Telecom Timeout

Jun 14 2009   8:57PM GMT

BT wants content providers to pay to play. Well, duh!

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

BT wants content providers to share the cost of providing their content, which makes total sense from BT’s point of view and doesn’t much interest content providers. As my mother always said: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? (a handy metaphorical construct for so many occasions).

In the last few weeks, BT faced accusations that it was limiting download speeds for the BBC’s video content player, the iPlayer. After some stalling, a BT spokesman came clean to Yes, BT was limiting video-steaming content on its basic service package. In truth, the truth makes a better point on BT’s behalf than keeping it quiet.

The BT spokesperson told

“We throttle video traffic to 896 Kbps for our Option 1 customers, between 5pm and midnight. Next week Lord Carter will present the Digital Britain report,” said the spokesperson. “What everyone wants is high speeds, low prices, 2MB connections. We don’t think it’s realistic for content owners like the BBC and others to continue to get a free ride.”

It’s hard to think of a service provider that wouldn’t want to charge content providers something for all the content they send over IP networks. Thus BT’s issue with content providers is every ISP’s issue with content providers – it’s an untenable business model. Network owners often operate on razor-thin margins and face such strong competition that thoughts of passing costs on the customer would be deemed suicidal, as well as go against the concept of affordable broadband for all.

As for arguments that broadband caps will stifle innovation and encourage service providers to embrace congested networks, they sound as bogus and disingenuous as any big-money lobbying effort put forth by the “bad guys.”

And so we come full circle – if someone is going to share the cost of transporting all of that content, why should content providers get a free ride. This rightsizing of the business model in the Age of Content has several more rounds to go. I just hope content providers don’t start asking my mother for her opinion.

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