May 10, 2013 | Jim Killock
BT Sport Channel: what does it mean for the Internet?
Today's news about BT's new sports service certainly doesn't mean the end of the Internet, but the changes we are seeing, where Internet providers are providing parallel content delivery services does change the dynamics in the industry in a worrying way.
The changes are more worrying because the convergance of content delivery and ISPs is happening at different levels of the industry, not just at BT. Sky has bought Telefonica's broadband business for instance. TalkTalk has Plus TV.
Here are a few problems that changes may present:
- As BT becomes closer to content providers, their attitude to self-regulatory copyright measures may change. We see this already with Sky particularly, but also Virgin to an extent, being more open to these kinds of proposals than companies who don't provide content.
- The choice in investment between IP-based delivery of cable-like TV and improving Internet services in general might become more confused. If BT find they make most money from their IPTV services, might this change their investment priorities away from improving Internet speeds and reliability? Yet it has been claimed by BT and others that delivery of IPTV services is their best means to secure funds to improve UK networks. Their argument seems counter-intuitive.
- IPTV services will compete with similar services delivered on the Open Internet, such as Netflix and Lovefilm. For consumers, competing open Internet services might be a better bet, as they do not tie consumers into broadband contracts and can be always viewed from different networks. Is it better for consumers that investment goes towards competing Internet platforms, or competing IPTV platforms?
- For BT, reducing 'churn' of customers is great, but 'churn' is competition and makes ISPs live in a very competitive market. Loss of a competitive environment is probably not great. US customers certainly don’t like it.
- Lastly, there is the worry that the incentives for traffic shaping that lead to anti-competitive barriers on our networks are increasing in none too subtle ways. Could this lead to a serious 'net neutrality' debate in the UK?