the possibility of false positives.

      and will voluntarily give contact data for an IP address to any "content owner" who asks for it.

      I'll concede that. It's a terrible move to screw over your own customers like that.

      These guys are not the good guys and they haven't been so for many years now.

      Of course they aren't, they're a large company. Large companies are never the good guys.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There's an agreement in place since the government essentially said "do this voluntarily, on your terms, or we'll make it a legal requirement". Believe me, the terms written up by a bunch of network engineers are far better - the original request included logging anyone who hit something on the list, which was thrown out early on due to the possibility of false positives.

        You, Sir, are a useful idiot, and you fail to understand even the basic principles of negotiation.

        (1) Any negotiation must start with the skilled party requesting far more than he expects to get. The concessions merely amount to reducing the agreed terms to what that party was hoping for. In this case, "logging everyone who hits one site on the IWF list" was not going to happen anyway - but if you ask for it, your opponent will rejoice when that term is conceded, while the government can be content that wha

      • So does every other major ISP in the country.

        Which does in no way somehow make it ok.
        It's like saying "We follow Hitler, because they are all doing it!". (Godwin can kiss my ass on his bogus rule. ^^)

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:24AM (#28305537)
    "We oversold and can't cope with the costs. Subsidise us."

    Well, fuck you BT. You made your bed; Lie in it.
  • by shin0r (208259) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:27AM (#28305547) Homepage

    When you charge pennies for a service - the big UK ISPs have been on a race to zero for years now - you'll come unstuck when people actually want to use the service. Duh. Whatever happened to charging a fair price, and then delivering a fair service? It's not rocket science.

  • by vxvxvxvx (745287) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:27AM (#28305549)

    If all these ISPs realized advertising unlimited internet use would sell people on the idea they could use unlimited internet use maybe they should have built their infrastructure to handle it, or not market it as such. If they have anyone to whine to, it's themselves and their own short sightedness.

  • by OneSmartFellow (716217) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:28AM (#28305555)
    ..BT (not for them, mind you, just with them on technical projects), all I can say is that if BT (and OpenReach) would spend more on their hardware and infrastructure and less on their asinine marketing and the outsourcing of their customer support (which is a hugely inefficient operation), and all the other stupid crap that they spend money on, this would be a none-issue.

    Hey, BT, you still have a freaking monopoly, despite the creation of OpenReach. If you can't make money with a monopoly, you deserve to go under.
  • Wrong Approach (Score:5, Informative)

    by lobiusmoop (305328) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:35AM (#28305585) Homepage

    Here's an independent UK ISP ratings site [dslzoneuk.net]. BT is third-from-bottom for a reason.
      All the top ISP's on the list implement download quotas instead of throttling and port blocking to manage traffic, it is the fairest solution to load management IMHO.

    • BT also have download quotas, they're just too stupid to set them appropriately.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Many of the ISPs on the list resell BT's service... BT charges ridiculous amounts for the backhaul from the local exchange to the ISP... Actual Internet transit is much cheaper (from the ISP upwards) and peering with other UK based organisations is very cheap or free... For example, the BBC will peer with you for free because it saves transit costs for both of you.

    • They could just start selling only what they can provide, instead of selling what they haven't got.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by owlnation (858981)
      I have to say I'm astonished that BT is third from the bottom. I would have expected it to be bottom. I had to help a friend recently, who had made the mistake of signing up to BT, with some bandwidth problems (other than the standard throttling from 5-midnight).

      BT operates a slave plantation in India for customer support. They are the singular worst customer support I have ever encountered. They tell you absolutely anything you want to hear, lying in the process. A engineer needed to come and check the
      • Last time I tried to work with Verizon's tech support for someone, they had me reset the DSL modem - and hung up on me without providing the default UN/PW or the settings. I had to call back twice & ended up going through 4 drones & 2 supervisors before finding someone who understood that you had to MANUALLY ENTER the data if you don't have Windows - and they didn't know how to do the manual configuration.
  • It seems obvious to me that any ISP (including BT) should pass these bandwidth costs on to the consumer.

    One of several things will happen:

    • Consumers decide streaming video isn't that important to them after all, and buy a cheaper service. The market has spoken.
    • Consumers grumble a bit, but end up paying for what they're using
    • Competitors step in with a cheaper way of providing the bandwidth consumers want
    • by IBBoard (1128019)

      You missed an option:

        * People will grumble because all prices (including the lowest packages) go up, the UK Government will decide that it doesn't meet their "everyone must have broadband" requirement and legislate to make BT upgrade the infrastructure to something closer to what Japan has

      Or is that overly optimistic for any government we might get in the UK (Labour or Conservatives)? :D

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xest (935314)

      The issue in the UK is that they do pass it on to consumers already but that that extra cash that should be for infrastructure is just pocketed as extra profit instead by either the ISP or BT.

      British users are already not as heavy bandwidth users as in other countries that pay less for a faster connection with more bandwidth. As BT have a monopoly they can get away with this as there is no true nationwide competition threat to cause them any harm when they do do this.

      BT paid for an infrastructure upgrade al

  • by OdinOdin_ (266277) on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:06AM (#28305721)

    BT is the principal landline telecommunications supplier in the UK. Most of their income is generated from being a wholesale infrastructure supplier, so I don't understand why there is a "bandwidth delivery problem". Since BT must have the cheapest cost of getting bandwidth from one location in the UK to their customer base. BT can well afford to put multiple 10GbE into LINX and/or BBC directly and connect 1GbE into every local exchange/Point-of-Presence.

    So the question has to be asked, what specific thing is it that stops these things from taking place ? Could is be that upgrading equipment at both ends of a fiber optic medium might increase bandwidth by 10 fold but decrease the comodity value of that same bandwidth by 8 fold. Which also has the effect of decreasing the comodity value of all other bandwidth products a telco has for sale. Net result is less profit.

    BT inherited their network from the government when it was the "GPO", maybe it is time for the GPO to come back so that the monopoly position BT has is rebalanced against the technological improvements of the past 10 years that a state owned entity could push forward. Some people in the UK don't like privatisation and other people don't like nationalisation, but I say we should have both (at least 2 companies) and let the customer spend their money with the company who best serves their interests.

    It is my understanding that when you are a content supplier, people pay you to get connected to you, since you have the content that your "consumers" are paying you to get to. Within reasons the cost of bandwidth is free to the BBC (over and above some ~£million costs to setup, own and manage). Internet bandwidth at neutral exchanges must look pretty cheap compared to satellite video bandwidth needed for a world leading TV, radio, news and media organisation. The money for connectivity flows in that direction, consumer to producer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ilikejam (762039)
      As far as I'm aware, it's BT OpenReach that owns all the infrastructure. BT domestic have to buy their bandwidth from them.
  • BT, Britain's biggest broadband supplier, has thoughtfully averted complete congestion of the Internet by throttling all use of the Internet [today.com] on its cheapest broadband package, blaming the BBC iPlayer, everyone else on the Internet and magical pixies.

    Customers on the I Can't Believe It's Eight Megabits package have all Internet data flow cut off entirely under its "fair use" clause during "peak periods," defined as being between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 11:59pm. "However," said a customer service telephone voice menu, "the connection itself runs at the full eight megabits the entire time. That we guarantee absolutely."

    BT has recently sold the technology to China, where it was put into operation today, blocking Twitter, Blogger, Microsoft Bob Hope and the live webcam of the coffee pot at Cambridge University. "We will not put up with the drop in productivity social networking sites cause," said a spokesrivercrab. "After the terrible onslaught of blue screens at the Olympics, we will stop at nothing to protect patriotic citizens from the influence of Microsoft. And they love us for it. Just find one who doesn't!"

    "Besides," said the BT phone menu, "we're still better than Virgin. A high bar to aim for, I know. But you get such better fail whales over a phone line than a cable."

  • by Some Bitch (645438) on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:17AM (#28305785)

    BT have a Heavy User package (£20.54pcm) that contains the following as part of it's description...

    Downloading 3,333 music files, 26 videos or streaming 40 hours of iPlayer every month

    If you can't afford to provide it then don't advertise it, fuckwits. Manage your customer's expectations properly and stop making promises you can't keep, it's a much more sustainable business model.

  • Wait, hold on - BT were short-sighted enough to bypass laying down a high-bandwidth system through the UK while there was time, and now people are raping their servers because of their own short-sightedness, they want someone ELSE to pay for the mistake?
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Friday June 12, 2009 @07:36AM (#28306229)

    Iplayer actually could have helped: by actually using Bittorrent instead of their own invented Bittorrent-like protocol, and spreading the load, it could have cut the piracy bandwidth load of people downloading BBC television shows. But their business choices completely ruined the possibility.

    1: They chose Windows Media Player to provide their desired DRM, which meant they had to go and stream it anyway for Linux and Mac users.
    2: Their interface sucks so badly no one in the UK wants to use it. (At least not the sys-admin there I've discussed it with.) No one cares whether the episode of a child's program you want to see showed at which timeslot, you shouldn't have to scroll through all the times to pick the 6:30 AM or the 10:25 AM or the 2:30 re-run, just name the show and let people grab it.
    3: Even when turned off, Iplayer quietly sucks your bandwidth for its Bittorrent like protocol without telling you. So it interferes with your other usage, and companies have to tell their own staff not to run it on their laptops or VPN connected machines, etc.

    • I only use the online iPlayer web applet. I don't need to download their content to my PC to view later... I'm at my PC now and can watch it now.

      If it serupticiously steals (deprive of an asset or service without owners consent) my bandwidth to fund their network, they'll be getting an invoice from me.
      • Right: that's the one they had to create because they violated their charter by being Windows only for the original, Bittorrent-like design, the one that sucked so badly.

        However, I'm sure the "we will suck your bandwidth like a very, very large tick on your carotid" clause is way, way down about paragraph 37 of the end user agreement for the "download" version of Iplayer.

        • It's actually in Section 2 of Akamai's Privacy Statement [akamai.com]

          "Akamai speeds the delivery of content and applications for customers through using automatic, intermediate, and temporary information storage to make the onward transmission of that information to other recipients more efficient."

          It also seems that the BBC cover themselves with iPlayer Terms and Conditions [bbc.co.uk] Section 12(2):

          [You agree] that you are responsible for paying all expenses that you may incur in connection with your access to and use of BBC iPlayer including your internet service provider charges and any excess charges to that provider if you have a cap on downloads and/or uploads and all costs of the equipment and software you need to connect to and use BBC iPlayer. BBC is not responsible if your equipment or software is not compatible with BBC iPlayer[.]

          They would see this as part of the service, so I guess unless it's tested in court we'll just have to live with it.

          Martyr, anyone?

        • by jdowland (764773)

          There's a good article in Wired UK ish 1 (online at http://www.wired.co.uk/wired-magazine/archive/2009/04/features/the-man-who-saved-the-bbc.aspx [wired.co.uk]) which covers some of the internal culture change that happened around when the iPlayer got revamped and lost its windows-only roots.

    • Absolute nonsense. Bittorrent uses more total bandwidth than HTTP (by a large margin). Bittorrent is not topology-aware, so it uses the network inefficiently. HTTP with edge-caching (what iPlayer uses) uses an order of magnitude or more less total network bandwidth than Bittorrent.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      they arent using WMP anymore - they're using Adobe Air to deliver the downloadable streams.
      its also not p2p anymore

  • by Archtech (159117) on Friday June 12, 2009 @07:38AM (#28306241)

    Unfortunately we have different communication technologies overlapping here, each with its traditional pricing structure. They don't fit.

    The Internet has always been free to the end-user, thanks to the generosity (and perhaps intelligent self-interest) of parties like the US federal government, owners of the many servers that forward packets to us all, and - let's not forget - even telcos. Where I live, in southern England, I can buy ISP service for about $20/month upwards. That gets me continuous Internet access using ADSL, over a telephone wire designed for speech only, with a maximum bandwidth of about 2Mbps (because I live 3 miles from the exchange). On a good day I might get 2.8 Mbps, on a bad day (and perhaps due to contention) down around 1.5 or even less.

    Now this is perfectly adequate for almost everything I want to do. I use email (and have since 1980); download with ftp; browse the Web; and other such traditional activities. The only time I bump my head on the ceiling is when I have to download a really big file, or (occasionally) watch some streaming video that I can't download in its entirety first.

    Where it breaks down completely, of course, is if I want to download (or worse stream) movies, watch live sporting events in full glorious technicolour on a large screen without graininess or intermittent motion; or watch TV. That's because the Internet was never intended for those activities, most of which are better adapted to the plain ol' steam TV set (complemented by a video player, DVD player, etc.) Why on earth would thousands (potentially millions) of individuals download high-bandwidth material over separate, contending, low-bandwidth links, when much of that same material is freely broadcast through the air they breathe? It doesn't make very good engineering sense. More to the point, it doesn't make good economic or business sense. Movies, TV, sport, music and other live entertainment have traditionally been things you had to pay for - whether by buying a ticket, subscribing, or just watching tedious commercials.

    AFAIAC, the really important aspect of this whole thing is that the Internet itself should remain free - as in speech and as in beer (apart from content-neutral ISP fees). Unfortunately, there are pople like this http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=19552&tag=nl.e539 [zdnet.com] who reckon otherwise. We have got to make sure they don't get their way.

    • by Ken D (100098)

      Why on earth would thousands (potentially millions) of individuals download high-bandwidth material over separate, contending, low-bandwidth links, when much of that same material is freely broadcast through the air they breathe? It doesn't make very good engineering sense. More to the point, it doesn't make good economic or business sense.

      Right, and this whole switch to DTV was a lark. Broadcasting through the air makes no sense at all. Not when there's no longer 3 channels with 30% of TV watchers watching each. Or didn't you notice that the switch to DTV involved moving broadcasts to a crappy piece of spectrum? The old spectrum was too valuable to waste on TV.

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