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BBC and ISPs Clash over iPlayer 350

Posted by Zonk
from the like-some-cheese-with-that-whine dept.
randomtimes writes "A row about who should pay for extra network costs incurred by the iPlayer has broken out between internet service providers (ISPs) and the BBC. ISPs say the on-demand TV service is putting strain on their networks, which need to be upgraded to cope. '"The iPlayer has come along and made downloading a legal and mass market activity," said Michael Phillips, from broadband comparison service broadbandchoices.co.uk. He said he believed ISPs were partly to blame for the bandwidth problems they now face. "They have priced themselves as cheaply as possible on the assumption that people were just going to use e-mail and do a bit of web surfing," he said. ISPs needed to stop using the term 'unlimited' to describe their services and make it clear that if people wanted to watch hours of downloaded video content they would have to pay a higher tariff, he added.'"
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BBC and ISPs Clash over iPlayer

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  • Amen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:15PM (#23014614) Journal
    That's exactly right. For years ISPs have been flagrantly misrepresenting their services, using words like "unlimited" and quoting download speeds that you might have a hope of getting within 10% of at 3am. They have been playing their customers for fools, but now that content providers are beginning to provide more and more of their productions, suddenly the ISPs are screaming at the content providers and the customers.

    I think that consumer protection laws need to be beefed up to protect consumers against the outrageous practices of ISPs.
    • Managing Free (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:28PM (#23014812) Homepage Journal
      I think that consumer protection laws need to be beefed up to protect consumers against the outrageous practices of ISPs.

      We're in this mess partly because the governments saw fit to grant monopolies to various companies who now behave like monopolies. Raise your hand if you're shocked. We should always be leery of patching bad government with more government, because it's probably going to turn out to be bad government, and then people will want to...

      But, yes, your're right, these guys are selling 'Free' stuff and 'free' doesn't exist [bfccomputing.com]. In a non-monopoly position you might assume the customers are fools, but when they have no choice, it could be either. Certainly it's hard to chasten the customer put into this position if he doesn't have choice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by xtracto (837672)
      Bah, FWIW ISPs in the UK are complete rubbish. Take for example Virgin, which bought Telewest, NTL and surely will buy all the other cable providers. When I was in NTL, the service was so-so, but now that Virgin took over, the idiots cap your speed after you download more than a very small amount (350MB IRC) in one hour.

      I am suscribed to the cheapest package (which costs £18 per month, none less) and can't imagine the anger of guys paying for the more expensive offers and then finding they can
      • but now that Virgin took over, the idiots cap your speed after you download more than a very small amount (350MB IRC) in one hour

        This is only in effect at 'peak times' which they define as 4pm-9pm. The size of the caps varies depending on your price plan, and is 300MB down or 150MB up for the cheapest, then 800MB/300MB and finally 3GB/1250MB for the most expensive. It's slightly irritating, but the worst part was how sneakily they introduced it. I was rate limited a few times in this way before discovering the cause. At the throttled speed, iPlayer is unusable.

    • "I think that consumer protection laws need to be beefed up to protect consumers against the outrageous practices of ISPs." Yes, there are calls in the UK for ISPs to be truthful about the REAL speeds that people can expect when they sign up for services. Contention ratios, caps, traffic management... Until we can get on top of all of this the net will grind to a stand still. Nevermind digital downloads, sometimes I can't even get on to Slashdot(!)
      • Re:Amen (Score:4, Funny)

        by vtscott (1089271) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:13PM (#23015392)
        Oh please, they already tell you all that you need to know. As soon as you sign up you'll get amazingly insane blindingly fast super speed boostingly high groin grabbingly good comcastesticular fiber optic digital marketing buzzword speeds!!! You'll be literally flying around the internet with service better than god himself could provide (literally). That's way better than any actual numbers an ISP could give you. Numbers are so easy to manipulate. Marketing speak though... That never lies.
    • Re:Amen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:42PM (#23015696) Homepage Journal
      I agree that it's dishonest to advertise a service as "unlimited" when it's not. Not only should they admit that they impose limits, they should be required to specify what the limits are.

      But let's be honest here. For years now, geeks have been pretending that bandwidth is an unlimited resource. We've had huge ranting flamefests on Slashdot whenever anybody suggests that you should pay a per-packet charge for your data, or that you be restricted for re-selling your packets. That's not the only reason ISPs have to pretend that they're selling unlimited flat-rate access, but it's a big one.

      Let's examine the choices here:
      • Keep the flat fee structure, and force ISPs to build up so they can actually support all the bandwidth people are trying to squeeze out of it. That's expensive, and would price access out of a lot of user's reach. It's also difficult to specify, since it's a moving target.

        And don't say, "they can just build up so that there's enough bandwidth in case everybody wants to use the system at once." No telecom network operates on that basis. If it were feasible, the landline phone system wouldn't crash every time there's a natural disaster and everybody runs to the phone to see if Aunt Bee is OK.

      • Require ISP to specify caps and fees for being allowed to exceed them. That's probably the most practical approach, and certainly one most users could live with. But as I said, geeks have always resisted this model.
      • Meter bandwidth and charge per-packet. Same problem.
      • Make content providers pay for the extra cost of serving their high-bandwidth applications. That's what the ISPs are pushing for, but it would destroy the "everybody's a publisher" model that's made the internet so popular.
      • Muddle along as we have been, with deliberately obfuscated usage rules that work OK for most people. Not my first choice, but probably what we'll end up doing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Require ISP to specify caps and fees for being allowed to exceed them. That's probably the most practical approach, and certainly one most users could live with. But as I said, geeks have always resisted this model.

        Maybe for American geeks, but Australian geeks have [ii.net] had [on.net] quota [peopletelecom.com.au] systems [aapt.com.au] for years and it works perfectly well. The last unlimited account I had was a dialup account in the early 2000's (iiNet Explorer), but even unlimited dialup is something of a rarity these days. There are a handful of providers offering unlimited downloads on low-speed ADSL connections (usually 256kbit), but the vast majority of ADSL plans give you a fixed amount of downloads per month at a fixed price. For home accounts, exceeding your

  • by Qwerpafw (315600) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:22PM (#23014718) Homepage
    If Net Neutrality laws were in place, the ISPs couldn't be "having discussions" over whether they can extort the BBC into paying them extra. Service providers would then be forced to market and sell their services honestly, because they couldn't get someone else to pay for the bandwidth they're selling.

    The BBC pays for upstream bandwidth. Consumers pay for downstream bandwidth. But ISPs don't actually have the bandwidth they're selling, so they want the BBC to pay as well for the bandwidth consumers already paid for. It's ridiculous.
    • by FudRucker (866063) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:35PM (#23014904)
      RE:["The [insert - any website] pays for upstream bandwidth. Consumers pay for downstream bandwidth. But ISPs don't actually have the bandwidth they're selling, so they want the BBC to pay as well for the bandwidth consumers already paid for. It's ridiculous."]

      that is exactly what is going on, it is extortion. i am not one for BIG government regulation but there needs to be oversight of some sort, because if not then both the websites that serve news and other content and the customers will be squeezed by the ISPs because they have the keys to the tubes...
      • by Amouth (879122)
        i fully agree and also don't want government regulation - they always screw things up.. but it is also their fault we are in the state we are in now..

        if you look at the problem - the obvious solution for content providers and users is to switch to a diffrent provider that doesn't do this. and i am sure 90% of the people here would agree and switch to a diffrent provider if they where honest and did the right thing and constintly built their network.

        but you can't switch.. the choices you have are slim and t
      • by POPE Mad Mitch (73632) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:08PM (#23015962) Homepage
        Ah this version of the story is missing the really juicy part that is mentioned in other related stories,

        And that is that the BBC effectively threatened to put out of buisness any ISP that dares to try to throttle its iPlayer service by 'naming and shaming' any that do, and suggesting that all other content providers do the same.

        I imagine that having trailers appear on bbc tv saying "and you can also watch this episode again via iPlayer (except on the following ISPs)" is going to be pretty damaging to business.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MrSteveSD (801820)
          Good. That's exactly what they should do. Virgin Media are quite aggressive in their throttling policy. I only have to download about 1 TV program from itunes before they throttle me down. All the ISPs need a good kick in the arse though.
    • by whoever57 (658626)

      The BBC pays for upstream bandwidth. Consumers pay for downstream bandwidth.
      I think you are missing that the iPlayer can work in a P2P mode, so the ISPs claim that the BBC does not pay its fair share (because it merely seeds the downloads). However, I would have thought that the iPlayer would be designed to attempt to download from near neighbors, which would cost each ISP much less.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I think you are missing that the iPlayer can work in a P2P mode, so the ISPs claim that the BBC does not pay its fair share (because it merely seeds the downloads).
        In this case, whoever's doing the uploading pays instead of the BBC. So the ISPs still get paid (unless they do something stupid, like sell unlimited flat-rate access).
      • by Danse (1026) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:04PM (#23015290)

        I think you are missing that the iPlayer can work in a P2P mode, so the ISPs claim that the BBC does not pay its fair share (because it merely seeds the downloads).
        If the BBC is paying for the data that it is uploading, then it is paying its fair share. The rest of the bandwidth use is customers uploading and downloading data with each other, which they also pay for via their ISP fees. If those fees don't cover the cost of the bandwidth, then that is the fault of the ISP, not the BBC. ISPs keep promising the world to their customers, only to complain when they actually try to make use of all that "unlimited" downloading speed the ISP told them they were getting.
      • by compro01 (777531)
        i would think it would already prioritize on nearest (in terms of latency) peers as that would be beneficial to transfer rates.
      • by PhilHibbs (4537)

        I would have thought that the iPlayer would be designed to attempt to download from near neighbors

        I don't know of any p2p systems that do this. It's theoretically possible but probably isn't worth the extra effort in practice. If p2p systems were much more widespread and you could therefore have a good chance of there being a piece of your file in your neighbourhood, then it might be, but I don't think that is the case at the moment. In any case, it's the last mile that's the problem so it doesn't matter wh

    • Indeed. An interesting mention is international mail, because you put US stamps on letters going to Paris, so how do the French get paid for their part of the route? slate did a good writeup on this last year [slate.com].

      I think the people interested in Net Neutrality need to use international mail as an example.
  • My first thought was that caching would be a solution.

    "There has been talk, for instance, of the BBC bringing their servers into the loop as a way of lowering the backhaul costs," he said.

    But Mr Gunter [from ISP Tiscali] said he was not convinced this would help.

    "I have heard that the BBC is working on building a caching infrastructure so that storage devices can go on an ISP's network but even if it goes ahead it doesn't save costs on the backhaul network," he said.

    The solution, brought to you courtesy of "Geoff Bennett, director of product marketing at optical equipment maker Infinera" is for ISPs to upgrade the 2nd mile.

    Does anyone other than the ISPs think that having content producers chip in is a good idea?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PhilHibbs (4537)
      I read about this a few weeks ago and the ISP guy said "We have excellent peering links with the BBC, so that end isn't the problem" or words to that effect. It's a "last mile" problem.
  • by nobodyman (90587) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:23PM (#23014746) Homepage
    I like this quote:

    ISPs needed to stop using the term 'unlimited' to describe their services and make it clear that if people wanted to watch hours of downloaded video content they would have to pay a higher tariff...
    Absolutely right. I've often wondered why we don't treat internet service like any other utility. If I use more water, I get a larger water bill. Same goes for electricity. Why don't we do the same thing for ISP's? A lot of people bristle at the idea of this, but I kindof like it. That way people that only use the internet for email and light web surfing are charged less than people who troll Youtube all day.
    • But then who foots the bill for various things like all the ads that get displayed? It's not as simple as a water bill because a shower head manufacturer can't suddenly turn your water usage up in order to promote a new product.

      Yeah, it's a bad example, but it's also a bad idea.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Skapare (16644)

        The site that has all the ads and big images and videos already pays their own provider to move all that content into the cloud. So each end (web site on one end, viewer on the other) are paying for their respective bandwidths. It's not right that one end should go over to the other customer and demand a double payment.

        The suggestion is that consumer grade accounts could be set up that charge by the megabyte actually downloaded. If you don't want to see all those images, turn images off in your browser,

      • by vtscott (1089271)
        Good point, users definitely wouldn't be happy to use their metered bandwidth to download ads embedded in webpages. On the other side of the coin though, think about what this might do to the spam/botnet problem. If a user's box got owned one month and started using up bandwidth like crazy spewing v1agr4 ads all over the internet they would probably want to fix the issue when they got their bill. To continue your analogy, imagine how many people would ignore leaky faucets if we paid for water by the mont
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        But then who foots the bill for various things like all the ads that get displayed?

        The people who waste bandwidth on them by not installing something like adblock.

    • by SwordsmanLuke (1083699) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:32PM (#23014864)

      people that only use the internet for email and light web surfing are charged less than people who troll Youtube all day.
      Exactly. This is probably why ISPs have not yet adopted a pay as you go approach. I used to work for a webhosting company and we oversold our service by about 80% (e.g. we only had 20% of the total advertised capacity) but that was okay, because 90% of our customers only used 5% of their purchased package (of course, the other 10% tried to use 150% and complained when their site went down after burning through their alloted bandwidth). If the ISP business is anything like it, they're making money like mad on the e-mail only crowd. They're not going to be happy about killing that golden goose, even if they get to charge the heavy users more.
      • As bad as it sounds, there's a way they can have both. They're already tracking the total bandwidth customers are using, why not have a base rate to charge people that only use the small amount of bandwidth for email and light browsing, and when people hit the caps thy set, give them the option to buy an additional block of bandwidth.

        It doesn't solve the problem to date of ISPs implying a service is unlimited when it's not, but it's not really meant to. At that point, everyone will know where they stand. Pe
        • by m.ducharme (1082683) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @03:01PM (#23015894)
          The really crazy thing is...this idea is implemented by my provider, and I for one think it works well. My (smallish) Canadian cable provider offers three or four packages, each with different bandwidth limits. The lowest offers 1mbps/320kbps, for about the same price as dial-up. The highest offers 5Mbps/640kbps (I know, not great, but the best we have). All packages have unlimited up/download volumes. Everything's spelled out nice and clearly on their website, no tricks, and they have in me a brand-loyal customer. Why can't other ISPs do this?
    • by ari_j (90255) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:33PM (#23014882)
      People like predictability. The amount of water you use is fairly constant over time. Same with electricity, fluctuating with the seasons. Also, both of those are fairly mandatory for continued life, so a little bit of uncertainty will not convince a consumer to forgo either one. Bandwidth and cell phone minutes are different - you can live without them and your usage is harder to predict and more likely to fluctuate on a monthly basis, so you will be less willing to just let them bill you for your usage and pay the bill each month.
    • Absolutely right. I've often wondered why we don't treat internet service like any other utility. If I use more water, I get a larger water bill. Same goes for electricity. Why don't we do the same thing for ISP's? A lot of people bristle at the idea of this, but I kindof like it. That way people that only use the internet for email and light web surfing are charged less than people who troll Youtube all day.

      The reason we shouldn't do the same thing for ISPs is because it's not in sync with the way their
      • The real costs for ISPs are not variable with use.
        Sure the are.

        They have a fixed cost to maintain the infrastructure, and capital investments to build new infrastructure. That's it, that's all.
        And those costs depend on how much and how expensive equipment they need, which depends on how much bandwidth they need to provide. Faster networks are more expensive.
        • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:36PM (#23015628) Journal
          Here's an illustration:

          I have a house. I rent it out.

          It doesn't matter if I rent it to someone with a family of 2, or a family of 5, it still costs me the same amount of annual maintenance, because I only have one house.

          It doesn't matter if you're never home, or never leave, it still costs me the same amount of annual maintenance.

          Line costs are like a house. You add up the capacity, you divide it by the amount of capacity you promise people, that's how many people you can support on your service. You divide your annual costs by that number, add a percentage for profit, and that is how you should price your services.

          Now, as far as adding capacity, that's like building another house. It lets you get more customers, it doesn't make your existing customers more expensive to service.

          The reason that the ISPs are having trouble is because their business model is based on fraud.

          The fact that this fraud is normalized to the point that people consider it business as usual doesn't change the fact that they were fraudulently selling capacity they didn't have to deliver.

          At the end of the day, they were renting the house out to several people at once, in the hopes that they would all be business travelers who are hardly ever home and there would always be an empty house when they needed it.

          Now, all those business travelers are retiring all at once, and the fraud is being revealed.

          This is the current ISPs business model. This is why they are throwing a fit.

          When you get right down to it, it shouldn't be the responsibility of the public to eat the cost of their line improvements. They've been making large profits on false pretenses, and it should be those profits that are used to build the lines and rectify the situation.

          • Lets examine this argument a little more. If everyone paid for the full bandwidth they get (say a 3Mbps connection), and the ISP had to dedicate this much bandwidth per user, the consumer would have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month for their connection. What are the going rates on a dedicated T1, I haven't looked at it lately, but it's not cheap by any means. Building up the infrastructure to fully satisfy the full demand of everyone is a bit ridiculous. The water utilities can't do that, the electric utilities can't do this, the telephone companies could never do this, etc. Imagine if we built roads to the specification that they had to carry the maximum possible number of vehicles in the area at once. We'd have 4 and 6 lane highways running through most every neighborhood. There's a reason that in events requiring an evacuation that roads crawl to a halt. The city and state oversubscribes them, and builds them to accept the average usage pattern, or more often they are built to accept the average peak usage. The same is true of ISPs. They don't build their network to hold the theoretical peak usage, but rather they build them to hold their average peak usage, or a little beyond that (monthly peak usage perhaps). The problem they are facing is that this average peak usage is increasing, however it isn't increasing anywhere near the point of the maximum theoretical peak usage possible.

            Forcing networks to support the theoretical peak usage is silly, just as sill as expanding all interstates to 10 lanes in each direction so that traffic can flow more smoothly during evacuations etc. The cost of such plans is just too high compared to the gains we'd have by it. In fact, the cost of not oversubscribing bandwidth would price internet access to the point where most people might have a dialup connection. If you keep up the comparison, imagine if we kept going on this peak theoretical usage, and said that this peak theoretical usage had to work anywhere. Well most internet traffic is fairly local (same city, state, country, etc). What if ISPs were required to have the same bandwidth between chicago and new york as they have between chicago and shanghai. If you consider these massive links, we just wouldn't have anywhere near enough bandwidth.

            Phil
    • by maillemaker (924053) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:01PM (#23015248)
      Home internet service is, for me, an entertainment service.

      I would /hate/ the idea of pay-as-you-go internet service, because I would /constantly/ be worried, every time I logged on, about how much money I was spending. Consequently, I would not use it at all.

      Internet access is flat-rate or nothing for me.
      • by tacokill (531275) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @05:30PM (#23017690)
        Back in the 80's and 90's, we already tried doing metered service. AOL, Compuserve, Genie, and other ISP's had hourly rates back in those days.

        It made their product a niche product and eventually ALL of those companies abandoned that billing scheme in favor of unlimited pricing. Guess what happened? The internet hit critical mass BECAUSE they changed to "unlimited" monthly plans.

        So now, in 2008, we are looking back into metered service? Good luck with that. My gut tells me "the people" will reject it. Just like they did back in the 80's and 90's. As soon as someone (Netzero) offered all you can eat for one price....the other competitors started bleeding customers. It will be the same this time around.

        People don't want to look over their shoulders or monitor their usage. They do it for cell phones because they have to (no other choice). Not true for ISP's.
    • by MaWeiTao (908546)
      I think the inherent problem with that is that ISPs will almost certainly heavily overcharge the user even worse than they do now.

      Doubtless they'd charge a flat rate, especially if they were to implement such a system now. People are used to being charged a flat rate so they aren't necessarily going to expect a change.

      On top of that rate they will then charge for usage. But instead of charging a reasonable amount per Mb, or whatever metric they choose, they'll extort the user on the level mobile service pro
    • by jez9999 (618189)
      I have to disagree with you and go in the opposite direction. I'd like to see all ISPs always offering you a dedicated link, with the ability to use anywhere up to 100% of it anywhere up to 100% of the time. I'd rather have a slower link than a horrible metered link where I have to constantly worry about how much I'm downloading.
    • by Jellybob (597204)
      The ISP I work for does do this - on the basic package you can download 10Gb of data a month, and if you go over that you'll be given the choice of buying some more, upgrading your package, or just not using the Internet for the rest of the month. You can also check how much of your quota you've used up so far, so if you don't want to pay extra, you just stop downloading episodes of Dr. Who when you're coming up on the limit.

      Personally I think that's a fair deal (although I do get my connection for free, so
  • by JamesRose (1062530) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:26PM (#23014792)
    "Stop letting people use the bandwith we sold them!"
    At the very least they look incompetant having so woefully underestimated the needs of their customers and over estimated their services.
    At the worst they look crinminal for misselling a service and now they're getting outted by these services that have outed them.

    If the users are over using their bandwith as given to them in their contracts then give them the surcharge or cut them off. The BBC has payed for their bandwith so there's no reason to get angry there. Frankly this has been an amazingly long time coming and we can only hope that people pick up and start class action suits for these shady business practices. Personally when I have my 8 meg connection which was sold to me via the internet on this BT page "BT UNLIMITED INTERNET UP 8Mb CONNECTION" and several times hearing them claim "Unlimited Downloads" I don't expect to record a graph of my conneciton speeds dropping during peak times to maybe 32KB/s, it's just not acceptable.

    When I phone my friends up during peak times I don't get to say fewer words per second, so why is my internet connection any different?
    • peak phone usage (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CustomDesigned (250089) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:01PM (#23015250) Homepage Journal
      You don't have to talk slower, but you *do* get "All circuits are busy, please try later." If QoS was implemented, then VoIP (and live video) connections would have a "guarantee bandwidth" tag that would block the connection until sufficient bandwidth was available, and then reserve the bandwidth for the remainder of the connection. Bittorrent connections would have an "as available" tag to minimize cost.

      Under an endpoint driven QoS scheme, if millions of consumers all try to watch the latest BBC special at once, most of them will get the "all connections busy" error. They can then wait (like with POTS), or just start up a bittorrent so that the show will be stored locally when they come back later.

      The key to ethical QoS schemes is that the endpoints should do the tagging, *not* the ISP. The ISP should just charge for the tagging. Currently, the ISP decides which kinds of traffic are "unacceptable" and throttles them. That is unacceptable. QoS can make the internet work at least as well as the POTS network.

    • "Stop letting people use the bandwith we sold them!"

      It's even worse than this! It's, "Make the BBC pay for the bandwith that we already sold to our customers."

      Which, of course, means, "Subsidize our cost across the entire population, regardless of whether they use our service, because it's their collective TV licence fees which pay for the BBC."

      Nice, isn't it? They missell a service, then charge THE ENTIRE COUNTRY for it, rather than just up the rates for their customers.

  • Why do the ISPs keep acting like victims? The fact of the matter is, they sold their service promising a certain level of speed. Now, when they can't consistently provide what they promised, they blame content providers and their users. It's their fault for over-selling.
  • Yeah, right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:33PM (#23014872)

    Let's see if I've got this right.

    Consumers upgrade to high-speed internet. They pay for it.

    When they actually start to use it, the ISPs start bitching about bandwidth and demanding more money.

    ...laura

    • by poetmatt (793785)
      It's the same concept as an insurance policy. Remember all those people in Katrina who had hurricane insurance and had to fight on collecting due to overselling? [law.com]

      Same idea. 100% marketing, 0% quality, 1% actual service.
    • by joe 155 (937621)
      indeed, but ISPs will lose out on this not matter what way this goes. If they change their prices to become more realistic then I'll just downgrade to 128k (instead of my supposedly 8MB) and probably end up paying less anyway. I think most people would probably do the same. So ISPs can lose a vast majority of their revenue and broadband customers or they can just swallow the damn bullet and provide the service they should have been doing for years and upgrade the system
      • by nevali (942731)
        Well, yes; they've had a free ride up until now by charging flat rates and paying for backhaul per-capacity. Until recently, they were paying less for the backhaul (because it mostly was just e-mail and Web stuff) than they were charging by some margin.

        "Great", they thought, "let's just keep doing this. No need to pressure BT to reduce backhaul prices or modify the charging structure."

        Meanwhile, everybody with any clue in the industry was predicting that video and P2P would be the next big thing.

        The ISPs de
      • A year or so ago, NTL (now Virgin Media) was talking about eliminating price differentiation based on speed and moving entirely to a cap-based system. Every customer would have got 10Mb/s, and you'd just have paid more for larger download limits. I wouldn't be surprised if they started doing this soon. Some other ISPs [ukfsn.org] already charge in this way (although not all of them use their profits to fund Free Software development).
  • by WombatDeath (681651) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:41PM (#23014976)
    Completely mental, even disregarding the obvious point that they're already getting paid at both ends for their fucking bandwidth.

    Imagine that you're selling product X. The lovely BBC comes with an application that encourages lots of people to use lots of X. Fantastic! Coke and hookers all round!

    Unless you've come up with some sort of freakish business model which relies on people paying for lots of X without actually using it. In which case, well, you're probably fucked.

    Good.
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@gmaCOWil.com minus herbivore> on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:42PM (#23014980) Journal
    What's the problem? 300 people connect to the BBC and stream Benny Hill. Those 300 streams take X amount of bandwidth, once for every subscriber, and 300 times for the BBC.

    Each subscriber pays for his little tube, and the BBC pays for it's tube big enough to carry 300 Benny Hill streams.

    So what's the problem? Why are ISPs bitching?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)
      What's the problem? 300 people connect to the BBC and stream Benny Hill. Those 300 streams take X amount of bandwidth, once for every subscriber, and 300 times for the BBC.

      Each subscriber pays for his little tube, and the BBC pays for it's tube big enough to carry 300 Benny Hill streams.

      So what's the problem?


      That 300 people are watching Benny Hill?
  • by Saint Aardvark (159009) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @01:46PM (#23015040) Homepage Journal

    LONDON (AP) -- Google Apps today announced its first big hit: an AsciiArt video streaming proxy aimed at struggling British ISPs.

    Coded by a Melvin Haymeggle, a young college student, in a little under 18 hours, the proxy uses the open-source video player MPlayer [mplayerhq.hu], and the video display library aalib [sourceforge.net], to convert streaming video on-the-fly into ASCII art [liquidweather.net].

    "At first it was just a joke between me and a few friends," said Haymeggle. "Me and my roommates used it to mess with people leaching our wireless to watch porn. But then Google App Engine [google.com] was announced, and we figured it would be fun to write up some Python bindings for it."

    The announcement comes at a perilous time for British ISPs, who have been struggling to come to terms with the increased demand for on-demand video as a result of BBC's iPlayer.

    "We were shocked -- shocked! -- to realize that new Internet applications result in increased use of resources like bandwidth," said Charles Freskell, a spokesman for the British ISPs Association. "We were on the verge of sending a bill to the BBC when this proxy came along."

    "Of course, we're still going to be monetizing content ruthlessly [slashdot.org]," he added quickly.

    The application quickly and seamlessly converts the iPlayer's 1024x960, 24-bit colour, 30 frame-per-second video stream into an 80x25, 8-bit greyscale, 4 frame-per-second video stream. It is estimated that the proxy will save over 9 petabytes per furlong-fortnight.

    Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman could not be reached for comment. "He's just mad that everyone has forgotten this was available in Emacs since 1997," said a source close to the open source figurehead.

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Lovely, more "emacs versus vi" flamebait. When will people learn that ASCII art movies are best viewed in ed?
  • What if the ISP that provides BBC with bandwidth for all that video wanted to charge all the broadband users for the cost of extra capacity for having caused BBC to use what BBC is already paying for?

  • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:01PM (#23015238)

    When ISPs ask "who's going to pay for new infrastructure?", the answer should aways be "you are, in the form of reinvesting your profits into new development, like every other business does, you useless fracks". The "useless frack" part should be put at the end of most statements when dealing with government-mandated monopolies.

  • Utter foolishness (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:07PM (#23015322) Homepage
    The amount of idiocy here is amazing. Most people seem to have the historical perspective of a three-year-old. And, they have about the same understanding of the marketplace.

    Today, ISPs pay for bandwidth resources. They are indeed responsible at some level of compensation for how much they are sucking down from elsewhere on the network. Then they have their own infrastructure to contend with. Let's ignore for a moment that their infrastructure isn't quite up to the task of 10x (or 100x) increases in demand.

    The ISP suddenly is sucking down 10x more stuff than they were before. This upsets all sorts of nice balances they have worked out with peering arrangements and the like. So, now the folks they are sucking it down from - higher tier carriers - want them to pay fro all this extra bandwidth. What, did you think they just plugged in and got whatever they wanted?

    Next we have the problem that for the last 10-15 years or so the Internet has been defined by web surfing and email and not much else. Sure it would have been nice if a few ISPs had been forward-thinking enough to build out 10x the capacity they needed to operate. You know, just in case some need came along. Suprisingly, this isn't a very effective way to operate a business.

    Finally, in the US (and I suspect elsewere as well) the Internet has grown to the proportions it has primarily because it has been incredibly cheap. What started out as $25 a month for dial-up became $15 a month for DSL. Were these prices sustainable in the face of increased usage? No. Heck, they were sustainable in the face of any usage at all because it was to build market share and prove to the investors that this "Internet" think actually was something people were interested in.

    Today, you have businesses paying $400 a month for a T1 circuit that is 1.5Mb while home users are paying $50 a month for 15Mb. The home folks are getting a deal based on the bandwidth not really being used. If you were paying for guaranteed bandwidth capacity, like the business with the T1 is, you would be paying lots more. Probably not $4000 a month (10x a T1) but no way would it be $50 or even $100 a month. Expecting to have 15Mb access 24x7 for $50 a month will get you disappointed. Badly.

    The reality of the situation in the US today is that the costs are finally beginning to come down a little - like maybe $300 for that T1 instead of $400. But on the consumer front if the ISPs can't justify shared bandwidth where the average use is far far less than the possible maximum, today's pricing isn't going to hold. At some level there is a cost-per-Mb that isn't going to go away. If you want to be assured of 15Mb access with 15Mb being used constantly you are really going to have to pay for 15Mb. Today, you are paying for something more like 0.005Mb and the providers "know" that is the real level of utilization.

    When the level of utilization changes, they are going to have to eventually upgrade the system. Eventually. This isn't going to happen overnight because of the costs involved. Should they have done it before? Maybe. But as of a couple of years ago the majority of use was still email and web browsing and everyone was happy with their 0.005Mb slice of the pie.

    I'd bet on people getting more access capability but not a lot more total capacity in the near term. That means things like 20Mb bandwidth that bogs down a lot at peak times and caps on total utilization. I'd also bet on some big price changes coming down. You want to download 20Gb a month at 15Mb/sec? Sure, but you are going to pay. And start paying a lot closer to what dedicated bandwidth costs businesses today.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NexusTw1n (580394)

      When the level of utilization changes, they are going to have to eventually upgrade the system. Eventually. This isn't going to happen overnight because of the costs involved. Should they have done it before? Maybe.

      The problem at least in the UK is that 2-3 years ago most people were on 0.5MB ADSL and that was good enough for email and surfing for most people.

      The ISPs then had a new product to sell - ADSL2, with speeds up to 8 Meg, and they advertised it like crazy and they promised Dad could read ema

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AK Marc (707885)
      Next we have the problem that for the last 10-15 years or so the Internet has been defined by web surfing and email and not much else. Sure it would have been nice if a few ISPs had been forward-thinking enough to build out 10x the capacity they needed to operate. You know, just in case some need came along. Suprisingly, this isn't a very effective way to operate a business.

      If people weren't using it, then they wouldn't pay $1 more for 15 Mbps over 1 Mbps. Why are they offering such high speed packages?
  • The irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday April 09, 2008 @02:32PM (#23015588) Journal
    The irony is, of course, is the ISPs all put out flashy ads about how broadband allows you to get music and video.

    But as soon as people do just what the service was explicitly advertised to do...the ISPs all start bleating.

    I don't have any sympathy for them. They did it to themselves - they set the expectation you could use broadband to watch video, why are they acting all surprised when people do just that?

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