I was reading a bit about BT Vision the other day – BT’s upcoming video on demand broadband service. It’ll come as a set top box for around £100 which gives you access to around 40 Freeview channels, a PVR so you can pause, rewind and record television, and access to VoD content through your broadband connection – some of which will be free (such as BBC programmes from the last 7 days), some will cost extra (e.g. Premiership football matches).
For a dual tuner 160GB Freeview high definition ready box it’s a pretty good deal at £100. No doubt it’s subsidised by some of the pay content but I think all the pay content will be optional.
What really caught my eye was this:
You’ll see a trailer of your chosen video before you decide to buy it, which you do using a PIN code. The video then displays straight away, with no need to download it first. 1.5Mbps of the customer’s broadband connection is reserved for these video downloads.
The video on demand downloads don’t count towards your monthly broadband usage allowance, which is as low as 2GB on the cheapest option.
This reminds me of the debate over network neutrality in the USA. Of course, ISPs have been doing it for along time over here (Bittorrent downloads often capped during peak hours) but this is probably the first time a major UK ISP is giving priority to their own traffic in such a way.
BT gives traffic from it’s "BT Vision" priority on the network. From a customers point of view this is a pretty good thing if your using the service – you want it to be as reliable as ntl or Sky and not to break up and buffer as you would associate with the internet connection. It’s also good news capwise – even the highest cap package, 40GB, isn’t that much. With no caps on BT Vision traffic, you can also watch television without worrying about limits which is great.
The only problem with this is that BT does not allow rival Video on Demand services to compete. If someone else wanted to provide Video on Demand to BT users they won’t be able to provide priority connections or reserved bandwidth and downloads will be capped.
IMO this is a bad thing as it prevents competition but as a possible BT Vision user, I’m also glad that the service will be cap-free and will have reserved bandwidth. So I’m actually not sure where I stand on the network neutrality issue.