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The Internet Communications The Almighty Buck

BBC iPlayer Bandwidth Explosion Bodes Ill For ISPs 249

penfold69 writes "Dave Tomlinson is one of the network gurus at PlusNET PLC, a Tier-2 ISP in the UK. He recently put up a blog post about the ramifications of the BBC iPlayer for the ISP industry in the UK. The post makes some very interesting reading regarding the bandwidth usage triggered by the iPlayer, and raises timely questions about the Net Neutrality debate. The Register also picked up on this story with a good review of who is going to have to pay for all this legal video streaming."
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BBC iPlayer Bandwidth Explosion Bodes Ill For ISPs

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  • Copyright or Tech? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zotz ( 3951 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:28AM (#22514920) Homepage Journal
    Could we do a better job if we could cache intelligently and do p2p and whatever else made sense in the absence of copyright restraints on the setup?

    all the best,

    drew
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:29AM (#22514938)
      But that would be the smart thing to do!
      • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:02PM (#22515390) Journal


        What I don't get is where this cost of x pence per Gb comes from. If an ISP has the wires and the routers all running, why does it cost extra to be sending more data? I see that you might ramp up electricity costs slightly in the systems that route this data when it's processing lots of packets, but I have trouble seeing this being the source of the cost.

        Once the infrastructure is in place, then where is the big cost? That's what I'm not getting.

        • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:16PM (#22515596) Journal

          Bingo! You hit the nail on the head.

          Bytes don't cost money. The capacity to transfer them does. That T-1 costs the same amount of money sitting idle as it does running at 100% 24/7.

          To be fair, the ISPs wind up paying higher costs because they have to purchase more capacity when their users adopt higher bandwidth applications -- but this idea that bytes have a direct cost that can be calculated is absurd. A byte of data is not the same thing as a kilowatt hour or liter of gasoline.

          In any case, I don't see how they think they can get away with not investing in network upgrades. Is innovation on the internet going to stop because ISPs would rather rest on their laurels cashing checks instead of investing in infrastructure upgrades for the next killer app?

          The standard response to "increase bandwidth" is "P2P apps consume all available bandwidth, increasing bandwidth won't solve anything", but that response overlooks the fact that you aren't automatically obligated to increase the bandwidth provided to end users. Improve your core network while keeping your customers in the same bandwidth tier they currently have and you'll solve the problem of p2p bogging things down.

          It would be a lot more fair to provide a 3.0mbit connection that actually delivered what it promised then it is to provide a 10.0mbit connection that achieves that speed at the expense of your neighbor.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I'm sure the IETF is pulling their hair out (along with slashdot), but the reason that ISPs don't deliver on their bandwidth promises is because they can get away with it. They make more money oversubscribing their bandwidth and not giving you what you pay for. So that's what they do. That's the price of freedom- capitalism.
            • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:29PM (#22515786) Journal

              They make more money oversubscribing their bandwidth and not giving you what you pay for

              There's nothing inherently wrong with over subscription -- it would be pretty stupid to pay your Tier 1 provider to provide a dedicated 3.0mbits for Grandma who only wants to check her e-mail -- the problem starts when they try to cheap out and use a bad oversubscription ratio.

              To be fair, a few years ago nobody could have seen the rise of p2p (though foresight should have predicted the rise of streaming video), so that probably changed the ratios they should be using. I lose all sympathy for them though when they whine about how much money upgrades cost.... most of these outfits (here in the states anyway) are literally swimming in profit. It's not as though they are running their businesses in the red and can't afford to invest in upgrades.

              Beyond that, I really don't understand this push to "shape" p2p traffic. Wouldn't it be much more fair to just give your customers the highest amount of bandwidth that you can provide them with and allow them to use it as they see fit? What's the damn point of raising the speed again and again if you can't actually provide it to your end users?

            • by cymen ( 8178 )
              But the good news is in an open market another company will offer a more competitive package and lure the customers away from the evil/lazy/gluttonous ISP. This of course assumes there is an open market. If there isn't, I don't see how one can put the blame at the feet of capitalism.
          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:26PM (#22515748)

            The standard response to "increase bandwidth" is "P2P apps consume all available bandwidth, increasing bandwidth won't solve anything", but that response overlooks the fact that you aren't automatically obligated to increase the bandwidth provided to end users. Improve your core network while keeping your customers in the same bandwidth tier they currently have and you'll solve the problem of p2p bogging things down.


            That's half the problem

            The other half is stuck in the last mile. Cable is a bad way to upload a lot of data. Sure there's a lot of bandwidth, but cable has very poor uploading characteristics. Just a few people in the highest paid tier of service using all the upstream can easily deny the rest of the people of the node access to the Internet.

            It's not just the ISP, but the last mile technology used. Cable and DSL came about with the assumption that most people download way more than they upload. Unfortunately, Bittorrent doesn't do this (if you want a good ratio, you have to upload as much as, or more than you download). A few people paying for 10M/1M service in a cable node can easily take down the entire node.

            You may notice that the companies having issues with this tend to be cable companies. Shaw (BitTorrent throttling) and Rogers (encrypted traffic throttling) in Canada (two largest cable companies), Time-Warner Cable (iTunes throttling, byte metering), Comcast (RST packet spoofing for P2P), amongst others. Cable just can't handle the upstream component of P2P.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Shakrai ( 717556 ) *

              It's not just the ISP, but the last mile technology used.

              That excuse only goes so far. There are ways with DOCSIS networks to mitigate this. The easiest way is to allocate more channels on the HFC plant to HSI services. A more expensive option would be to split your network into smaller nodes so less customers are connected to each coax segment.

              Cable and DSL came about with the assumption that most people download way more than they upload

              That's still a valid assumption, even with p2p. I leave all my torrents running until I've hit at least a 3.0 ratio, but at the end of the day I still download more data then I upload (mainly due to streaming vi

          • I don't know if is true or not, but I've read that the holders of the major backbones do charge per GB for their use. Your ISP (unless it's a backbone holder) does have to pay per GB.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Shakrai ( 717556 ) *

              I don't know if is true or not, but I've read that the holders of the major backbones do charge per GB for their use. Your ISP (unless it's a backbone holder) does have to pay per GB.

              It's not true. They are typically priced for capacity and not per byte. Go take a look at the Wikipedia IP transit [wikipedia.org] article.

              End result: That bittorrent user pegging his connection at 3AM probably costs the ISP next to nothing. The peak user might have some sort of cost (since they rely on oversubscription) but it doesn't cost nearly as much as they would have us believe.

        • What I don't get is where this cost of x pence per Gb comes from. If an ISP has the wires and the routers all running, why does it cost extra to be sending more data?

          Because the ISP buys "bandwidth" from another supplier who charges per bit/byte/MByte transferred. The ISPs, (well those who have "unlimited" packages) of course, bet that most won't use all of their share, but then get stung when everyone does.

          Personally, I'm on a PAYG scheme where the first X MB are "free" and then I get charged a very small

          • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

            Because the ISP buys "bandwidth" from another supplier who charges per bit/byte/MByte transferred. The ISPs, (well those who have "unlimited" packages) of course, bet that most won't use all of their share, but then get stung when everyone does.

            Then that just puts the same issue at one more remove. This panic is a false panic in some ways. If greater infrastructure is built, then pricing models do not need to be changed. And in fact, changing pricing models for quantity or type of data would only "solve"

            • But it still costs money to upgrade the existing network and laying new fibre through the middle of a city to the exchanges is not going to be cheap.
          • by cgenman ( 325138 )
            Don't forget that while the supplier's T3 (or whathaveyou) has a fixed capacity that either goes unused or doesn't, it doesn't have unlimited capacity. Once you hit one over a certain threshold, you have a *huge* bill to upgrade with higher capacity lines, followed by generally higher monthly upkeep. And it is very likely that two or so of the companies along your upstream are intentionally running very close to capacity, and have periods of degraded service speeds just to get all of the current traffic t
            • And you expect us to have sympathy? Do you have any idea how high the pile of gold is that the telecom dragons are sleeping on? They offered unlimited, and it's not our problem if they only give you a tiny budget to work with.
          • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) *

            Because the ISP buys "bandwidth" from another supplier who charges per bit/byte/MByte transferred.

            Uhh, are you sure about that? Every time I've ever looked into obtaining major IP transit (read: above a T-3) it's priced for capacity and not bytes transfered. Some of the providers rely on 95th percentile billing but even at that there still isn't a direct link between number of bytes transferred and cost. If your 95th percentile winds up being 1.5gigabits you are going to pay the same amount of money regardless of whether or not that was a series of spikes in traffic (say around peak hours) or 24/7

            • Sorry, I can't recall where I read it. It might have been a situation unique to a few ISPs in the UK
    • Nope. Bandwidth is bandwidth though, from an ISP standpoint.

      P2P reduces the bandwidth requirement from the originating host but pushes it out to the edges instead; the ISP still has to support it, and instead of a single pipe of high quality they need multiple individual pipes instead. Caching moves the bandwidth to a different host.
      • Well, caching and P2P could have the same desired effect, reducing thousands if not more connections over a paid pipe tier to their in house network in which they don't have to pay usage on. If you could control the P2P to only use nodes in network, it would have almost the same effect for non-live-streamed content plus the benefit of not needing all the storage space to cache everything. Of course for sites with a pay model for content access, both caching and a local P2P would create issues.

        And this isn't
    • by teh kurisu ( 701097 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:18PM (#22515632) Homepage

      Ian Wild, a PlusNet employee, left the following comment on TFA:

      It would make no difference whether we had the content stired on our network or whether it is served directly by the BBC. We have great peering links with the BBC and the cost of transferring the data from them to us is effectviely zero, a well a being very fast. The bottleneck is within the BT Wholesale network and your line speed.

      All of the ISPs costs come from the BT Central pipes, which link the exchanges around the country with the ISPs network. Because each customer has their own 'tunnel' through this network there is no further significant efficiency to be had with the current infrastructure as provided by BT.

      Not entirely sure what the implications are for caching solutions, but it sure is interesting.

      • by penfold69 ( 471774 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @01:03PM (#22516450) Journal
        Ian's reply is bang on.

        Those of you in the US will not be familiar with the UK internet backbone arrangement.

        The overriding majority of cost for a UK ISP is the 'backhaul' from the consumer in their house, to the ISP network.

        Peering with other ISPs, Backbones and content provider is *very very* cheap, as they practically all peer into Telehouse via LINX.

        As Cable rollout is severely limited in scope in the UK, the majority of internet traffic is routed via BT from the consumer to the ISP network. BT have a fixed base price plus a per-GB charge for this facility.

        Thus, it costs the ISP to transfer data to the consumer. Caching only helps to reduce the traffic at the ISP peering points (which have negligible cost). It doesn't help reduce the cost to transfer that information to the consumer.

        The other alternative to BT is to use LLU (Local Loop Unbundling) providers. These ISP's have installed their own DSLAMs in the various BT exchanges, and rent 'backhaul' off of BT at more favourable rates than paying BT for the entire ATM circuit back to the ISP.

        However, the LLU providers are still charged a per-GB fee for the rental of the backhaul.

        This means that every bit of traffic passing from an ISP network to the consumer costs a set amount. This is where contention is used heavily (and by BT not by the ISP, actually).

        Multicasting won't help, as each multicast stream still needs to be transferred over this backhaul to the consumer, with BT charging for each GB.

        Yes, it's retarded, but yes this is how the UK internet industry works.

        B.
    • by MikeyVB ( 787338 )

      Could we do a better job if we could cache intelligently and do p2p and whatever else made sense in the absence of copyright restraints on the setup?
      You mean something like this [arstechnica.com]?
  • Multicast? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zarhan ( 415465 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:28AM (#22514922)
    I always thought that BBC had Multicast-BGP arrangement with the participant ISPs? Isn't this perfect application for multicast? It would be nice if bandwidth would only be consumed once, and duplicated at branching points, not unicast from BBC's network to all customers individually.

    Skimming the article I couldn't find info on whether this is archived-videos type service like Youtube, or for streaming the same over-the-air broadcast that you could pick on normal TV - assuming the latter since the charts talk about "BBCW_1", (assuming these are channels).
    • Re:Multicast? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ochu ( 877326 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:35AM (#22515032) Homepage
      The BBC iPlayer is a Youtube-style service. It contains every in-house and second-party programme broadcast in the last week, and selected shows older than that; mainly previous episodes of series that are ongoing.
      This is distributed in two ways: the first is a flash video player, modelled on youtube, that shows the videos low-res in a browser window. The second is a via a kontiki P2P system, which allows users to download DVD quality DRMed videos onto their (currently Windows, Mac soon, Linux almost certainly never) computer.
      The BBC also do multicast via several ISPs, but this is almost completely unpublicised, and apart from news, nigh-on content free.
      • Re:Multicast? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ford Prefect ( 8777 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:57AM (#22515302) Homepage

        This is distributed in two ways: the first is a flash video player, modelled on youtube, that shows the videos low-res in a browser window.

        In my suspiciously successful attempts at using this aspect of iPlayer outside the UK, I discovered the actual video data being sent from an Akamai-controlled IP address. So presumably, if ISPs want to control bandwidth usage from this source, they'd just need to host an Akamai node thingy?

        The video quality for this 'lesser' iPlayer is still pretty good. I clocked it at about 100kB/s (i.e. ~800kbit/s) - it looks okay fullscreen if you're using the computer as a telly. Haven't tried the Kontiki thing yet - I've been doing this on my Macs...

    • Re:Multicast? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by IBBoard ( 1128019 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:37AM (#22515048) Homepage
      The BBC iPlayer lets you download content for a week or a month after it was shown on the channel, as well as letting you stream it. The iPlayer then starts a background service (which is always running) which uses P2P to distribute the files you've downloaded to others. It saves the BBC bandwidth, but it does mean it'll chew your bandwidth allowance if you use it a lot or have Windows running and don't kill the process.

      Multicast would be a good idea for live broadcasts, though.

      Not that I actually use any of it - my wireless and 2GB cap wouldn't cope. A co-worker found the "always running, even when iPlayer isn't" service recently, though.
      • I think multicast would work well for non-live downloads as well, especially in conjunction with P2P. If the BBC server had a continuous running Multicast stream, then the iPlayer could start downloading at wherever it was in the stream, and then only use P2P to pick up the few stray packets that it missed (due to the fact that there are no resends in a multicast session).

        To deal with different speed connections, they could have multiple streams each running at some lowest-common-denominator speed, and stag
  • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:29AM (#22514940) Journal
    And sometimes demand drives supply.

    Speaking as an American, where all our telecoms basically conspire to screw the consumer and offer substandard bandwidth, I long for the day when the demand for bandwidth surpasses the ability of their crappy networks to handle it, sparking an all out bandwidth arms race amongst providers desperate to cater to the needs to demanding consumers. I dream of the slug-like cable and phone companies being driven under by agile local providers...It will get to the point where small networks will be able to compete, because the advantages of a giant infrastructure are of limited use in a local environment.

    So pardon me if I don't give a crap if the little ISPs are feeling the pinch. If they'd used a little foresight, they'd have plenty of free bandwidth.
    • I dream of the slug-like cable and phone companies being driven under by agile local providers
      You mean the agile local providers who buy their bandwidth from larger suppliers, and then proceed to oversell it to maximize their profits (or even just be competitive enough to stay in business)? Right, that's gonna work out real well...
    • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) *

      It will get to the point where small networks will be able to compete, because the advantages of a giant infrastructure are of limited use in a local environment.

      Hey, I hate the big players too and am as big of a supporter of small business as anybody (I cut my IT teeth working for a small town ISP) but you can't deny that large networks have economy of scale working in their favor.

      Your hometown ISP probably isn't going to be able to establish peering relationships with major content providers as easily as a state-wide or national one can. Your hometown ISP is going to have a harder time getting as good of a rate on that OC-12 or OC-48 as the large company that

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CRCulver ( 715279 )
      I don't know if Americans will have such a huge demand for bandwidth anytime soon. I spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe, and there people get around the lack of CDs and DVDs for sale legally (and their lack of money) by downloading huge amounts of music or films, ever-expanding their tastes and knowledge of the canon of art. Meanwhile, a lot of my friends in the U.S. have responded to the high price of CDs and DVDs by simply not buying much music or film these days, but when the occasionally feel like se
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      Speaking as an American, where all our telecoms basically conspire to screw the consumer and offer substandard bandwidth

      Not to mention screwing the tax payer by accepting funds to invest in infrastructure and then just pocketing them.
      • by Hatta ( 162192 )
        Here's [tispa.org] the link I should have included earlier.

        The fiber optic infrastructure you paid for was never delivered.

        Starting in the early 1990's, with a push from the Clinton-Gore Administration's "Information Superhighway", every Bell company - SBC, Verizon, BellSouth and Qwest - made commitments to rewire America, state by state. Fiber optic wires would replace the 100-year old copper wiring. The push caused techno-frenzy of major proportions. By 2006, 86 million households should have had a service capable of

  • Something "new" on the net => ISPs moan.
    • Yup, the same happened with audio, and before that, images. Yet somehow the 'net survived.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CarpetShark ( 865376 )
      I think you'll find that ISPs would moan a lot less if the telcos weren't charging extortionate fees.
  • I'll admit I flipped over the article only briefly, but it does look like they know where their bandwidth is going.

    Now I'm left to wonder why they haven't implemented caching servers for all the popular media sites they log. It seems like in one month it would rather pay for itself.
    • Cash servers? I'd love to be able to buy one of these, do you have contact info? Cash flow is troublesome around here, and if I could increase it, I'd be a hero...

      k, thx.
  • by teknopurge ( 199509 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:30AM (#22514958) Homepage
    Most advertise "unlimited bandwidth" or "unlimited transfer". Now that fine-print isn't going to save them.

    Live by the marketing hype, die by the same.

    Regards,
    • Here (in the US) I've noticed the phrase: "No Pre-Set Limits!". The credit cards are on this bandwagon right now. Obviously, they do not mean "unlimited" - otherwise Microsoft would just put Yahoo on their credit card :)

      Google even uses it, though in terms of "No preset user account limit" [google.com].
    • by a16 ( 783096 )
      Why does the average slashdot user replying to these topics seem to show so much hate towards the ISPs for offering you 20mbps but not intending you to use it all? Have you all thought of the other possibility - the ISPs become honest and ignores their competition overnight, as you want them to, and we all get completely unlimited 512kbps connections for our £20 per month. Newsflash: your monthly broadband fee does not cover the ISPs cost if you use it 24/7. Why is it particularly evil for ISPs, when
      • by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @01:14PM (#22516622)
        Why? Because whether my monthly bill covers the ISP's cost for the month is not my problem. They have entered into a contract with me. I signed a piece of paper that said that in exchange for X amount of dollars, I get a certain connection speed. Sometimes caps may be listed as well. Fair enough as long as it's in print. It's a contract that both parties have agreed to. One party pays, and the other provides a service.

        Now, when the ISP comes back and tells me that they can't actually afford to keep up their end of the deal, why shouldn't I be mad? If they couldn't afford to sell me what they did, they should not have advertised it.

        By advertising false rates and then not complying with their contracts, the ISPs are preventing me from shopping around to find the deal that best suits my needs.
      • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @02:11PM (#22517688)
        The dishonesty is reason enough to be annoyed with them. Actually, I think the behavior of some ISPs borders on fraud and it could be much worse for them than a few people hating them:
        They could get sued (happened to Comcast recently, sorry I can't find the link anymore) and maybe end up having to pay large damages.

        There is also another way of offering 20mbps and not have it overused:
        Sell 20mbps for the first 50 Gbyte/month and make the limitation clear in your advertisments. Throttle those who exceed it to dial-up speed... and announce that in advance as well. That would make it a fair deal, and anyone who still runs into the limit won't get much sympathy from me ;-)
  • I will! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by styryx ( 952942 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:31AM (#22514968)
    I'll pay... or more to the point, I have paid.

    "unlimited" was part of the title of my service plan; so, unlimited bits at the contract rate or I get to sue!

    There is no neutrality issue; what we are debating is greed(or incompetence coupled with back tracking and lying) in newspeak!
  • Pure moaning (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:31AM (#22514970)
    The post makes some very interesting reading regarding the bandwidth usage triggered by the iPlayer

    It really wasn't that interesting. He mostly just shows you a bunch of network traffic graphs.

    raises timely questions about the Net Neutrality debate.

    His argument basically boils down to "Waaa! Customers are actually using their internet connections! The BBC has lots of money, give some of it to us! Waaa!".

    This particular ISP may be bitching and moaning but frankly that's because they're discovering they can't compete. Virgin Media (Cable) recently announced a UK-wide upgrade for all of it's customers. My currently 4MB connection is going up to 10MB. I don't hear the any bitching from them, and they clearly wouldn't be doing it if bandwidth was really a problem.
    • I think that critisism directed at PlusNet is a little unfair. PlusNet are one of the few UK ISPs that do not advertise unlimited bandwidth, and are in fact very up-front about their traffic-shaping in order to prioritise real-time data over e.g. peer-to-peer.

      If you read the conclusion of the article, you'll see the author writes

      We aren't saying that the growth of streaming isn't a scary proposition... but it's got to be even more scary for some.

      In other words, it's uncomfortable for PlusNet, but it's goin

  • Push the cost off on the end-user and the ISP will benefit. All kidding aside, this would be a pretty huge non-issue if they sucked it up and went to fiber like they have been told to do time and time again. The problem here is capping bandwidth usage in areas where it was previously uncapped encourages users NOT to use a high-bandwidth service like iPlayer which is bad for the BBC's business model as well as many other downloading/streaming sites. Places which allow you to download music and movies legall
  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:33AM (#22514992)
    The BBC pay their ISP, the consumers pay theirs, everyone in between negotiates traffic prices between themselves. Where exactly is the problem?

    The only issue I can see is that dishonest ISPs want to keep charging their customers the "Unlimted* Fast** internet for the low low price of $X a month!", whilst either denying them the service being advertised by throttling some traffic, or charging the server side twice, once for the real cost and once for "access to consumers".

    It's greed and weaseling out of advertised services, pure and simple.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This.

      The answer is obvious, and the answer is the same whenever this sort of question comes up.

      It is the same for Bittorrent, it is the same for multi-player games, it is the same for email.

      The only thing about this that is different is that you see a website which potentially has millions of users (how big is the UK again?) all of whom are downloading large amounts. (Actually, seeing as this is the BBC, I guess the UK TV subscribers are going to be paying, along with the UK tax-payer.)
      • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:43AM (#22515130)
        "The only thing about this that is different is that you see a website which potentially has millions of users (how big is the UK again?) all of whom are downloading large amounts."

        60 ish million folks in the UK.

        This sort of thing will only get more common as time goes on a people use the net for ever more and bigger media. Personally I think ISPs need to do more to bite the bullet and price their services honestly, rather than pricing them cheap and then coming up with a million and one reasons you can't have what you thought you'd paid for.
  • by allcar ( 1111567 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:33AM (#22514994)
    I've just had an upgrade from Virgin Media to 20Mbps. I do get that speed, too. Trouble is, after I've downloaded a gig or two, I get throttled back to 5Mbps until midnight. Virgin reserve the right to tweak these parameters at their own convenience. I guess that is the future we have to get used to.
    • by Fweeky ( 41046 )
      It's supposed to be 3GB [virginmedia.com], then you get throttled for 5 hours.

      ntl:Telewest Business [ntltelewes...ness.co.uk] costs £3 more than Virgin's 20Mbit package for 10Mbit, but doesn't have throttling, has call centers in the UK (no crossing your fingers hoping you get Ireland and not India), optional static IP, and supposedly has some sort of SLA for support (6 hours iirc). 20Mbit's supposed to be available soonish too.
    • So then what for example, movie distributors get pissed because they aren't able to sell you as many digital movie downloads as you are willing to purchase? Will they get mad at ISPs for forcing people to use brick & mortar options, causing studios to give more of the profit to the middle-man? The internet is used for commerce, and bandwidth-intensive "commodities" will only become more popular. The PS3, XBox 360 and Wii are all using the internet for content distribution, not to mention multiplayer
  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:35AM (#22515034) Homepage
    The reality is that that "extra penny a minute" that they "eat" is because they didn't PLAN on you using the bandwidth that
    the ISPs promised you and then seriously overbooked for a major profit. It's not that the claims weren't true on the networking
    solutions being better overall- it's that greedy people didn't implement what they claimed and pocketed the extra, we can't seem
    to get people to move to things like IP Multicast to shed most of that load, and things like the aforementioned.

    I don't go boo-hoo for the ISPs. They knew this was going to eventually happen. They didn't prepare for it. They had the
    chance to do the right thing and they didn't- and still aren't. All in the name of large profits- something that nobody can
    sustain for long, ever. Nobody gets rich quick save by stealing or dumb luck. Once people start remembering that concept
    perhaps sanity will resume...naaahhh...we would never have that, now would we?
    • Overselling network capacity has been going on since networks were invented. It happens in Cell Phones (which is why emergency personnel often can't use cell phones at a major event) & long distance (at least pre-internet... The telco did not have nearly as many lines going to the long-distance switches as they had to their subscribers).

      If there's a change in the usage assumptions underlying the overselling ratio, then the ISPs are going to have to increase capacity. And, that's going to cost money.
  • Misguided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:44AM (#22515148)
    This quote from TFA caught my eye:

    There's another elephant in the room. As we noted here, yesterday, the brave new world of Web 2.0 doesn't generate any meaningful additional income. Social networks illustrate how hard it is to get advertising revenue even with a mass audience. It's the dirty secret the technology utopians never like to talk about.
    The reason it bothers me is what it implies: that everything should exist in order to generate a revenue stream. That a social network can't exist just for its own sake. Or even that a site whose ad revenue is enough to cover costs (hosting, etc.) but not turn a gigantic profit, is somehow a failure.

    The idea that everything must be monetized to have value is irksome and tiring. This fallacy permeates the article and is, in my opinion, why the article sometimes misses the mark.

    I think it's also interesting to note that the main point of the article is "ISPs, who are in the business of selling connectivity and bandwidth, are doomed because the demand for connectivity and bandwidth is large and getting larger." Imagine how silly it would be to say "grocery stores, who are in the business of selling food, are doomed because the demand for food is large and getting larger."

    The fact that demand is increasing would be a good sign for most industries. (Perhaps the ISPs view it as a bad thing only because they are so accustomed to over-selling their networks and not having customers actually use what they pay for?) This is not the death knell for ISPs, this is an opportunity for them to compete, expand, and sell more of their product. Until they wake up and understand this, they will keep complaining and deliver shoddy service, I guess. But make no mistake: the consumer thirst for high-bandwidth Internet applications is a good thing.
    • Re:Misguided (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:20PM (#22515660) Journal
      I thought about modding you, but it seems more appropriate to reply.

      It's not about existing to generate a revenue stream, it's to provide a return on investment for services offered. There's no magic pot of free money to create cool stuff. Things cost money to create and run. Sure, it may only be $0.05/GB for transmission costs, but somebody paid to put in the infrastructure, set up the distribution, plan and code the software, implement the system, and a zillion other things before the first bit came out the other end. The people who paid for that would like a return on their investment, otherwise they'd go invest in something else that would make money. Don't forget that some of these investors are investing your money - they money you expect to grow so that someday you can retire.

      Utilities, unlike grocery stores, would like to limit the amount of product to their current capacity. Installation of new facilities is wildly expensive, and it is hard to make back that capital expenditure. That's why power companies, for example, give rebates and discounts on energy saving appliances, and have time-of-use switches that they'll pay you to activate during peak (aka expensive) load times. The telecoms are worse off, as they have gone down the dangerous road of selling unmetered service, figuring that nobody would really use their (speed x time), or anything close. Switching back to a metered service is not going to be a happy, but added loads on the system is going to drive costs without additional revenue.

      Is it their own damned fault? Yes. Will the consumer pay for it. Eventually.
      • Utilities, unlike grocery stores, would like to limit the amount of product to their current capacity. Installation of new facilities is wildly expensive, and it is hard to make back that capital expenditure.

        Not completely true for Broadband. In most regions, the facilities and infrastructure is already there, they just need to be upgraded. Unless you are upgrading copper to fibre, the expenses aren't that high and they aren't unexpected. Every ISP knows bandwidth usage doubles every 18 months. So do their suppliers and technological development keeps up to provide ISP's with the equipment to supply those needs at reasonable prices.

  • by OglinTatas ( 710589 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:45AM (#22515172)
    Crap, I missed Bandwidth Explosion Bodes I and II. Were they any good? Are they available on a Mac?

    Are they some kind of guitar hero/FPS mashup?
    • So they spelled it wrong in the title. They're movies of... er... an "educational" persuasion: Bandwidth Explosion Bodies 1-3 (downloadable through your local USENET or bittorrent client).
  • At least in my area, customers are ALREADY paying, for service they don't even get.

    Looked at your Comcast bill lately? I was HOW MUCH???

    Tried to download a legal P2P file? Yeah, right.
  • If I pay someone $10 to dig a rock out of the ground, that rock is going to cost at least $10.

    If a lot of people want the rock, then it may go for $2000. If there are many similar rocks around the world, as soon as prices get too high, other people will start digging up rocks.

    So... why does it cost "X" to send 1gb of data?
    Is it the underlying physical cost to install the hardware and the salaries of the employees that support and maintain them.
    Or is it the scarcity demand?

    I.e. Say a cable costs $100 to in
  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:55AM (#22515286)
    Anyone who's sat down and looked at their ISP's Fair Use policy will realise that they just aren't set up to provide the speeds they advertise at anything like a decent capacity. Talk of downloads replacing movies is hilarious when your ISP throws a strop when you download more than 5GB (less than one SD DVD!) in a single evening. Seriously, all the bluster about amazing high-speed ADSL networks is completely overstated by the ISPs. They can perhaps provide the advertised speeds of 2Mbps as a peak for a small amount of their customer base at a given time, but the mean network traffic probably only equates to about 128kbps per customer.
    • I'm afraid you're correct. Whether we use the traditional server-client method, or P2P, VoD takes too much data.

      Some posters have already mentioned the need for caching. They're correct, but that's not enough. Caching does reduce the strain on the ISP network, but it does not incite ISPs to upgrade their infrastructure. Why would an ISP invest billions in better backbone access or in the last mile (FTTH), if the additional revenue goes somewhere else?

      I believe that the current situation is the result of a p
  • by vonPoonBurGer ( 680105 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:59AM (#22515336)
    This quote in the Register piece from the Telco 2.0 analyst just kills me:

    The problem with the current ISP model is it is like an all you can eat buffet, where one in 10 customers eats all the food, one in 100 takes his chair home too, and one in 1,000 unscrews all the fixtures and fittings and loads them into a van as well.

    Well let's flip it around. The ISPs are complaining about the minority who consume massively, when there's no rule against massive consumption? What about the majority of users who are paying for the full buffet but then only consuming the bandwidth equivalent of a light snack? The reality here is that the ISPs want to be able to charge a flat rate to people who underconsume, while charging per GB to people who overconsume, and they shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. If ISPs want to introduce a consumption-based pricing model, then the cost of access for people who use relatively little bandwidth should go down overall, and somehow I don't see that happening. I have little sympathy for a group of companies that are actively trying to get the best of both worlds at their customers' expense.

    I expect we'll see a lot of hybrid models that are really crappy deals for consumers. For example, Bell Sympatico recently introduced bandwidth fees on top of their already uncompetitive monthly prices. Needless to say, the price per GB ($1.50 per) over your plan's cap is also exceptionally high compared to other offerings in the market. If you go to their support site [sympatico.ca], you can see such hilarious questions as "How much Internet is included in my plan?" Remember, it's not a dumptruck, it's a series of tubes! Perhaps it's no coincidence that I'm switching from Bell to an ISP with monthly rates, bandwidth caps and overage fees [teksavvy.com] that are actually reasonable.
  • Charge us for what we use.

    And then compete on the price you sell us the bandwidth/quota for.
  • I'm confused.

    For every individual who uses iPlayer (or any other streaming application), the provider must send the same packets which that person receives. In basic terms, what comes out has to go in. So it seems to me that the cost to the BBC of sending this data: the £8.8 million quoted in the article, should be the same as the ISP costs for us receiving it. If the ISP pays more, then they just have a worse cost-per-megabyte deal than the BBC, and I don't beleive that.

    Unless these figures that th

  • Absurd (Score:3, Interesting)

    by damburger ( 981828 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:14PM (#22515572)

    Firstly, non-UK slashdotters should realise that PlusNet is a pretty lame ISP by most peoples standards, and doesn't have a huge number of users, so can't be taken as a reliable data point.

    Secondly, the whole philosophy behind IPlayer is fundamentally flawed. I am a linux user, who pays the three-figure license fee every year. How dare they say I can't use BBC content I have already paid for how I like? I understand that Auntie gets a significant amount of revenue selling its content to overseas networks - but this is unrelated to the Internet. You can't regulate Jonny American downloading the latest episodes of Dr. Who but you can certainly regulate how much an American TV network must pay to show it. The Beeb is listening too much to traditional media types who don't fully grasp how the internet works. They don't understand to have a public TV service (a fantastic thing in my opinion, and most Britons agree with me) you must allow unrestricted downloads. Britons downloading BBC content are simply utilising what they already pay for. Foreigners downloading the content are extending the reach of British culture. Forcing it through a proprietary system is ridiculous.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by itsdapead ( 734413 )

      (Sorry for the "and another thing" post - workus interruptus)

      They don't understand to have a public TV service (a fantastic thing in my opinion, and most Britons agree with me)

      The other snag is that "media convergence" - the point in the not-too-distant-possible-future when there ceases to be any meaningful distinction between a networked computer and a TV set - completely and utterly buggers the BBC's "levy funded public service broadcasting" model.

      At that point, the only business as usual solution is to extend the TV license to computers and/or broadband connections: and that my friends ain't never going to happen

  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:19PM (#22515652)
    There are essentially two problems plaguing the UK, the first is that we don't have particularly good last-mile infrastructure, specifically everyone is on copper lines and as such we're looking at a limit of around 24mbps with ADSL2 if you're lucky enough to be close to the exchange. For us to achieve faster speeds investment is going to be needed to replace all that copper with fibre, that solves the issue of a possible max speed issue that's going to hit the UK hard a few years down the road as other nations advanced their connection speeds and we hit a brick wall.

    The second issue is the UK's internet backbone, it's simply not up to scratch and doesn't meet todays requirements in terms of bandwidth. Many people laugh when there are articles about how the internet is going to run out of spare bandwidth, but the fact is in the UK it's happening, the whole reason ISPs over the past few years have gone from true unlimited to heavily capped is because bandwidth is having to be rationed, there just isn't enough room on the backbone for everyone's requirements in an unlimited world.

    As such, the UK also needs investment in it's internet backbone and whilst BT is bringing implementing 21CN, whilst I don't know the technical details it seems a mere band-aid fix as some people in the industry have commented that there will still be similar bandwidth caps as today.

    It's not an unsolvable problem, on the contrary the solution is there - Japan with a population double that of the UK quite happily handles 100mbps connections to end users with the requirement for caps and their internet backbone falling over as a result. There are plenty of other examples like Sweden, however some may argue that as Sweden only has around 1/10th the UK's population that they don't have enough end users to clog the pipes up, hence why Japan is a much better example. South Korea is a decent example also at around 5/6ths of the UK's population. The core issue is politics and who's going to give up short term profits temporarily for vastly improved long term profits.

    The UK simply needs investment in it's internet infrastructure, but it needs everyone work together. BT are semi-interested in updating their backbone but quite rightly they think why should they when it's ISPs and content providers that are going to make the money off of it? The fact is that a one off investment (to ensure net neutrality) by the major players is required - BT, ISPs, the Goverment and yes, possibly even the BBC and other major content providers.

    It's all very well ISPs complaining it's costing them a fortune currently, but when they're not willing to give up that money to BT for infrastructure improvements then they can't realistically expect a solution.

    One final point is that it doesn't help the goverment wasting ISP's time and money with their threats about getting rid of file sharers. It's all very well the goverment, ISPs and BT whining about the problems the UK has with internet access, but when they're all doing nothing about the problems, or in the governments case, making the problem worse then they can quite frankly shut up and put up. The only downside to that is, it's us, the end users that suffer.
  • Oh boo hoo! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 )
    Maybe they shouldn't have sold the world bandwidth they couldn't deliver, then tried to cover up the fact with (un)Fair Usage policies on those who expected to get the service and speed they paid for!

    I'm sorry, (ISP), but it's your own damn fault you sold too much to too many people. In every other business throughout the world, selling a service or product you KNOW can't deliver is called Fraud. I hope they hang you all out to dry.

    Let the CEO's soak up the cost; they decided on the Snake Oil policy.
  • by clare-ents ( 153285 ) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:39PM (#22515928) Homepage
    It's a real problem because the UK infrastructure architecture is plain bizarre.

    There are two types of ISPs,

    BT / Virgin / Easynet + a few others who have unbundled kit in exchanges and their own pipes to exchanges

    Everyone else who resells capacity from the above, who pays a fixed price for capacity irrespective of where in the country it came from.

    All that capacity goes back to telehouse where LINX is and all the content and internet exchange takes place.

    There is no peering at the local exchanges, or apart from London or Manchester.

    So when a two BBC users with the P2P iplayer service but different ISPs, all the traffic goes to London and back again. Even if it's the same ISP the ISP doesn't see it until it leaves the resellers pipes in London at which point it gets shipped back down the pipe it came from. When I downloaded a programme on my laptop that was already on my desktop PC I got a download rate of 500Mbits as it streamed across my internal gigabit LAN - if we had peering at the exchanges and decent ADSL uplinks we should be able to do that within metropolitan areas.

    Now this may work itself out - there aren't any really long distances in the UK, so we should be able to run 10Gbit ethernet backhaul between exchanges relatively quickly and cheaply for unbundled providers, but to really do it well we need peering in every major city between the majority of ISPs rather than the current model where every ISP ships all their traffic to London.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheLink ( 130905 )
      But they need to ship it to London or Manchester so the snoops can look at stuff when they want to.

      Maybe much of the money you are paying isn't going into upgrading service for customers, but into equipment to make the snooping easier ;).
  • The last I looked, most people in the UK have a bandwidth cap for each month. If people are merely using the bandwidth they are entitled to, and paying a premium if they go over the cap (or they get cut off), I'm wondering what the problem is here?
  • The Register also picked up on this story with a good review of who is going to have to pay for all this legal video streaming.

    Here's a concept: How about the people who use the bandwidth pay for it? Well, unless their ISP was stupid enough to advertise "unlimited data transfer", but then that's the ISP's own damn fault.

  • Akamai.
    Content Delivery Networks.
    CDN, duh!

    In other news, I have a few hundred channels available on my DSL set-top box and on my computer through Videolan, oh my fscking god how do they do this? Yeah, it's multiplexed, and VOD is cached somewhere between me and the ISP's offices, GENIUSES.
  • If you aren't paying for it. ( yes that was sarcasm ).

    Besides, comcast will just throttle it anyway.
  • I suspect that we'll probably see a temporary reappearance of volume-based pricing for broadband; the current "all you can eat" plans don't make much sense in the days of 100 Mbps last mile connections and vast on-line video offerings. Still, for the average user, prices probably won't be going up since I think $50-$100/month is kind of the limit.

    We may also see increases in the prices charged to content providers like BBC.

    Business models like Joost, however, are probably going to fail. People may be will

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