Jake Gordon

P2P Internet TV

23 February 2004

Last year I wrote an essay on the BBC License fee, suggesting that Internet TV is the future of TV broadcasting, and that this will be fantastic for increasing freedom, reducing the stranglehold of an oligopoly of media companies and problems associated with them (such as censoring content, advertising ‘business-as-usual’ politics etc).

The issue stopping Internet TV catching on at the moment is the prohibitive cost of bandwidth to transmit a station. Do the maths: take a 160kbps stream. That’s 20KB/s, 1,200KB/minute, 72MB/hour, 1.7GB/day. And that’s just for one viewer. 100 concurrent viewers watching all day would require uploading 170GB/day, or 5,200GB/month. To get that with the hosting company which I use would cost ?17,000 per month. So not cheap. Only a rich philanthropist would be able to afford that without requiring extensive advertising to offset the costs.

If someone could develop a way to deliver Internet TV in a P2P way, that is sharing bandwidth between many clients rather than using a server/client architecture, then suddenly Internet TV can take off. Skype can do VoIP using peer-to-peer networks, and that works similarly - streaming bits of data in real-time. So surely similar technologies can be used for P2P Internet TV (discuss on Usenet)?

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by Jake Gordon, some rights reserved