BBC accuses BT Broadband of throttling the iPlayer

2 June 2009

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.


  • feck w.
    Move along people, nothing to see here. Bitter wallets wasting peoples time with useless reporting as usual
  • ronnie
    useless? don't think so. quite important actually.
  • dave
    'Move along people, nothing to see here' - Uh-oh BT employee alert, ditto the throttling on Virgin
  • Gavin
    Bandwidth throttling is quite a serious issue at the moment. Virgin Large subscriber, I think I get 1.5gb during 9am-9pm to download. BBC iPlayer most 1 hour programs are 700mb (correct me where wrong) I only need to catch up on two shows until the streaming starts to 'stutter/freeze' and the enjoyment level just drops..
  • matt
    get a decent isp and u dont get throttled
  • orange c.
    we have orange home broadband. The full one thats supposed to have unlimited usage Last week our speed was cut from 4.5 to 1 megabits/second RIDICULOUS what is the point of paying license fees if you cant enjoy the entertainment when you have free time?
  • YouTube B.
    [...] the quality of the content won’t improve, HD material is becoming prevalent on YouTube, so assuming your ISP provider doesn’t throttle the living daylights out of your connection, then you’ll be able to easily navigate your way through high quality content on a larger [...]
  • Tom
    Ive only got a 1mbps connection (100kbps download) but I am not limited in terms of how much I can download. I have not stopped downloading since my connection started in early 07 (the pc dosent get turned of).
  • B
    This is exactly why I left BT and went to O2. Less than half the price, and ten times as good.
  • O2 F.
    Must agree with the comments concerning Orange, absolutely horrible broadband company. O2 on the other hand are brilliant. With an 8MB connection I was never throttled, nor did I have to succumb to a fair usage policy, despite downloading well over 100GB every month. At £22.50 (cheaper if you have an O2 mobile) the service was excellent also.
  • Mike U.
    Your were getting screwed mate, I only pay £7.32 for my 8MB connection on O2

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