‘Catch-up’ Packet Takes Shape, ISPs Fire Shots

    August 13, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

British Internet service providers are concerned with the BBC’s plans to allow viewers to freely download recent broadcasts and view them within 30 days, arguing that "catch-up" TV will eat up bandwidth if enough viewers take advantage of it.

It’s not clear from this side of the Pond how British ISPs operate, but threats to limit access or "pull the plug" altogether on the BBC’s iPlayer unless the network ponies up, might be viewed as corporate extortion.

They call it "packet shaping," though, which is en route to be one of the hottest topics in the realm. In the States, ISPs argue in favor of packet shaping by saying there is a limited amount of bandwidth, a point others dispute as bandwidth increases exponentially and becomes cheaper by the day.

But also, like the British ISPs appear to be doing, they insinuate that online providers and subscribers are not already paying healthy bandwidth premiums – up to 40 times costs on the consumer side. From the provider side, ISPs are far more blatant, accusing content providers of piggybacking for free, which is patently untrue.

Like I said, I’m not sure how things work in England, but the situation sounds familiar.

Packet shaping is also a key issue in the Net Neutrality debate stateside. ISPs have argued they wouldn’t abuse their power (and assumed right) to prioritize, redirect, slow down, or block content, yet even as they make those assurances, Pearl Jam’s political speech is muted, government spies (NSA) are given carte blanche access, and competing services are degraded.

Packet shaping, like government power then, is a practice ripe for abuse, as those dictating the use of bandwidth, and the tolls placed upon it, assume the right to control content.