Broadband is a commodity, so sell it

BT’s management must have gone mad.

The company has started saying that it thinks the BBC should stump up cash to help it cover the cost of providing broadband to customers, because the BBC’s iPlayer app is bandwidth-intensive.

The problem here is nothing to do with the BBC, and everything to do with BT’s wish to pull in customers for its low-cost broadband supply business.

It pulls customers in by promising “unlimited” download allowances for Option 3 customers (full details here, but that “unlimited” allowance comes with strings: if you are deemed to be a “very heavy user”, your broadband speed will be throttled during peak times (5pm-midnight). The precise nature of “very heavy use” is not specified.

What bothers me isn’t what BT are doing, it’s the way they’re doing it. Broadband is like any other commodity: the more of it you use, the more you should pay.

This is why I decided to get my broadband from a company that is honest about the situation from the outset. Bytemark has always made it clear that it doesn’t offer any kind of “unlimited” broadband contract, because it cannot get any kind of “unlimited” bulk supply of bandwidth without additional cost.

In short: if you need more gigabytes per month, you pay for them.

By saying this one moment: “We do not impose any restrictions that affect the viewing quality of services such as BBC iPlayer or Catch Up on or, as these stream at up to 800Kbps;” and this the next: “the BBC and other content providers can’t expect to continue to get a free ride,” BT is demonstrating nothing but its own inflexibility.

Instead of whining and demanding money from the BBC, BT should just simplify its broadband offering and clearly communicate to customers what their pre-defined bandwidth limits are, and how much they’ll be charged for extra gigabytes, per gigabyte.

Simple, really. But then it’s surprising how often big companies just don’t understand simplicity.

Filed under: computers
(11th June 2009)