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BBC faces criticism on iPlayer hosting change
Wednesday 20 August 2008 20:14:48 by Sebastien Lahtinen

BBC iPlayer is a popular TV catch-up service allowing viewers to re-play BBC content up to seven days after it was originally broadcast on terrestrial TV. The coverage of the Olympics have proven particularly popular with PlusNet reporting a 200% increase in iPlayer usage during the opening ceremony.

In the last few months, there has been increased discussion about the costs of delivering content from the Internet to the end user, and in particular, applications like iPlayer which are quite bandwidth intensive. Service providers are struggling to meet the bandwidth demands of users who are getting increasingly used to bandwidth hungry applications, at a price the users are willing to pay.

In a blog post by Anthony Rose, head of BBC Digital Media Technology, it has emerged that the BBC is in the process of switching its iPlayer hosting from current content distribution network (CDN) Akamai to Level 3 Communications prompting concern from a number of service providers about the increased cost burden this is likely to place on them.

"Zen Internet is expecting the decision to increase its costs as economically, all but a select few large networks must pay Level(3) to receive traffic originated within their network. The previous solution using Akamai used content hosted on a large number of small networks which are sited close to end-users and to which access is freely given. This removes the reliance on a single network, improving robustness."

Zen Internet Spokesman

This may not seem significant to the average user, but in reality this is likely to increase the costs for small and medium sized service providers due to the way traffic on the Internet is exchanged. The BBC's own network and Akamai are known within the service provider community as "open peers" which means they will usually exchange traffic with anyone who asks free-of-charge by "peering" with other network operators. On the other hand, Level 3 is a tier-1 network which has a very strict peering policy, only exchanging traffic with the largest of network operators free-of-charge. Those not able to 'peer' will have no option but to pay either Level 3 or another company who peers with Level 3 for the service of exchanging traffic.

There is a suspicion, at least within part of the network operator community, that the BBC is reducing its hosting costs by switching from Akamai to Level 3, since Level 3 is able to charge service providers for access to its network, and thus shifting costs from the BBC to the broadband service providers which may put pressure on the price margins of smaller providers.

Comments

Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
Level3??? Tier 1 or Tier 3, has their reliability improved since a couple of years ago when I stopped watching? If not, folks had better dig out their VCRs, PVRs, or whatever's trendy this year (maybe I'll see if I can get MythTV working). That only helps if it's broadcast stuff though.

Who's actually driving this cost reduction exercise? The BBC themselves, or the Siemens subsidiary the BBC outsourced their techy stuff to a few years back?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/
stories/2004/10_october/01/technology.shtml
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
"This may not seem significant to the average user"

Sure it is. Losers3 constantly cause routing issues, drop entire ISP's packets and other mayhem. Know them well for it.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Sounds to me just like more sour grapes from a few little whinging ISPs that like to throttle and cap everything in sight.

Heres an idea if a few of them are reading....... (CONT)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Im sick of ISPs crying something is costing them money. If you dont like the business get out of it, instead of constantly whining about costs, blaming the wrong people for costs and throttling and capping everything in sight because you dont have the nerve to challenge regulation and a company that milks all your profits.
TO WHINGING ISPs, high bandwidth internet services are a reality like it or not, spend as much time making things work and discussing costs with your big BT supplier and you might not have to spend as much time crying about profit. Get use to it!
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
Is a strange move by the bbc, must be cost motivated, I have also noticed they have shut down direct peering to isps and routing over level3 but that is only supposed to be for the duration of the olympics.
Posted by bosie over 6 years ago
I'm under the impression it's not data which costs but the equipment and port charges to supply it. Carpetburn is right to criticise the cost model imposed by BT but I'm more concerned about the choice in level 3 - their services are not reliable enough and packet loss will run rife.
Posted by therioman over 6 years ago
I think CARPETBURN is missing the point - the cost is not insignificant when you start shifting large volumes of content like this, and it's not just the usual people complaining.
Posted by KarlAustin over 6 years ago
When you go from peering for "free" (well, <£0.50/mbit) to paying £4-5/mbit for traffic to Level(3) then that's a significant jump in costs. I would guess that it is a cost cutting exercise by the BBC, as Akamai isn't a cheap service to use - although it gets the job done.

CB - For once, this nothing to do with BT and the copper loop/ipstream etc.
Posted by geoff-ellis over 6 years ago
Seems to me this might be one of those "opportunities" for some ISPs. It leaves them with a way to avoid this traffic. Many of us punters have no interest watching any TV content.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
none of this would arise if users paid for what they used as the ISPs would get extra revenue from the increased consumption. Imagine supplying beer, petrol, food etc at a fixed price per month.
Posted by kev445 over 6 years ago
You can kiss good bye to the BBC web-site always loading fast and always available. The great thing about the current setup is that there is tons of bandwidth available, as it is near free!

Now ISP’s have to route their traffic through a third party which costs significantly more per Mbit, ISPs are a business so will only buy in the bandwidth needed for normal day to day usage. Now this may not be a problem most of the time, but what happens when the 2012 Olympics start, football or heaven forbid a national disaster occurs? Cont...
Posted by kev445 over 6 years ago
The BBC web-site and IPlayer will slow to a crawl and possible stop loading altogether, as their won’t be enough bandwidth to go around!
Posted by rizla over 6 years ago
Of course its reducing the BBCs hosting/network costs and its about time too! Why should every single person in the UK who owns a TV or PC effectively subsidise ISPs via the license fee?

The choice of host is execrable but the reasoning is sound.
Posted by rollier over 6 years ago
I know what L3 and Akamai charges are into the BBC and let's say that L3 gave the BBC an offer they couldn't refuse. Most of the UK ISPs, including all but one of the big ISPs, peer directly with the BBC (settlement-free peering), so L3 doesn't come into play here.
Posted by albegood over 6 years ago
Cost! we pay for a tv license so there for the service should be paid for by licence holders, they will need some sort of log in so that those who DONT pay for a tv license will not be allowed to view! if they pass the cost to isp i will not bother using the service volentary! (sorry about spelling)
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
Carpet - nuts. The BBC have deliberately shifted a large amount of bandwidth from a sensible, quick peering service to L3 who are expensive and unrelyable.

ISP's now really DO have cause to ask the BBC to pay for their share of the bandwidth, afaik. Because this is a "go out of business" clause for some smaller and even mid-sized ones.
Posted by lucien_desgai over 6 years ago
It maybe that the problems are already starting. I have sufficient bandwidth for the 'high quality' streams and a reliable connection with a small business-orientated ISP.

Despite this, about half of the high-quality videos I've watched have stalled (not buffering, the stream actually stops).

When this occurs it's necessary to refresh the screen to restart the video then FF to where the previous stream failed.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"ISP's now really DO have cause to ask the BBC to pay for their share of the bandwidth"
They can choose to supply the service or not, blocking iplayer content both download and stream based would be very easy.
If they want to save their precious profit block the service entirely. Opps i forgot they wont do that especially at this moment in time with the olympics on the TV, customers would leave in the thousands and go to an ISP that doesnt block the service.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Im sick of em some ISPS, they block, throttle, cap etc etc etc and whine about their profits, its always someone else at fault and not them.
I have no sympathy for them, if they want to operate at the budget end of the market thats their choice.
Why should the BBC or anyone else fund or help fund an ISP who CHOOSE to supply access to the service?
Stuff like Iplayer as the years go by are going to become more and more common ISPs need to suck it up, get over it and shut up with the whinging.
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
If bandwidth from BBC to ISP is the issue, why aren't the multicast faithful sorting this one without involving someone like L3? (Multicast from ISP to punter isn't helpful though, and that's where the big cost is for most ISPs).

Or have the BBC, and the IPtv multicast evangelists, given up on that idea? Or maybe L3 can't spell multicats?
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
OK, rewind for a moment. Currently the content is hosted by Akamai not the BBC, right? Then surely the current cost to the BBC is whatever they pay Akamai (do they pay Akamai?), as the BBC isn't hosting the content itself ? AND if punters aren't directly accessing BBC servers there's no usage-dependent cost, unless the BBC/Akamai deal has that built in. If that's not the way it works, how does it work?
Posted by wingZero21 over 6 years ago
Yeah BBC Website is gonna get a whole lot slower :), the BBC pay Akamai for their service.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
if herdwick ever gets his wish with a PAYG internet we will all be far worse off, peering will be irrelevant as noone will be using the traffic, very backwards thinking.
Akamai is expensive but reliable and fast (used by microsoft), did the bbc use akamai just for iplayer or its entire website?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
No idea if this change has taken place yet but Eastenders for the mrs from the other night downloaded as quick as it always has. I have no buffering issues either (for both the standard and high def streams) and enjoyed watching The Games Today which i missed last night... I see no issues, whether they host on Level 3 or Akamai nothing will ever be perfect, ISPs that are whinging over where the content comes from, are worried about their pockets, nothing to do with reliability.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
Well done to the BBC i say... Wasnt so long ago, some of you here were whinging about your TV license fee being spent on Iplayer, now ya whinging they have reduced their costs.
You cant have it both ways. Id sooner pay a few quid a month to an ISP that can deliver what i personally want rather than another increase in licence fee to fund something people as a whole may or may not want and have no say in paying. The cheaper the BBC can provide the service the better IMO. The whiner ISPs can cry me a river and stick to what they are good at..... Limited, Capped, and throttled content.
Posted by wallfly over 6 years ago
IMO, It's a wise strategy for the BBC to have relationships with a few CDN vendors. (Akamai, Level3, Limelight, Velocix.... whoever) That keeps them all on their toes, increasing quality and ultimately reducing cost for the license fee payer.
Akamai still delivers the majority of BBC streaming content. Level3 are relatively new to the CDN game in Europe so have undoubtedly have put together a suitably attractive proposal to the BBC. BBC should at least try it out to determine whether the quality is equivalent to the service they get from Akamai.
Posted by wallfly over 6 years ago
I can understand the objection from the smaller ISPs to the cost increase (transit) for the traffic via Level3.
In the short term, I'd expect Level3 to approach some of these smaller ISPs with sweet deals on IP transit to keep them on side ,though transit is one of the cheapest components of delivering a broadband service in the UK today.
Long term, Level3 need to revisit their policy for CDN peering, nobody expects Level3 to peer with every man and his dog, they are a Tier-1 network, but they could at least start announcing their CDN prefixes at public Internet exchanges.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
Carpet - If you want the good ISP's to go out of business, sure. Because that's what you're advocating. The ones who cram the maximum uses in will just limit the L3 feed to keep their costs down.

wallfly - L3 don't do "sweet deals". Either you're a peer, or you pay. It's how they work.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
And carpet? If you're not aware of the huge and often ongoing issues with L3's reliability and so on then you're deliberately so - it comes up on a regular basis. I call them Losers3 for a reason, called "packets".
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
Can anyone with a relevant clue about peering routing and transit etc explain whether using L3's content delivery services also means you have to take their transit services too, or is routing at that level capable of distinguishing between traffic to/from the L3/BBC CDN (which presumably must go via L3?) and traffic to the rest of the Internerd (which sensible ISPs will want to route via anyone other than L3, because of well-known L3 reliability/competence issues)?

IE have L3 finally found a way to force sensible UK ISPs to buy transit capacity from them?
Posted by wallfly over 6 years ago
D_F, by sweet deals, Level 3 are able to offer cheap transit deals to smaller UK ISPs in recognition of the additional cost burden of their CDN peering policy.
I think the Level3 CDN should be a seperate AS which does have an open peering policy as they are clearly not going to start peering with the tier2/3 networks through AS3356.
I have not noticed any issues (increase in the level of buffering) yet with the L3 streams so far.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
@Dawn Falcon...
I dont see any good ISPs going out of business over this LLU providers wont bat an eyelid and neither will ISPs that charge a sensible amount for their services. Those that charge 10 quid via BT MAX based products or other stupidly low level might find in impacts on the little or no profit they make per person, per month on that 10 quid, but again thats their fault for providing stupidly cheep throttle and capped services.
If issues happen with Level 3 for Iplayer then ill say you are correct in that regard, until then though good on the BBC
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
Carpet - No, they'll be batting a heck of a lot more than eyelashes. All hatches down, more like. Those same ISP's have in some cases quite expensively managed to cut L3 out of their routings because of the issues involved, and now they have to go back and deal with their massive charges and poor reliability.

wallfly - L3 DO NOT do that. Been there, seen that.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
@Dawn_Falcon
The ISPs that charge sensible and also fair prices to a customer, supply a reliable not STUPIDLY capped or throttled service and LLU suppliers are not going to care about this at all... Services Like Rapidshare, Bit torrent, even I THINK Channel 5's on demand service all go over Level 3 or similar and cost to ISPs for those is the same or similar. This just like the other services ive mentioned is just another excuse for the bottom end market players to cry like babies. If Level 3 turns out to be unreliable i imagine the beeb will just shift things again.
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
"If Level 3 turns out to be unreliable i imagine the beeb will just shift things again."

Level3 already *are* so unreliable that an L3 outage isn't news, it's normal service. OTOH, when Akamai get an outage it *is* news - a couple in 2004, a couple in 2007, but mostly "it just works".

Did you actually read the full article, or did your auto-ranter switch on as soon as you saw the word Plusnet? I don't think Zen (quoted in the article) or similar, quality, ISPs (or their customers) would appreciate being called "bottom end market players crying like babies".
Posted by Kaufhof over 6 years ago
I regret to say that users of TV via the internet have brought this on themselves. Using wires and cables is ludicrously inefficient compared with broadcast RF. I see no reason for trying to use the internet for TV and can only remark that, if nobody had taken an interest in this crazy notion, then there would be no need for this kerfuffle.
Posted by KarlAustin over 6 years ago
@CB - "Services Like Rapidshare, Bit torrent, even I THINK Channel 5's on demand service all go over Level 3 or similar and cost to ISPs for those is the same or similar."

You've just clearly shown a distinct lack of the market there, Level(3) generally speaking charge a premium compared to most other networks. Even recently introducing port fees as another way to cream more money from their customers. Most ISPs peer with each other as well, so no transit involved at all between them.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"Did you actually read the full article, or did your auto-ranter switch on as soon as you saw the word Plusnet? I don't think Zen (quoted in the article) or similar, quality, ISPs (or their customers) would appreciate being called "bottom end market players crying like babies".
Dunno what thats even supposed to mean, no where did i rant at plusnet, and i never really have. I can see the benefits and the negatives of the service they provide.
I did not call either of the ISPs you mention bottom end either... If you or they want to assume they are, thats your business.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"...Level(3) generally speaking charge a premium compared to most other networks. Even recently introducing port fees as another way to cream more money from their customers."
Am i spose to care ISPs have a new added cost? Sorry couldnt care less the types of ISP who are seriously concerned about this i wouldnt touch with a barge pole anyway. They are happy to charge their customers for extra gigs... shoe on other foot springs to mind. What will they will cry like when fibre arrives along with full live HD services and people like level 3 throw a few more costs at them LOL
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
Carpet - You're not reading. ISP's currently go to great lenghts NOT to route traffic over L3. Their peering policy and charges are NOT standard and they are very expensive to deal with.

Given that it's the smaller, deacent ISP's who are concerned (VM and BT? They won't be bothered since they're big enough to peer) your stance here is a radical reversal.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"Given that it's the smaller, deacent ISP's who are concerned (VM and BT? They won't be bothered since they're big enough to peer) your stance here is a radical reversal."

I wouldnt say that, ill happily support an ISP big or small when they do something good in fact for c_j heres an example when ive supported and said well done to zen...
http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/3211-zen-sponsors-local-rowing-team.html (CONT).
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
I dont support whinging from any business that suddenly moan they have an added extra cost. Internet is a utility like service, if you cant supply the service or its affecting your profits that bad, get out of it while you can.
The future of the internet as has been said hundreds of times before is gonna be more bandwidth intensive..... Are they going to complain everytime a new hit use of the technology comes along which costs the money to supply? Sorry i have no sympathy, you either suck it up or stop supplying it (leading to a loss of customers) Those are the simple facts.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 6 years ago
Carpet - And there has been a big reduction in the number of ISP's. If many more go, then there will only be the choices owned by five companies. How is this good?

This is not a generic case, it's a VERY justified complaint about a boneheaded decision to use a very unpopular, expensive and unreliable "service" from L3.

Your short sighted view is unfortunately typical.
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
So is iPlayer in due course going to go the way of the ISP-provided binary newsgroup service then - it's now something that punters who want it have to pay for in addition to basic connectivity charges, because the costs to the ISP (of binary newsgroups or iPlayer content) far exceed any resulting revenue?

Will that be an "improvement" for anyone (other than L3, obviously)?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
quote"This is not a generic case, it's a VERY justified complaint about a boneheaded decision to use a very unpopular, expensive and unreliable "service" from L3.
Its not short sighted, as ive said ISPs can choose to supply the service to their paying public or have it as an extra charge (sort of like c_j has touched on above)... I imagine they wont do that though, considering this is a part streaming service and many of these bargain basement ISPs cant even stream a youtube clip without it stuttering away i doubt any of them will get away with charging just for iplayer. (CONT)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 6 years ago
They like their fixed monthly caps too much also. I imagine a few people would complain if they are expected to pay for iplayer level 3 bandwidth and still be throttled or monthly capped to death on it. Mind you it wouldnt shock me if certain ISP make iplayer an additional charge service and still have the nerve to say you can only have xxx amount of gig a month from iplayer...... Even though you are paying for it.... Opps ive stumbled on the real reason they are whinging.... No way to throttle someone to death even more and still make more money.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
The news comments section is for comments, if posters have on going discussions can I respectfully request they use http://bbs.thinkbroadband.com which will provide a much better medium for ongoing discussion.
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago
sorry, andrew, but TTB 'opened the box' and now no amount of 'requests' will get people to stop...
-Solutions???
--> instead of linking to these comments, that die off due to not being immediately visible, why not link to a new thread in the forum, so that it can be properly tracked, moderated, etc ???

---> heavily moderate it here.
---> give up or create a forum like structire here...
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