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The Sun Never Sets on the BBC

The BBC iPlayer has been out on the global public Internet for a short while now and it has certainly contributed its fair share of controversy in the techno-media. In case you were not aware, the BBC has launched what it calls the iPlayer which serves up their video content. It’s an interesting and useful service for end users that has caused contention and disruption for two groups on two different levels.

The first is that the BBC decided to make its iPlayer only work with Microsoft (News - Alert) Windows, a move that has the open source / free community quite a bit perturbed. The BBC aligning with only Microsoft limits the ability of users to access the service in other ways they may choose, but also limits the BBC it would seem. Why would the BBC only want to have all of their content accessible through one system?

The second is that the BBC iPlayer is a video streaming application that exists on the public Internet, therefore any buyer of Internet access from an ISP can access and use the service – presumably. There is the minor issue of the ability to access, a.k.a throughput, or available capacity. If the user’s ISP doesn’t have (i.e., unavailable, can’t afford, will not pay for) enough network capacity to support the user’s request, the session simply will not happen. Why would the BBC launch a service that might not be accessible by any and all people through any and all ISPs?

The answer to both may be control. Proprietary anything is not very conducive to ‘open and freely accessible’, but it does help solve royalty and piracy issues. That’s convenient, but seemingly opposite the premise of public broadcasting. One thing is for sure – the BBC has created a service that exposes a very fundamental weakness in building a business on another seemingly public and open network, the public Internet – profit. Certain ISPs now cry poverty as their customers use more of their access, but don’t pay more for it. The BBC iPlayer is “putting a strain” on the capacity and capital behind their networks.

When “Peer-to-Peer” services first hit the scene (Kazaa, Napster) the main issue was ownership rights which is tied to royalties. Along came legislation and iTunes. What was not an issue was network costs since music files aren’t generally large, but video has changed that. Bit Torrent, YouTube (News - Alert) and now the BBC have exposed the cracks of under-funded and flawed ISPs that can’t reach profitability based on 75-100 percent network utilization. By working with Microsoft and by default only those ISPs that have the network in place to provide access to the BBC, natural selection is being un-naturally determined. IT

Hunter Newby (News - Alert) is the Chief Strategy Officer and a Director of a Special Purpose Acquisition Corporation focused on the communications industry. Reach him at or visit

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