BBC accuses BT Broadband of throttling the iPlayer
Consumers have been complaining for an age about internet service providers throttling their broadband usage; for the most part, those shouting loudest have been fans of illegal downloading, where throttling has slowed their enjoyment of Dollhouse and Lost down to a trickle. But now the biggest supplier of online content in the country has waded into the fight; the BBC.
BT Broadband is the villian of the piece, which happens to have debuted on the BBC news website. BT are accused of throttling speeds on their basic package from 8 Mbps to less than 1 Mbps at peak times. The reason the BBC are getting the arse is because of the effect it has on on their iPlayer - the throttling forces users to use the iPlayer at its lowest connection speed of 500 Kbps.
"While customers listening to audio and lower quality video streams would be unaffected, we are concerned that at peak times some customers' higher quality video streams may be interrupted by buffering before falling back to a lower-quality version," said a spokesperson at the BBC. "This would suggest that traffic identified as BBC iPlayer traffic is being throttled back, thereby limiting the bandwidth used up by the service on slower connections."
The BBC says their data showed that speeds for BT's iPlayer users was reduced to 700kbps at peak times, a fact not explained by BT when customers sign up. BT responded by denying the claim, and laying blame at the foot of the BBC: "We believe there is a real issue that content owners like the BBC need to address and we are currently in discussions with the BBC executive to ensure that our customers get the best possible experience in the future."
The iPlayer poses a serious problem for all service providers, not just BT; 60 servers are required to produce the seven petabytes of data currently transferred by ther iPlayer every month, and that number is rising. We just had to look that number up; it's equal to approximately one quadrillion bytes, or 1000 terrabytes. In other words, it's chewing up masses of bandwidth quite legitimately. While it's easy for providers to justify throttling when the problem is perceived to be kids messing about with the likes of Bit Torrent, it's a little more tricky when it's the publicly funded BBC kicking in your door.