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iPlayer Part 2: The Wrath of Khan?

iPlayer Part 2: The Wrath of Khan?

iPlayer Part 2: The Wrath of Khan?

You may have read about some ISPs having concerns about the BBC's iPlayer. We spoke last month about how we had prepared for the iPlayer and that our traffic management systems were ready and detecting it correctly. At the moment the iPlayer is still in a beta trial and signups are being controlled by the BBC but when it comes out of beta it has the potential to be pretty big. Right now people can download BBC TV shows via P2P or other methods, but it's not always easy, there are legality issues and also trust issues in that you don't know what you are downloading and whether or not it contains a virus. Services like iTunes have proven that there is a demand for "legitimate content", and the iPlayer comes from a very trusted source in the BBC. As such I can see a lot of people who today would be considered very light users who probably wouldn't go near P2P being interested in the iPlayer. I don't expect a sudden overnight rush to switch to the iPlayer, people are still going to watch their televisions and record shows on VCRs or Sky Plus or similar but I can see the main usage being from people that have forgotten to watch or record the show the show they want to watch. One issue that immediately comes to mind is usage. The iPlayer can use a lot of bandwidth, even just watching one show. That's because it's a Peer-2-Peer application and will upload data to other people downloading. Where I can see concerns is that this uploading can be done whenever iPlayer is running, if it's set to start with Windows there's a potential to use a lot of data. Data that some people may not be aware is being uploaded. I can see why ISPs which aren't clear on usage allowances are concerned by this, light usage customers can easily move up to the usage tables and be managed as a high user but without them being aware that they'd become a heavy user. In many ways I see our Broadband Your Way products being better at being able to support services like the iPlayer. With set amounts of usage allowances people are going to be in better control of what they are using. A BBYW Option 1 customer with 1GB for example who downloads 1 show from the iPlayer but leaves it uploading will know something is up when they hit the 1GB and either their connection is slowed down or they are charged for an extra GB. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making predictions that there's no possibility of problems, we're keeping a very close eye on the iPlayer and the traffic that it is generating. Right now we classify it as gold, which is the same as browsing, email and instant messaging, which would mean that if there were to be a significantly large amount of iPlayer traffic it could have a knock on effect to browsing when the network is busiest. The way our traffic management is designed though, if necessary we can ensure this doesn't happen. One option might be to create a queue with a priority between gold and silver so that iPlayer traffic doesn't impact on browsing and other interactive traffic, another might be to apply a rate limit at certain hours. What I would like to see from the iPlayer are more user controls over the bandwidth usage, so for example a scheduler like in P2P clients such as uTorrent and controls over the how much bandwidth can be used for upload and download. I think those would be invaluable and coupled with free overnight usage, like we've seen with P2P and usenet, would encourage a certain amount of the traffic to be scheduled for outside the busiest hours. I'm sure there's plenty of debate to be had here and we can all make predictions about how big the iPlayer is going to be and how it will impact the different broadband networks. Dave Tomlinson

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Well Dave, The iPlayer lasted around half an hour on my machine.And now it's gone. And it won't be coming back.It's a total loser for my money. I don't think it will ever become a big thing.It's too clunky and slow and all you can get on it is telly programs that have already been aired and we've had VHS for a while to cope with that sort of thing, superseded by Tivo nowadays of course. This clunky and unimaginative bit of software just cannot compare to the rival technologies. I vote sink.
Grafter
From what I remember, there's not actually any easy way to turn it off. I had to mess about in msconfig and with services settings to get the KService thingy disabled, otherwise it would continue up/downloading for as long as it had something to do. The plus side is their DRM's useless. Why they bothered I dunno, I was watching stuff on my DRM free PMP in no time.
Newbie
From my point of view iPlayer is completely useless, and a waste of bandwidth. Despite everything the BBC said in its consultation about being "platform agnostic" their solution is predictably proprietary and only runs on one American operating system. What we need is a universal format that can be implemented on any platform. It would seem much more efficient to record programmes off-air whenever possible.
Plusnet Staff
As a beta format it is slightly disappointing that only a Windows XP version is available, especially as I mainly use OS X and Windows 2000. OS X and Vista versions are on the way and there are going to be set top boxes. Maybe we'll eventually see the iPlayer built into TVs like Freeview is and you just connect your TV to your router via ethernet or wireless. Dave
Newbie
Perhaps you already have something like this but it comes to mind in your usage warning emails it may be a good idea to take into account many users may not be aware that the iPlayer consumes bandwidth even when the user believes that it is not doing anything. Might I suggest a "My usage is going up but I am not downloading anything" link in the email directing people to a page at plusnet giving the possible causes (including iPlayer, and Sky's download service used to be this way as well not sure if this is still true) at least the big culprits, perhaps also including a section on ways of ensuring the machine is not infected with malware should non of those be the cause (as we all know malware can burn bandwidth as well), perhaps it would help some less computer aware users and also maybe avoid what I can imagine is going to be a large amount of calls to support with an "I've got a virus using my broadband help!" or "The view my usage is broken it says I am downloading when I'm not" and similar avoidable calls.