Friday, 6 June 2008

Could BBC One streaming kill the internet in the UK?

'Slow road ahead on the information superhighway'

The story so far: Yesterday I wondered whether the BBC was making a tactical error by deciding to stream its most popular TV channel over the web. I feared that it might hasten the end of the TV licence fee and hence force a major rethink of the BBC's funding - even before the current charter expires in 2016.

A lot more stuff has been written elsewhere since my post yesterday. My headline is borrowed from the excellent broadband issues website and user forum They raise some more immediate concerns which escaped my attention.

If the nation's favourite TV shows are available live over the web other services may grind to a halt.

We've all experienced how slow the web can get during peak hours, so if millions of viewers decide to stream a popular show onto their PCs what will happen to all the other services? Will Internet service providers have to put up a 'sorry service full to capacity' sign?

Some Internet service providers have already complained that the BBC's iPlayer has grown demand for capacity exponentially - who is going to pay for the extra pipe-work they ask? Will it be the BBC (who pay for their transmitters now) BT (who own and operate most of the UK's telephony infrastructure) or Customers - yes, us!

Broadband has become exceptionally good value - Sky offer a basic service free to its TV subscribers, Talk Talk and Tiscali give it away with telephone packages, O2's standalone service is just £7.50 a month for its mobile customers.

The future demands on the internet's infrastructure capacity are growing daily - but who will make the massive technological investment to ensure the UK isn't left in the information superhighway's slow lane?

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