Streaming television services via the same peer-to-peer (p2p) technology that file sharing networks use has been the recent distribution model for broadcasters such as Sky Anytime on PC (formerly "Sky by Broadband"), 4oD and BBC's iPlayer. Over the last couple of days, several national news sources have carried stories of criticism by service providers on the shifting of distribution costs to service providers.
By employing p2p technology, it is possible for companies to send the content to users once, and then allow the users to share it with their virtual 'neighbours' reducing the companies' distribution costs. However, this is causing increasing problems for service providers as the traffic on their networks increases. With packages often based on 'unmetered' access, their revenues remain the same.
TheRegister's coverage of this issue has attracted many comments critical of the ISPs' position illustrating the consumer's demand for high bandwidth services usually without usage based charges. One comment suggests that ISPs can exchange traffic with the BBC for free, but neglect to consider the fact that the ISPs' most significant cost is delivering the content from its own network to the end user through a DSL broadband network. Cable operators could be at a distinct advantage in their delivery mechanisms, and it may be BT's new 21CN network will help things for DSL operators in the future.
The fact that some ISPs are jumping on this argument now may be an indication that BBC iPlayer is on its way to become a success. Whilst sites like YouTube have been around for a significant amount of time and streamed movie rentals have existed, they have never been prevalent enough to cause ISPs concern to this extent. Others have suggested the ISPs in question (which have included Tiscali, BT and Carphone Warehouse according to TheRegister) are looking to protect their own broadcast TV services.