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BBC proposes ISP 'broadband charter'

With an increase in bandwidth-draining online video content, the BBC has called on ISPs to make it clearer to users what level of service they are paying for
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor

BBC technology chief Ashley Highfield has hit back at ISPs who want online organisations to pay extra for distributing bandwidth-draining video and multimedia content.

, Highfield, the corporation's director of future media and technology, said: "I would not suggest that ISPs start to try and charge content providers. They are already charging their customers for broadband to receive any content they want."

Highfield said doing so would mean users wouldn't know which content works well through their chosen ISP or which content is throttled due to non-payment by content providers.

Last year, Tiscali suggested content providers should pay for the upgrade of broadband networks to support the growth in online content through services such as the BBC's iPlayer.

Other ISPs said they were less concerned, although Ofcom has admitted it could be an issue in the future.

Highfield claimed broadband usage has "changed beyond recognition" since the BBC iPlayer received its full launch on Christmas Day last year, contributing to a significant growth in people watching TV on the web.

"All on-demand TV boats are rising on the BBC iPlayer tide," Highfield said.

To cope with the changing demands posed by these new types of content, Highfield recommended a "broadband charter" to let users know what they're paying for.

This could include the term "unlimited broadband", meaning exactly that, and ISPs guaranteeing minimum bandwidth rather than maximum, allowing users to know the level of service they're actually receiving.

Content providers could also indicate which ISPs allow their content to be accessed most effectively, to limit the squeezing or shaping of content.

But Highfield added that he hopes it won't come to this, as ISPs and the BBC are currently working well together.

A more positive step from content providers could be to use a bookmarking system — something currently being looked at by the BBC — allowing programmes to be downloaded at non-peak times, ahead of broadcast, then unlocked after transmission, when users could access them.

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