Advanced Television

Huggers: BBC won’t pay for preferential Internet

November 17, 2010

From Colin Mann in London

Erik Huggers, Director of Future Media and Technology at the BBC has described maintaining an open and neutral Internet as “absolutely crucial” to the Corporation’s ability to deliver services.

He told delegates at the FT Conference that certain ISPs had at one stage implemented traffic management that had severely affected the quality of users’ iPlayer experience. “We raised the matter with them and they had to throttle back. Now our R&D experts are working with ISPs and telcos to help out. We believe there are technical solutions to the issue…We are great believers in multicasting,” he said, suggesting that it was more efficient to deliver one stream rather than many.

Referring to earlier comments by Culture and Communications Minister Ed Vaizey regarding ISPs ability to charge preferential prices for categories and quality of service, Huggers said that it was “highly unlikely” that the BBC would pay tiered costs to ensure iPlayer service quality levels, stressing that traffic management issues provided a real opportunity for the (ISP) industry to work with the BBC and he revealed that the BBC was considering making its content cacheable. “We don’t do that at the moment; we have copyright fears,” he admitted, but acknowledged that network storage could help alleviate bandwidth issues. He pointed out that the BBC already paid for distribution citing companies such as Arqiva on the terrestrial side, with Akamai and Level 3 on the Content Delivery Network side.

He confirmed earlier reports that the BBC was considering launching a global iPlayer, but said that it wouldn’t be the UK edition of the platform. “Here, that’s a catch-up service which doesn’t apply elsewhere.” Also under investigation was roaming, i.e., the ability for UK TV Licence Fee payers to access iPlayer content when out of the country. “There’s been a lot of interest in that,” he noted.

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