BT wants to end BBC's 'free ride' on its networks

BT has made it clear it thinks video sites need to pay up to cover increased broadband costs.


BT is tired of the BBC and other video sites getting a "free ride" on its networks.

Last week, the news broke that BT was "throttling" the BBC's iPlayer video streaming system at peak times, which the broadcaster said was hurting viewers' ability to watch television online.

John Petter, managing director of BT Retail's consumer business, has now accused the BBC of getting a "free ride".

"We can't give the content providers a completely free ride and continue to give customers the [service] they want at the price they expect," he told the Financial Times, adding it wasn't just the BBC that was the burden, but any sites offering streaming video.

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A spokesperson for BT could not confirm the financial cost of the iPlayer and other video to the ISP, but said it was clearly significant.

"Obviously we're a big business," he told IT PRO. "We're raising this issue publicly, so you can take it as read we're not talking small amounts of money."

The BBC and BT are currently in talks, he noted, but BT is looking to raise the pressure on the BBC and other video hosting sites in those negotiations. "We'd like to have real-world discussions with content holders with where we could go from here," he said.

He noted that BT and BBC are partners in Project Canvas, an IPTV plan. "It's a good example of how ISPs and content owners can sit down and agree on a cost," he said.

But the BBC and other content providers are unsurprisingly against the idea of picking up the tab, and noted the iPlayer makes up just a small portion of online traffic.

The BBC's technology editor Rory Cellan Jones said that he "could not remember BT ever making such an forthright call for cash," and suggested it was an issue of net neutrality.

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"So far the whole issue of net neutrality - the idea that the internet should not discriminate between different types of traffic - has not made much of an impact in Britain," he wrote in his blog.

"Now Britain's biggest internet service provider is making it clear that, in a cut-throat broadband market, something is going to have to give - and net neutrality may have to be chucked overboard,"

He noted that "both sides are manoeuvring in advance of the Carter report" the so-called "Digital Britain" report due next week, which is expected to lay out plans to increase broadband speeds, at a potentially huge cost.

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