BT vs BBC: an exercise in confusing service providers' responsibilities with those of content providers


So much for the democratisation of the internet.

So BT (British Telecom) in their infinite rational wisdom have admitted to throttling bandwidth of connections to the BBC iPlayer.

Fine. The customer purchases a service from a company with insufficient infrastructure to cope with the normal web use of today, and the service provider limits the customer’s usage of their service in this respect. Customers are free to take their business elsewhere: free market and all. I mean, it’s obviously wrong that BT have not been upfront to their customers about limiting the service they provide, but I am presuming they haven’t broken the terms of their contracts with customers.

But they didn’t stop there. A spokesperson for BT added that BBC should shoulder the cost for access to their iPlayer service.

Excuse me?

It’s kind of like BT are blaming the BBC for providing content to their customers. Sure, the BBC iPlayer creates traffic on their network, in the same way that any kind of web usage does. But that’s why the customer is purchasing a service. Paying money. For a service.

The logical conclusion to this would be for every ISP to charge every single company who owns a website that is used by a member of the public with internet. Which is clearly ridiculous.

It’s one thing to secretly limit the service without telling customers, it’s another thing to somehow claim that the companies who provide this content are somehow to blame!

What is that about? Is it a marketing exercise to somehow deflect from the fact BT’s infrastructure cannot cope with the usage levels of their customers? What has that got to do with the BBC?

More to the point, though, BT also admit to prioritising the service levels pertaining to usage of BBC iPlayer to customers who pay more.

This further underlines how wrong they are to claim BBC should fit the bill. If a customer pays more, they can have a less-restricted service. If the level of service they can provide to their customers is proportional to how much the customer pays and has no bearing on whether content providers like BBC pay money to BT, surely this further proves the issue is one of service level agreements between customer and ISP?

I’ve yet to read if spokespersons for other major UK ISPs have jumped on the bandwagon, but my guess is that most other ISPs would sensibly assume they cannot pull the wool over their customers’ eyes in that way.

If anyone has a good analogy that adequately sums-up how amusing and ridiculous this is, I would love to hear it.


4 Responses

  1. hazymat

    June 11, 2009 6:08 pm

    A comment snitched from Rory Cellan-Jones’s comments section on his blog from the user odysseus_nz.

    “I wonder, do they throttle BT Vision as well? I hope so, as anything would be anti-competitive behaviour from a dominant market player. Or is that not available for Option 1 customers?

    In general though, it doesn’t matter what the content is, I’m paying my ISP to deliver the bits when I request them, what those bits are has nothing to do with the ISP. Why should the ISP get a cut of the business they are carrying? BT doesn’t get a cut from the insurance company when I phone up to renew my premium, the Post Office doesn’t get a cut from that book or CD that Amazon posted to me, the power company doesn’t get a cut from the trades I’ve just made using my pc powered by their product. So why does BT expect that that the content providers should have to give them a cut?

    Now, if BT has a problem delivering on the service they have sold, that’s their problem, they shouldn’t be over-selling their capacity. If they want to advertise up-front the terms and conditions that apply to getting a cheap plan, well and good. But their actions here can at best be described as deceptive.”

  2. AngryTechnician

    June 11, 2009 7:59 pm

    May I posit that a simple and closely related analogy would be if BT suggested that someone receiving a telephone call should consider the cost of someone else calling and speaking to them? The person being called is clearly offering content that BT customers want to access without considering the burden it places on BTs network.

  3. hazymat

    June 11, 2009 8:03 pm

    Brilliant. Or perhaps those who receive very long phone calls should shoulder the cost. Which is about as rational as saying that phone call recipients with very loud voices should shoulder the cost.


  4. 4RCH

    July 29, 2009 6:33 pm

    It’s like buying a huge HD television set, that does not display more than a 320×240 resolution… and then wont work until after you’ve gone to bed >_<

    The lies surrounding the so-called broadband revolution in britain are but only just becoming apparent.

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