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BT wants BBC to pay for iPlayer

The ISP has admitted limiting iPlayer download speeds for some of its customers, and says content owners should not expect a 'free ride'
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Internet service provider BT has admitted to throttling provision of the BBC iPlayer, and has called for content providers to shoulder some of the costs of content provision.

Last week the BT was accused of limiting download speeds for iPlayer, the BBC video content player. On Thursday a BT spokesman admitted to ZDNet UK that it had been throttling the iPlayer and other video-streaming content on its basic customer package.

"We throttle video traffic to 896Kbps for our Option 1 customers, between 5pm and midnight," said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson added that content publishers such as the BBC should not get a "free ride", especially in the light of a government report expected to recommend broadband for all UK citizens, due next Tuesday.

"Next week Lord Carter will present the Digital Britain report," said the spokeperson. "What everyone wants is high speeds, low prices, 2Mb connections. We don't think it's realistic for content owners like the BBC and others to continue to get a free ride."

The spokesperson said the burden of cost for high-bandwidth connections should be shared between content producers and providers. The spokesperson was unaware of whether BT had approached Google, the internet giant that owns YouTube. ZDNet UK understands that YouTube accounts for 30 percent of broadband traffic at peak times.

"Traffic is growing," said the spokesperson. "The idea that ISPs will continue to pick up the bill is unsustainable. We want to work this out with the BBC and other content owners to come to some real-world compromise."

The spokesperson said that BT could not pass the costs onto customers, as that would make the business uncompetitive.

"Prices are heavily constricted by competition," said the spokesperson. "Part of Digital Britain is low prices so people aren't locked out. That BT would not charge a lot more for broadband is dictated by the realities of the market."

All ISPs are not in the same market situation, the spokesperson added.

The BBC said in a statement that the amount of bandwidth iPlayer consumed was a "small percentage" of the UK total.

"Despite its popularity, the BBC iPlayer is just one of the many services on the open internet and only makes up a small percentage of total internet traffic in the UK," said the statement.

During peak hours, iPlayer pushes out 12GB of data every second, and seven petabytes (PB) of data per month. BBC iPlayer total broadband usage is approximately seven percent. However, the BBC already pays content-delivery networks (CDNs) a small amount of money to put its content online, ZDNet UK understands.

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