U.K. ISPs lobby against BBC iPlayer: net neutrality debate lands in Britain

13 08 2007

It started with a bit of BBC-bashing in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, followed up by pieces in the Financial Times and Independent.

The story: U.K. ISPs are concerned about the strain the BBC iPlayer will place on the IP backbone — the industry concensus, as reported, being that someone has to pay and it should be the BBC for flooding the internet with all of its nasty big video files.

The Mail‘s coverage was rich in motoring metaphors to help 4×4-owning yummy mummys across the nation understand the story in the context of speed cameras and congestion charges. Of the U.K.’s other two nationals which covered the story, stories were restricted to mere coverage of reported fact.

The FT was the only paper to clock the fact that the BBC isn’t the only U.K. broadcaster to have launched potentially bandwidth-intensive services: Channel 4’s 4oD and ITV Broadband to name but two others.

It falls to the non-UK press to offer more intelligent comment, admittedly at a time when the nationals are going to press, but take, for instance, this Washington Post report, quoting industry analyst Jonathan Coham of Ovum: “It’s interesting they are making such a big deal out of the BBC’s iPlayer.”

Not to mention The Register, a site which has done more than its fair share of BBC iPlayer-bashing in recent weeks and by the same token staunchly outside the mainstream media loop, which was the first to splash the story that BT doesn’t (at least at a corporate level) stand by the line reported over the weekend:

“BT has denied reports that it is working with other ISPs to pressurise the BBC or consumers into paying extra for delivery of iPlayer on demand TV shows,” it says.

So given the BT restraction, the critics would appear confined the Carphone Warehouse and Tiscali U.K., two ISPs which have made much of reducing broadband access to the level of mere commoedity, undercutting the competition, and their margins in the process. So who’s laughing now?

Only a fortnight to go before the nationals have some real news to report on and it’ll be the end of the season to bash both the BBC and the British Airports Authority.

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