Auntie Beeb has been very nice and decided to make all of the World Cup matches it broadcasts simultaneously available through the wonderful Interweb thang.
This sounds like good news, as companies no longer have to worry about employees calling in sick or mysteriously disappearing for meetings (in the pub). Everyone can watch the matches on their PC’s while pretending to do some work.
All sounds too good to be true, morale is high, productivity goes up and everyone is happy.
Well, unfortunately not everyone is happy.
Bandwidth, bandwidth and more bandwidth
Unless the company has a special arrangement with the BBC (or another provider of streaming services) each PC that views a live stream is sucking the bandwidth out of the company’s shared Internet connection. For a large company with lots of employees, that can add up to a lot of bandwidth, so much bandwidth, that other services may just stop working (like email).
Many companies will be using broadband, which is mainly ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), meaning more bandwidth down to the company than from the company to their ISP. Great for streaming, but without clever equipment, those streams will even stop upstream traffic working properly. It’s entirely feasible that all the companies bandwidth will be hogged by employees streaming.
Morale high, but for those that do want to do some work, or maybe even telework, forget it – all the bandwidth’s gone.
Licensing – How they’ll track you down
Even though you’re getting the match over the Internet, it still originates from a broadcast signal, meaning you need a TV license to receive that broadcast. More precisely, the company that the PC is situated in needs a TV license from the TVLA (TV Licensing Authority).
The TVLA can find out who is accessing BBC content with relative ease. How does it work?
The BBC already knows which ISPs use which IP ranges (there’s more to it, but it gets very techie), as ISPs have to sign a contract to be able to get BBC broadband content in the first place – to ensure content doesn’t leak out of the UK being one of the main reasons.
The TVLA can just go to the BBC, request the IP addresses watching the streams, link these back to the ISP and even the ISP’s customer – especially if they’re a business.
Be aware that they can do a lot of this without even having to go to the trouble of getting a court order for the ISP to release the customer details, as if a customer is using real IP address space it’s likely there’s a RIPE registration for them.
The final piece in the Jigsaw? The TVLA just checks to see if the company has a license. If not, bingo, a £1,000 fine.
The need for a license also covers TV tuner cards and dongles that plug into PCs.
Are there any exceptions?
There is a get-out, but it’s quite specific. If the employee happens to be watching the footie on a laptop and it isn’t plugged in (i.e. working on batteries) AND the laptop owner has a valid TV license at home – it’s then covered under the laptop owners home license.
How to Block access to the World Cup
If a company doesn’t want to risk a fine, they should probably have a clear internal policy about what employees can do (or can’t do).
They can be draconian and block access to the streaming servers completely and Auntie Beeb has nicely provided a list of the URLs to block.
Hope you enjoy your World Cup free days. It’s highly unlikely that everyone in the company will feel the same though.