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BT face net-neutrality criticism over wholesale CDN for broadband
Wednesday 05 January 2011 10:22:23 by John Hunt

BT have been accused of going against net-neutrality principles by launching a CDN (Content Delivery Network) system for broadband providers called Content Connect which allows ISPs to serve content to end users direct from BT Wholesale's network rather than over the Internet. Campaigners for net freedom said it could lead to a trend towards consumers buying bundled options from broadband providers rather than from the open Internet market place.

"This is a sea change in the way that content is delivered by ISPs. It is essentially them saying: 'Rather than delivering whatever content is on the internet as best we can, here are our services that we will deliver through our own network.'

This would reduce competition and take investment away from internet companies - that would be bad for everyone."

Jim Killock, Open Rights Group

The 'Content Connect' system is a product of BT Wholesale and is an option to providers who use BT's 21st Century Network through WBC (Wholesale Broadband Connect) or WBMC (Wholesale Broadband Managed Connect). The idea is to reduce costs by providing better efficiencies to providers so that they can deliver video content more cheaply by it coming direct from BT wholesale's network at the BRAS. This will also help reduce load on the ISPs backhaul pipes and Internet connectivity. Trials of the system saw it redirecting trial users to BT's content network for BBC iPlayer videos. There could also be interesting opportunities that could allow this to deliver content over multicast.

With a large chunk of Internet traffic these days being video, it can be seen why this will benefit broadband providers and allow them to offer better quality services. Many broadband providers can and do already offer content direct from their network (through the likes of Akamai) and have the ability to move this direct down to equipment housed in the telephone exchange if they see this to be efficient. Content Connect allows smaller providers the ability to move content closer in a similar way.

One option this would bring is to allow a way of bolting a TV network on top of pre-existing Internet connections (much like BT Vision), to create the equivalent of a Virgin Media style TV service, and with YouView to launch later this year, there is a ready market available for this option. Net-neutrality campaigners may have gone perhaps too far in their claims that this will lead to a two-tiered Internet. The market is always adapting and this is about bring new services to users efficiently rather than stifling competition.


Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
I think it's a good idea but there are risks.

It never made much sense to transfer thousands of identical streams of data (often in the hundreds of megabytes) all over the country's internet cores and peer connections.

On the other hand paying extra for certain streams of bits is a disturbing concept.

I think that as long as a competitive market develops it doesn't matter too much. Market forces ought to keep prices fairly low and it could be a useful additional source of revenue to help fund network improvements.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
Local data centres like they have in utopia are the answer, bring the content down once and share it out locally. Community clouds, saving bandwidth, time, money etc. Using community fibre to the home networks there would be no need for two tier, plenty available for anything or anyone.
this CDN is another measure to keep the old phone network delivering a sort of service - the future is coming, it just ain't here yet, roll on the competitive market, the jfdi cumbrians might still manage to build a proper nga network despite BT wholesale kicking up a fuss and trying to nab the funding.
Posted by shaunhw over 6 years ago
If the system allowed you to connect directly to the original data sources, which worked in the normal "net neutral" way EG: to the BBC site directly rather than go via the ISP's or BTs video caches I don't see a problem. However if one is FORCED to use the cache then I wouldn't be too happy with that. Perhaps a different URL or domain name should be used to access the cached version and this be configurable on relevant devices.

Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
Difficult to see what the problem is here - certainly not a two tier Innternet, simply a content delivery system. I can see this being useful for delivery of IPTV content, so should be helpful for You View etc.

Given we are lucky to have plenty of choice in terms of service providers, its not as if anyone will be forced to take this option up if they don't want to. As always, let the market decide if the service adds value or not.
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
Presumably the "Community Clouds" will be delivered by the Digital Village Daydreamers once they've finished the pumps?
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
I think this is a brilliant idea!

"bring the content down once and share it out locally."

What's wrong with that, surely that will save a lot of back-haul costs?
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
As a piece of network engineering it is probably a good idea. My ADSL link can support multiple virtual paths so why not have a video feed separate from the internet connection. It's a bit like VM supplying TV and high speed internet over their coax.

Expect fatwahs from the Twitterati and Blogosphere for breaching the undefined and legally baseless "net neutrality" concept though, whatever that might be.
Posted by manonbus over 6 years ago
What a chance for ISP's to sell advertising time to a targeted audiance before your download actually starts.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
@herdwick The FTTx services should be capable of that via the use of VLANs.
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
cd - you don't understand this do you?
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
cd - there is no 'old phone network' involved in today's internet world.
Posted by Legolash2o over 6 years ago
Somerset is correct, Content Connect does not take into account what median (copper/fibre/wifi) is used to connect you to the exchange.
Posted by ElBobbo over 6 years ago
It's naive to assume that BT won't aim to use this like Comcast is currently abusing its customers, in that any content not on the CDN (ie. paying BT) will get relegated to a second rate service.
By using this, they get extra revenue from charging content providers, while cutting down on transit/peering with the excuse that it should be on the CDN and it's not their fault it's slow.
Posted by ElBobbo over 6 years ago
herdwick - Do you want your ISP deciding not only what type of traffic takes priority, but from where?
People seem to assume that ISPs have your best interests at heart and are only doing things like this because it results in a better experience for you.
I'd rather have a "dumb pipe" that tries to provide best service regardless of what traffic it is.
Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
Unfortunately a 'dumb pipe' may become a 'pipe dream' :)

Time will tell but video content is clearly something of a headache for most networks that it travels over. The more prevalent it becomes the worse the problem becomes.

The programmer in me screams at the inefficiency of unicast. The realist in me winces at the thought of caching. At least caching covers all bases. Multi-casting doesn't help with VoD very much.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
Plenty of ISPs to choose from that won't be using anything like this. No reason for it not to be available as a wholesale option.

Comcast isn't a useful analogy, as a cable TV operator with a regional monopoly their agenda isn't the same as that of a wholesale operator in a competitive marketplace.
Posted by thomas_mangin over 6 years ago
BT is launching his own CDN and will now compete with Akamai, Limelight and co.

Please read to see why it is a storm in a teapot !

To the best of my knownledge all major BT Wholesales partners are all using L2TP delivery and can not use this service as :

"[...] WCC Standard and Premium are only available to ISPs using the PPP Termination and Aggregation (PTA) service as these services are incompatible with Layer Two Network Server (LNS)".
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
It is amusing people complaining a CDN being such a grievous threat to network neutrality when most of us have connections that are under some kind of DPI management.

CD's comments are confusing, given that Utopia is an open access fibre network, people aren't connected to others on different providers, and any 'local datacentre' is the same concept as this, bringing data closer... a Content Delivery Network, she seems to discuss compulsory caching.
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
Which is a concept that most suppliers are rid of due to the large amount of content that cannot be cached.

Akamai have made money out of doing this, if BT are violating net neutrality every ISP that has ever installed an Akamai cluster on their network is doing likewise.

Storm meet tea cup.

Must've been a quiet news day at the BBC.
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
A quick check shows CD as showing the usual regrettable lack of knowledge.

' will be required to use a PPPoE login to access your Fibernet internet service over the Utopia network.'

So Utopia doesn't bring customers on different ISPs closer at all, people terminate on BRAS just as they do on DSL, etc.

Still it was another good chance to rant about BT and complain about them not running FTTF - Fibre To The Farmyard, wasn't it Chris?
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
'Posted by shaunhw about 7 hours ago
If the system allowed you to connect directly to the original data sources.... However if one is FORCED to use the cache then I wouldn't be too happy with that.'

I'd get unhappy in that case, you have no option with sites that use CDNs, BBC included, where you get your data from.

You don't get to choose which box you connect to behind any other load balanced service, same thing here. You could hit the BBC, you could hit your ISP's local Akamai cluster. Not your call.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
"CDN is another measure to keep the old phone network delivering a sort of service - the future is coming" Oh dear your at it again, its nothing to do with the old phone network, why do you try to make everything a copper/phone network issue? Its nothing to do with either, your not even trying to understand before typing.
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
This sounds good to me bringing the content closer to the customer, makes perfect sense. I don't see what this has to do with net-neutrality, its not giving priority to some data or websites over others its about making content more locally available within the private network instead of going out into the wider world for it.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
only 5 days into the new year and CD is already at it...."this CDN is another measure to keep the old phone network delivering a sort of service"
tell me please what part of the "old phone network" has anything to do with this.
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago

I thought some more and this is just a blatant Wholesale product purely for the benefit of Retail as no-one else can make efficient use of it.

Not the first, won't be the last, but the network neutrality discussion obscures the vertical integration nicely :)
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
Why do you say nobody else can make efficient use of it? Do you mean none of the other ISPs in the UK needs or would benefit from CDN capability?
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
Which ISPs use PTA, which ISPs have sufficient WBC / WMBC traffic volumes to make the numbers make sense for MSIL savings versus WCC costs?

The answer to the first question is BT Retail in its' various guises, the answer to the second question is BT Retail.

This product goes into the same basket as IPSC, a way for Wholesale to serve Retail, sold to all but only BTR will want it :)
Posted by c_j_ over 6 years ago
"This product goes into the same basket as IPSC"

Developing stuff that only BT Retail can sensibly use is a years-old game for BTw (e.g. BT CentralPlus), but Ofcon don't seem to mind.
Posted by mabibby over 6 years ago
To All,

To simplify this.

Basically BT have looked at Akamai and gone

"Ooooh, That's a good idea!, We have the the majority of the UK ADSL customer base on our Wholesale network, Why don't we do something like that?"

Two-tier internet LOL! Who are these non-technical philosphers anyway?

Posted by Essex over 6 years ago
the only two sensible comments were the 2 before me..
Bt want to control has its head buried in a time warp.

The latest vote for exchange nonsense when all was promised 21cn by q4 of 2010. Was carefully manipluated. Now the rural(s) which have larger numbers than cities anynow have got to vote (again) for their exchange. What codswollop, and now this. And as for the boffins on here. Well I think they just escaped from the Met office on their Global Warming agenda on an awayday ticket.
Posted by ElBobbo over 6 years ago
Akamai are not an ISP, mabibby. Thanks for your intelligent and highly technical input.

While there are other ISPs - many even - shaping traffic, there is no handy excuse to give when a customer complains about poor performance to a specific content provider.

How difficult is it to see where this is already happened (Comcast, for example) and the negative effect it's had on customers?
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
Its logical to assume performance will be deliberatly hindered for non CDN content, after all why would a content provider pay for the premium service if the normal service is adequate. This could be done eg. by reducing capacity on non CDN connectivity or via traffic shaping.
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