When will ISPs realise they're supposed to be "service providers"?

This is really daft. It’s been widely covered recently that the BBC iPlayer service is taking off in a big way which is great news for the future of TV. Unfortunately some ISPs are throwing their toys out of the pram and complaining that the increased bandwidth usage is costing them a lot of money and that the BBC should help cover the cost.

This strikes me as an extension of the equally stupid claim that it’s ok to have fair usage limits on unlimited broadband packages. The ISPs provide connectivity to their users and it’s up to them to set their terms of use. If they feel they need to bring in more cash to cover the additional costs incurred by these additional services they should price their packages accordingly, but they should also do so as transparently as possible and not try to pass the cost on to content providers and certainly not to the tax payer.

The BBC is providing a great service, but they’re by no means the only organisation to be causing increased bandwidth usage. ITV, Channel 4 and Five all have video on demand services but the ISPs haven’t complained about them, almost certainly because they haven’t been anywhere near as popular as the iPlayer service but they’re still contributing to the increased load.

Then consider the other streaming video services such as YouTube and Vimeo. Why haven’t the ISPs gone after those services? Could it be that they think the BBC is an easier target because it’s publicly funded?

In my opinion ISPs should concentrate on providing the service they advertise themselves as offering… namely reliable internet connectivity. In addition they should be more accurate in the descriptions of their packages such that hidden limits like fair usage policies are pushed to the top of their marketing material. An 8Mb “unlimited” connection with a 3GB monthly fair use limit is not unlimited by any definition of the word and it’s particularly limiting in this world of streaming video and other high-bandwidth services.

The ISPs need to wake up and recognise that they’ve fallen behind the curve and they need to commit some serious investment to upgrade their infrastructure so it’s ready for the next step up in bandwidth demand. Yes it will take a lot of money and probably a fair amount of time, but personally I’d rather pay 50 quid a month for a fast, reliable, properly unlimited connection than a tenner for one that’s slower than the advertised speed and limited in ways that make it practically useless for today’s internet.

It seems to me that they just want to take your money and provide the minimum service they can without you complaining about it. It’s up to the consumers, yes I mean you, to raise the bar for them and demand decent service and transparent advertising. As with all services you buy, if your ISP isn’t performing well enough, change it.