Internet service providers have threatened to 'pull the plug' on the BBC iPlayer unless the BBC pays the estimated £830m cost of developing enough capacity to cope with the traffic.
Amid fears that the BBC's new catch-up service could grind the internet to a halt at peak times, Ian Livingston of BT Retail, Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse and Mary Turner of Tiscali are understood to have held informal talks to develop a common approach and raised their concerns with BBC new media head Ashley Highfield.
Mary Turner said: "The internet was not set up with a view to distributing video. We have been improving our capacity, but the bandwidth we have is not infinite. If the iPlayer really takes off, consumers accessing the internet will get very slow service and will call their ISPs to complain."
They have said that if the BBC does not pay for the cost of extra capacity, which Ofcom estimates will cost £830m over the next five years, they will consider limiting the number of consumers that can watch BBC programmes at one time. The alternative is to create a two-tier system of customer charges to penalise heavy users.
A senior insider at BT added: "It is certainly a live debate between ISPs [internet service providers] and the BBC. If the BBC gets the numbers it wants for iPlayer then network capacity could become an issue."
Lovelace Consulting | 13.08.2007