Telecommunications giant BT is set to battle out with the BBC and other online video services to force them to cough up money to cover costs associated with delivering videos to its subscribers.
BT has been caught trying to throttle BBC iPlayer's content. Customers on BT's entry level broadband package saw their speed reduced to under 1mbps for seven hours, between 5 o'clock in the afternoon and midnight.
John Petter, managing director of BT Retail’s consumer business, told the Financial Times that "We can’t give the content providers a completely free ride and continue to give customers the [service] they want at the price they expect”.
They also sent an email to BBC's lead technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, saying explicitly (and reiterating the fact) that the BBC and other content owners like Hulu or Youtube "can't expect to continue to get a free ride".
This prompted the BBC to release a statement saying that “Despite its popularity, the BBC iPlayer is just one of many services on the open internet and only makes up a small percentage of total internet traffic in the UK."
And BT doesn't seem to be alone in what looks to be a looming war over profitability and costs. Virgin Media is also set to charge broadcasters to deliver their high definition content across its fiber-optic network although it is unlikely that BBC has paid them to get on its Virgin HD.
It seems therefore that BT is an ardent opponent of Net-neutrality, a concept that calls for resource hungry content to be discriminated from the rest. Advocates of net-neutrality want to enforce a tiered service model that would make them more of a content provider, less of a dumb pipe.
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This is going to become dirtier the longer the current recession lasts. If ISPs start to band together, things could even come nastier. As Esteluk said on BBC's blog, "asking the BBC to pay BT for content that they host would set a dangerous precedent for the Internet as a whole". Could the likes of Google and Microsoft start snapping up shares in Telecoms company to keep them mum?
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