back to article BBC vs ISPs: Bandwidth row escalates as Tiscali wades in

Outspoken broadband provider Tiscali has crossed swords with Ashley Highfield, the BBC's top technology executive, over calls he made for ISPs to lump the potentially devastating effect of the iPlayer on their business. Since the launch of the popular streaming service, the iPlayer is costing ISPs dear, with one reporting a …


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Anonymous Coward


You get what you pay for.

I am sure that my ISP costs me more than I would pay to use Tiscali but I have unlimited bandwidth and can speak to a real person if I need support.


Oh Dear

The saddest part of this whole farce is that the most popular iPlayer show to date is 'The Apprentice' with amateur presenter, Alan Sugar. (Source: BBC Radio 4)

A wholly depressing thought considering you could be watching the wonderful David Attenborough instead.

Modern life is rubbish.

Dead Vulture


In other news today, the Highways Agency are trying to get approval to instroduce a 'Ford Tax'. It seems that more people are buying Ford cars and this is contributing to congestion on the nations roads which are already over-saturated and unable to cope with the flow of traffic. The HA are requesting that Ford be required to pay a fixed amount of money each time one of their cars uses a stretch of road...

It's a joke, and I think that Tiscali are just trying to pick an online content provider with high bandwidth requirements and use it as a scapegoat to cover up for the fact that its network is vastly over-subscribed. Thank god that my migration should be complete by the 16th and they will no longer be my problem.

ISPs need to come to terms with the fact that users don't just use the Internet for sending emails and viewing static web pages - those that do will sign up for some sort of 'Lite' package - so they need to stop crying like little bitches and do something about it. Let's face it, the volume of traffic isn't going to go down...


ISP's are twats

FFS - There is no argument here.

ISP's offer me an "unlimited" connection to their network. That covers all costs including the connectivity to other networks. I pay for this.

The BBC pay for the peering they use to the internet.

Now if the BBC pay to place data into a network that is connected (via other networks) to my ISP's, what part of the data moving process hasn't been paid for exactly? The ISP's use my money to connect their network to other networks. The BBC pay to have their data accessible from various networks, and I pay a fee set by my ISP to transfer unlimited data between said networks.

Now forgive me if I'm wrong, but even taking into your account your stupid argument that it's not unlimited and is really fair use (which is stupid on the basis that ISP's sell it as "Unlimited"), then they should at least be able to maintain me having the full 5Mbps from the Beeb's site until I hit my fair use cap. (I pay for 8Mbps, but I realise due to technical constrains that it's actually 5Mbps). I have a 5Mbps (real speed) pipe to the ISP. They are shaping and limiting my traffic, and then during peek times my traffic speed goes down even further.

So "unlimited" isn't the real issue. Even with caps on at 40Gb or whatever, I STILL don't get the performance as the ISP cannot give me 40Gb's of data at 5Mbps during peak times as they simply don't have the infrastructure to support even that.

Let's not forget the fact that the few people here that support the ISP's are wrong. The vast majority of iPlayer traffic is STREAMING. That's NOT P2P. That's YouTube, Webcasts, movie/game trailers etc.

Personally, I would LOVE to see:

- No packet shaping

- No Phorm

- No DNS Hijacking

- UK based technical support

- Uncontended access

- Monitoring for botnets

- Network based AV (you can add yourself to the whitelist via a control panel if it's causing issues)

- Ignoring any request for disconnection unless it's from the Police with a warrant

- Wires only

- No port blocking

- ADSL Max

I would happily pay £40 a month for a 50Gb cap on the above. That would be great.


Against all odds:

I'm actually with Tiscali on this one.

It happens that I have a tiscali broadband package, which by-the-way works fine most of the time, and even exceeds the maximum speed (280kB/s on a 2Mb line)

Now they say they offer unlimited broadband and all, with only a limit on bandwidth between 6 and 11 pm. That doesn't mean you can't use the internet, it simply means that you shouldn't use bandwidth-hungry applications, like P2P, iPlayer and so on. It's a bitch alright, but it allows everybody to experience a decent line speed in the evening, when everybody's on the internet. In France they don't usually have these requirements, and I can tell you it's a pain in the arse when there's a P2P maniac between you and the exchange. My 512 kb/s line gave me a 8kB/s trickle at the best of time (yes, it was a few years ago, but still)

Now the Beebs comes in and expects ISPs to do whatever is necessary to allow iPlayer traffic to go through without a glitch. But dude, increasing a network's capabilty is fucking expensive!! You can't expect to pay so little for your broadband package, and get lightning speed DLs with a huge bandwidth! The price we pay for broadband is in adequation with the bandwidth capabilities of the line. Then somebody walks in and expect the available bandwidth to double, well who's gonna pay for that?? I personnaly don't use iPlayer, and I would be really pissed if my package doubled in price just 'cause the BBC wants to flood the network.

And charging only those who use iPlayer wouldn't work, they wouldn't want to pay 3 times what others pay, and with a hike of only a few punds, well it wouldn't bring in enough cash.

I understand that other applications are bandwidth-hungry, but not on the same level as iPlayer. Come on, when you think about it, soon everybody will be able to watch TV, anytime, using the internet. You can't expect the current network to cope with that, and it's not fair to expect ISPs to foot the whole bill.

If a car manufacturer came in tomorrow with a car that's 6 meters wide, would you expect the coucil (and therefore the tax-payer) to widen all the roads in the country to fit that car? Hardly. Yet your right to use the roads is "unlimited"... within reasonable limits, like "you car must fit the road in the first place".

The Beebs' iPlayer service clearly doesn't fit the network, which wasn't designed to cope with that sort of traffic. Seeing how much it costs to upgrade the network, I think it's fair that everybody pitches in, not just the ISPs who seem to be under the obligation to offer lightning-fast line speeds, unlimited bandwidth, at rock-bottom prices...

In France (I'm French) they are upgrading the network to optic-fiber. Costs them billions!!!! But the government is helping them, otherwise there's no chance it could be done. The result in pretty impressive: 60mb/s for something like £20/month.

But everybody pitched in, and no-one expected the IPSs to do everything themselves.

5 years ago, in Paris, I paid less for a 20mb line than I pay NOW in UK for a 2mb line... If we expect ISPs to upgrade the network to optic-fiber without any help, I dare not imagine what we're gonna pay for broadband then...

Silver badge

what happened to multicast?

I know, IP multicast has its share problems - but broadcasting is exactly tke kind of scenario it was designed to handle. With IPv6 around the corner, maybe the time has come to reconsider enabling it?



"Now the Beebs comes in and expects ISPs to do whatever is necessary to allow iPlayer traffic to go through without a glitch"

I think it's actually the user that want iPlayer traffic to go through without a glitch which I think gives us two (sensible) options:

1. The ISP ups prices and the user continues to get the service that they are paying for. Maybe they bring out an 'iPlayer and other 21st century web based content' package that is priced accordingly.

2. The ISP absorbs the cost.

The only one I can see here that is suitable and sustainable is 1.

If Tiscali contacted Google and said 'Excuse me but youtube is causing us big problems here, we think that you should contribute something to our costs of providing access to your website', I expect and sincerely hope that they would be told to get bent. I think that the reason Tiscali are going after the Beeb is because she is publicly funded and we know that the govt like to fritter away our money.

I also don't see the issue of content providers naming and shaming why the connection may be bad, the ISPs could even work deals to turn it into advertising their new iPlayer tariffs (see 1 above).

Maybe the Beeb should ask Tiscali for a bit of cash, because users that have tried to access iPlayer using a Tiscali broadband are given the wrong impression that the iPlayer app is a bag of shit (I thought this when I first accessed it through my '8 meg' max Tiscali connection - but then I accessed it through a real broadband connection and I changed my opinion).

[Yeah, I know that 8mb max depends on the distance from the exchange, blah blah blah, but let's just say if I opened the window at the top of my stairs I could more or less piss all over the roof of my exchange, and I used to get 6.5Mb before all you iPlayer watching bastards stole all Tiscali's bandwidth]

"The Beebs' iPlayer service clearly doesn't fit the network, which wasn't designed to cope with that sort of traffic"

Very, very little of what we do now fits into the category of what the Internet was designed to cope with...

"BBC wants to flood the network"

Yes, that's what they're doing...


No. Not "with" Tiscali here.

I recently left Pipex since Tiscali fncked the service with shaping and blocking sites (iTunes for example). I didn't mind paying £25 a month for a decent service.

I'm a happy Be-ing now. It's fast, effective, and slightly cheaper than Pipex was, but offers less frills. Most importantly it doesn't appear to be restrictive in use.

So - if Tiscali want to mess up the internet in the UK with shoddy service then they can fnck right off.

Yay Auntie! Stick it to them!

Silver badge

ISPs own fault

If the ISPs sell bandwidth they cannot deliver, who is to blame?

I know it may mean higher prices for us all, but I would much prefer to pay more to buy a service that delivers what I have been sold, than get a service that is unusable for much of the day.

Why should the BBC, or ITV, or Channel 4 or Channel 5, or Sky, or YouTube or its clones (who all have video on demand services) have to pay for anything except the bandwidth between them and their ISP.

The ISPs are asking for an unworkable charging model. The only thing that might make the BBC situation slightly different is that the high demand material may be slightly more predictible than some of the other content providers.

Anonymous Coward

@Steven Hewittt

I'm sure you would love to pay £40 a month for such a service. If you want a rough guideline on how much it would cost to provide such a service try multiplying the contention ratio you get with the price you currently pay.

Yup, you are talking about £800 a month and you can already get such a connection. It will set you back around that figure too, also known as a leased line.

People have to accept they are paying for a contended service. The BBC have to accept that if they want to behave like a content provider, they should pay delivery providers such as Virgin, Sky or BT to host the content for them. That way the network operator can ringfence the traffic like they do already with video on demand.

Expecting an amateurish flash based application to run at high reliable bandwith is like expecting your moped to go 70 down the motorway when everyone else is in traffic.

Anonymous Coward


"If Tiscali contacted Google and said 'Excuse me but youtube is causing us big problems here, we think that you should contribute something to our costs of providing access to your website', I expect and sincerely hope that they would be told to get bent. I think that the reason Tiscali are going after the Beeb is because she is publicly funded and we know that the govt like to fritter away our money."

The difference here is that using your example, YouTube would be complaining that users were having to wait for videos to buffer and demanding that the ISPs do something about it for free.

The difference in countries such as Sweden/Paris/Tokyo etc they get nice fast 100mbps local networks but still share the same 155mb pipe equivalent to the rest of the world. The BBC would be having the same problems anywhere else. The solution is to have the ISPs host the content like (for example) Sky or BT Vision do.


It's Joe again

I think that youtube and the like are VERY different from iPlayer.

Look at the quality!!!! Damn image is smaller than a box of matches for crying out loud!! Plus youtube videos are short, in-between them you're not using much bandwidth. If you watch Lost on iPlayer you're using the line to full capacity for a good 40 minutes.

Upgrading the network is mind-blowingly expensive, if ISPs pay for it all (which they hardly can, seeing the competition and the limited margins in this sector) you'd need to multiply your broadband package price 3-4-5 fold. Now I owuldn't be happy about that!

""The Beebs' iPlayer service clearly doesn't fit the network, which wasn't designed to cope with that sort of traffic"

Very, very little of what we do now fits into the category of what the Internet was designed to cope with..."

True, but iPlayer doesn't fit the network by a considerable margin. If Youtube vids were of the same quality a iPlayer, you can bet Google would have had a knock on the door long ago.

It's true that the obvious solution is to up the price ocnsumers pay, but if that cost could be spread around to those who contricbute to the NEED of a better network, weel I think it would be fair.

I, for instance, don't really have the cash for a £50/month line, which is what we would be expected to pay, if ISPs upgraded the network without any help.

When internet first came around, my service provider was Deamon (cool name :-)

Well, they couldn't hope of forking out the necessary cash to lay down phone lines: they hired them from BT for a small fee. Today, how can ISPs hope to have the necessary cash to lay down optic-fiber???

It could seem fair that they do it, but I just don't think it's economically possible, just as BMW and Mercedes are not expected to pay for building roads :-)


Ian Crawford

Why should the BBC pay ISPs to let data down their pipes. The BBC aren't actively pushing data down their networks, it is I and others like me who pull the data down, the Beeb just make the content available. How much of the ISPs bandwidth is being taken up by people downloading the latest movie or music video from providers other than the BBC? Are the ISPs going after the likes of Microsoft, for making available for download upgrades of Vista and the like ... I think not.

Why single out the BBC, do they think because it's funded by the UK public it is an easy target? ISPs leave our BBC alone, if you can't handle the traffic flowing around the Internet, then get out of the business. After all this is what you do. The BBC make programs, the ISPs provide the infrastructure and I watch the programs.

Who would you trust the Beeb or an ISP that says your going to get a 20Mbyte bandwidth, charges you for 20Mbytes and you get 5Mbytes. I'll tell you what ISP's, if you want to throttle my 20Mbyte connection why don't you also throttle the amount you charge at the same time or is that too technically difficult.


Paying twice or three times?

First of all its the ISPs that tell everyone their service is unlimited, then complain when people actually use the service.

Some users would rarely use there connection (like me as I am away monday to friday), others used it a lot and the majority sit in the middle. It seems to me that over the past couple of years the ISPs have pursued removing the small number of high end users to increase their profitability without offering a discount to the small number of users who hardly use their service.

Second don't the BBC pay to link their servers to the internet and are therefore paying for at least some of the distribution costs e.g. the pipe from their servers to the internet hubs.


@ pepol who do not get it

I pay 24.99 for max speed (ie as fast as I can get it) 20gb per mounth limited the "streaming" iplayer plays smoth no loading stutetring or what ever it is fast but I am limited but I know the limite and I can move up the cost range if I want (34.99 for 50gb, 150 for true unlimited) I can even move down if I want (19.99 10gb) I get what I want the isp gets a resionable profit and the iplayer works

it is the range that works and they do not promis what they can not deliver

Anonymous Coward

You should pay for what you use

My personal view is that the BBC should publish content as they see fit - just like any other provider of content on the web.

The users of content are mostly in control of how much bandwidth they use, so they should pay for any increase in bandwidth cost via their ISP.

On the high street, you don't go into a shop and expect them to pay for what you take out of it, do you!

I think it's about time ISP's stopped "unlimited" cliams - unless it really is - and move to a pay as you use bandwidth tariff. If a client wants a fixed and known monthley budget - and they exceed their limit - give them the option to continue (charged), or drop the line speed until the next bandwidth/charging period.

Thumb Up


Yep, I understand the ISP's costs in this. Not my problem.

If Virgin or whoever want to change my package from 'unlimited' to 'limited' then I expect a big, fat, pay off from them for changing the contract and admitting they can't deliver on their end of it.

Which, is precisely what they do to us.

ISP's you've made your bed. You've had your chance, time to burn.


...and BT ?

How come BT are getting away scott free here. For years they have failed to invest enough in modern fibre and upgrade their exchanges.

For me they deserve a vast amount of blame over the UKs archaic telephone does this two faced Government...say one thing and do nothing.


This post has been deleted by its author


All very simple really

First off, no the BBC should not have to pay for upgrading the entire country's network. The ISP's should all stick money in a pot and BT should then (having stuck money in as well) be responsible for upgrading the entire country's network by replacing the copper wires with optical fibre.

Ofcom should get off the pointy fence and force this to happen.

Secondly - there has been a set top box invented in a university hear in the UK which allegedly makes the internet much much faster without optical fibre and does so very very cheaply.

Can we all have one now please?



Ofcom aren't on the pointy fence... they're off busily slapping the beeb on the wrists for letting naughty pop and rock stars swear on live TV during the day...


Stick to content - leave distribution to distibutors

It wasn't exactly unexpected, but Adobe just launched Flash Media Player. Having spent the past couple of hours nerding out to episodes of Star Trek TOS I can officially confirm that the BBC iPlayer is as dead as a very dead thing. What the hell got into the BBC's heads? That they could take on large companies that actually do this stuff for a living - and do it pretty well? BBC versus Apple, Microsoft and Adobe - it's like Bill Gates trying to write an episode of Doctor Who in hexadecimal notation, possible but pretty bloody pointless. More fun would be to take several million pounds of taxpayers money and burn it in the streets. Oh look, they just did.



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