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ATPM 14.09
September 2008


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by Mark Tennent,

Whose line is it anyway?

iGate took another turn for the worse recently, when the BBC announced it was moving streaming services from Akamai to Level 3 Communications. This latest skirmish is just another in the war between the BBC and Internet Service Suppliers.

Not content with threatening ISPs that the BBC would retaliate if customers’ access to streaming content was restricted, it is likely ISPs will be charged a lot more to stream re-runs of BBC shows. Internet suppliers are understandably miffed about the extra demands on their bandwidth that streaming TV makes. Some ISPs report a 200% increase in traffic due to the iPlayer. To be charged to provide something they gain nothing from is just another kick in the teeth.

This is because nearly all ISPs will have to pay to receive traffic from Level 3, unlike now where they get data from Akamai for virtually nothing. The actual figures are somewhere in the region of £5 per mbit compared with the current £0.50 from Akamai, according to one commentator on

Just a Minute

Presumably the BBC is switching suppliers so that the end user pays for the service rather than the BBC. As licence fee payers, we ought to be pleased, but not if it comes as an across-the-board increase in the price of Internet access. TV companies already have three or more other ways to transmit their programs: analogue and digital RF and cable feeds, satellite, as well as on DVDs.

Is there really any need to supply a scrunched-up, low-res version of last week’s Gardeners World when TV capture devices cost less than 50 quid? Not only that, but the iPlayer is also restricted to a few versions of a proprietary operating system even, though the BBC has been told to open the service for Mac and Linux users. The other channels aren’t under the same control, and simply ignore anything other than Internet Explorer, but at least they are charging for their downloads.

That means we all end up paying more in extra costs for our broadband service as ISPs buy increased bandwidth to enable streaming TV, then add a little more to our bills to cover Level 3’s charge so we can download TV shows whether we want to or not. With a tiny bit more to the BBC to cover their loss of revenue in licence fees, because no doubt online viewers won’t want to buy a TV licence even though they still need one.

As broadband speeds rise in the UK, it is inevitable that Internet users will download ever increasing amounts of data. TV channels adding to this when they already have their own dedicated delivery mediums is taking things too far if they expect us to pay for it as well.

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