Too many downloads could push the Internet beyond its limits

The BBC iPlayer was a surprising boon for avid soap and life documentary lovers but it has proved to be a real headache and a potential catastrophic cocktail for many Internet service providers; the equivalent of a virtual Pandora box.

By engaging hitherto reluctant viewers to get their daily dose of programmes online, the BBC has created an unprecedented demand for online capacity, something that has caused broadband providers to struggle to deliver optimum quality of service.

Times Online mentions that David Attenborough’s Life in Cold Blood gobbles up to 600MB worth of download capacity per hour and given that too many entry level broadband packages have monthly download limits of 1GB, this could be the perfect recipe for disaster and could see a number of people using their monthly quota in a couple of hours.

What's more, many of those online viewing technologies - like the iPlayer uses Peer to peer technology - which consumes both your download and upload quota; something that many users are not aware of.

It is the service providers which provide unlimited services that face the greatest crunch as they have to manage the online onslaught of video on demand in order to make sure that all customers get a fair share of capacity; something that has proved to be very difficult without proper investment.

The Times Article also revealed that even trivial Internet tasks like changing your Facebook page or your Myspace profile can consume up to 400MB per hour; and with both popular social networking sites bound to announce free ad-supported streaming music in the near future, this could send millions of new users online.