BBC hits out at iPlayer 'traffic shaping'

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The BBC is threatening to name and shame ISPs that attempt to 'traffic shape' downloads from its increasingly popular iPlayer service..

Traffic shaping is a means of controlling the volume of users visiting a network at any one time.

ISPs have proposed using the procedure to cope with increased traffic levels caused by the popularity of the iPlayer. Visitors are now accessing a quarter of a million shows every day, according to the BBC.

Service providers have also suggested that the BBC should pay a "congestion charge", citing Ofcom estimates that the cost of upgrading infrastructure to cope with increased traffic levels could amount to £830m by 2011.

However, Ashley Highfield, director of future media and technology at the BBC, has hit back at the ISP complaints, suggesting that service providers should deal with the issue by offering truly unlimited services.

"ISPs are already charging their customers for broadband to receive any content they want. ISPs should be clearer in their marketing. Unlimited broadband should mean unlimited," said Highfield in a blog posting.

"Content providers that find their content being specifically squeezed, shaped or capped could start to indicate on their sites which ISPs their content worked best on (and which to avoid).

"I hope it doesn't come to this, as I think [the BBC and the ISPs] are currently working better together than ever."

Highfield's suggestions are part of a suggested Broadband Charter which he hoped would bring clarity to this issue.

Less confrontational recommendations of the Charter include measures that the BBC could take to minimise the impact of the iPlayer on ISP networks.

These include 'book-marking' shows, where episodes are automatically placed in a queue to download during 'off-peak' evening hours.

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