UK ISPs send BBC warning about possible bandwidth hogging iPlayer

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bbc-iplayer-firstweek.jpgInternet Service Providers in the UK are warning the BBC that the widespread use of its iPlayer service may put too much strain on their networks, and consequently they could place restrictions on their users’ access to it.

Demand for the service certainly seems high, with over 120,000 people signing up to be beta testers in the first week alone.

Yet while it provides great additional exposure for a variety of the BBC’s TV programmes, leading ISPs including BT, Tiscali, and the Carphone Warehouse believe that its soaring popularity will eat heavily into their bandwidth.

“The internet was not set up with a view to distributing video. We have been improving our capacity, but the bandwidth we have is not infinite,” said Mary Turner, chief executive of Tiscali UK (who offer a large variety of streaming video material from their own web site). “If the iPlayer really takes off, consumers accessing the internet will get very slow service and will call their ISPs to complain.”

Some ISPs are suggesting that the BBC should foot some of the bill for improving and maintaining their networks.

Alternatively, those Internet users who wish to download video from services such as iPlayer, as well as offerings from Channel 4 and ITV may have to pay more for an uncapped service.

The trouble with this is that, according to recent reports, many consumers who pay more for a faster or unlimited service aren’t getting the service they expect. We’ve had plenty of complaints about Virgin Media’s broadband speed throttle as well.

Ultimately, the consumer will end up paying for this, either through a higher broadband subscription, or via the TV Licence Fee, or — probably — both.

Presumably, those who can’t use the iPlayer can apply for a discount — or just pick everything off Joox instead.

(Via FT.com (subscription required))

Andy Merrett