BBC To Cache iPlayer Downloads With ISPs; Could Soothe Net Neutrality Fears: Report

The BBC is looking to alleviate ISPs’ concerns over iPlayer’s bandwidth consumption by trialling an effort to cache VOD shows at providers’ local exchanges. The corporation’s digital media technology head Anthony Rose (the former KaZaA technology chief) confirmed the broadcaster is seeking ISP partners. As part of a so-called Project Cheetah, the BBC will place “about 200 servers at various points in the BT (NYSE: BT) network, including local telephone exchanges”, says, adding the corporation is negotiating with BT, Virgin Media, (NSDQ: VMED) Tiscali, TalkTalk, BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) and others.

Execs from Tiscali, Carphone Warehouse and BT sat down with the BBC in August to raise concerns their networks could be clogged by iPlayer traffic, warning they may have to limit use of the service or charge customers more for the privilege. The iPlayer Download Manager uses peer-assisted delivery so that redistribution of shows is done by users themselves, but the iPlayer website streams shows directly from the BBC. It’s not clear whether Project Cheetah refers to either the P2P or streaming version, but caching programmes at users’ local exchange means the cost of repeatedly pushing files from the BBC to those exchanges could be reduced. says the corporation has engaged CacheLogic for the job. The Cambridge-based company provides content delivery networks (CDN) including Velocix Video, which creates network efficiencies when serving both downloadable and Flash-streamed files.

It’s little surprise the BBC is employing a CDN for iPlayer, which gets its full public launch on Christmas Day – ISPs will take a keen interest to ensure they bear as little of the distribution burden as possible. Ofcom recently forecast it would take an £800 million infrastructure investment to make the UK broadband network suitable for widespread online video consumption – but, it should be noted, that figure does not pertain to iPlayer alone.