iPlayer placing undue strain on the internet?

Iplayer crash burn copy 2 From The Times 10.4.08

"The success of the BBC's iPlayer is putting the internet under severe strain
and threatening to bring the network to a halt, internet service providers
claimed yesterday.

They want the corporation to share the cost of upgrading the network —
estimated at £831 million — to cope with the increased workload. Viewers are now
watching more than one million BBC programmes online each week.

The BBC said yesterday that its iPlayer service, an archive of programmes
shown over the previous seven days, was accounting for between 3 and 5 per cent
of all internet traffic in Britain, with the first episode of The Apprentice
watched more than 100,000 times via a computer."

Let's face it, online video is massive. And now there is a truly great offering for quality UK TV delivered over the internet, it's really catching on too. Viewing on iPlayer grew exponentially in March and there's no sign that the iPlayer bubble is about to burst. My only gripe with the service is that it doesn't feature more programmes.

Obviously, watching video and TV online requires a lot of bandwidth and places a heavy strain on ISP resources. With this trend of online media only set to grow, it's right that ISPs are planning ahead. Arguably, they've somewhat missed the boat and are reacting to increased demand right now, rather than acting proactively. Still, you can't have everything, not even online.

The cost up upgrading the infrastructure of the net is going to be massive. It's only natural, then, that ISPs want companies who place a heavier demand on their networks to help foot the bill.   Think of it as an online congestion charge.  It doesn't make it right necessarily, but you kind of get where the ISPs are coming from with this.  The BBC, somewhat predictably, are having none of it.  They point to much larger streaming media sites such as YouTube as being a much bigger culprit of placing strain on existing broadband capability.  What's more, the BBC have threatened to name and shame ISPs which attempt to 'traffic shape' their iPlayer service, a proposal which some ISPs are using against the Beep as a bargaining chip. 

While this story has got a long way to run, one thing remains obvious to me: the UK should not let itself fall further behind other countries in the net-speed stakes.  Massive investment is needed for us to keep up with the pace of development and that cost will inevitably be passed on to consumers. But I guess we've got to live with that; it's a small price to pay for keeping ourselves firmly in the 21st century.  Plus, you can't put a price on lightning quick downloads. Oh, okay, an ISP probably could.


  1. I've heard that youtube is far worse!

  2. I second that, Andro! The BBC used that very point as one of their arguments against helping to fund the upgrades.


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