Updated: Ribbit croaks, just three years after $105m BT deal

The decision by British Telecom to buy internet telephony service Ribbit for $105m in 2008 drew out plenty of questions. Three years later the criticisms have come full circle, with news that the most visible part of the business is being shut down.

British court orders ISP to block piracy site Newzbin

A judge in London has ruled that the country’s largest internet provide should block access to Newzbin, a filesharing service which Hollywood has been trying to shut down for years. Could the decision encourage other ISPs to institute filters against unauthorized downloading?

BT Accused of Throttling iPlayer Video

British Telecom, Britain’s largest broadband provider, is being accused of throttling bandwidth, impacting subscribers’ ability to watch videos from services like BBC’s iPlayer and YouTube (s GOOG).

The BBC reports that subscribers to BT’s lowest-tier broadband plan should be getting speeds of 8 megabits per second, but that speed is being cut to as low as less than 1 megabyte per second between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and midnight (prime video watching time!). The result makes watching video more difficult, if not impossible, according to at least one BT customer.

BT’s Total Broadband Fair Usage Policy states that the company does “limit the speed of all video streaming to 896Kbps on our Option 1 product, during peak times only.” However, this policy is not explained in the terms and conditions when users sign up for service.

According to DSLReports, BT and other U.K. ISPs have been complaining that content companies should be subsidizing network carrier build-outs.

Mark Papermaster Was Not the Proverbial “First Choice”: This Surprises People?

“I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right ones.”

The above line, from the Disney movie Miracle, is delivered by the coach of the USA hockey team when an assistant coach questions some of his choices for the final roster. It seems very apt when looking at Apple’s hire of Mark Papermaster. 
Sometimes I’m surprised at the what the Apple blogging community considers newsworthy. Maybe “slow news days” really do exist, because it’s otherwise hard to understand why anything would be made of the fact that Mark Papermaster was not initially Apple’s “first choice” when looking for Tony Fadell’s replacement. 
Big deal. 
Read More about Mark Papermaster Was Not the Proverbial “First Choice”: This Surprises People?

How Realistic Is BT’s Fiber Broadband Plan?

Updated at the bottom: Unless you’re using Enron math, BT’s new plan to connect 10 million homes — roughly 40 percent of the United Kingdom — with fiber networks at a cost of £1.5 billion doesn’t quite add up. At today’s conversion rate, that’s about $3 billion — or $300 to wire up each of these proposed 10 million homes.

BT hopes this will help it stave off competition from rivals who have started to use their new backbones and the latest technology to eat into its broadband business. Cable operator Virgin, for example, plans to use DOCSIS 3.0 to compete with BT. The incumbent has been reticent about upscaling its infrastructure over concerns that it would spend billions and then be forced to share with upstarts, the way it does now. By comparison, the new plan is closely tied to regulatory concessions and includes some sort of investment protection from Ofcom, the British regulator.

The Guardian writes:

Under the current regulatory regime, BT must allow rival service providers to use its network on the same terms as its own retail arm. There would be a huge outcry if that “equivalence” was lost, following the battles between BT, its rivals and the regulators at the start of this decade when Broadband Britain was just an ambition.

Nevertheless, BT’s announcement is full of more holes than a wheel of Swiss cheese. Lets look at the deal from a distance: 10 million homes for $3 billion. In comparison, Verizon is spending about $22 billion to fiber up some 18 million homes. That’s a cost improvement of 9x, which means BT’s plan just doesn’t make sense, even if you take into account that somehow it will get massive sops from Chinese equipment maker Huawei. Read More about How Realistic Is BT’s Fiber Broadband Plan?

Was Ribbit Sold? Maybe, Maybe Not

Ribbit, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company that is pushing a VoIP platform that marries web with voice is subject of acquisition rumors this evening. VentureBeat reported that the company was close to being acquired by British Telecom (BT), but later changed their story. When contacted by me, Don Thorson, Ribbit’s Vice President of Marketing dismissed the rumors but declined to comment any further.

It wouldn’t surprise me if BT (or some European telecom) acquired Ribbit (or any other platform) to expand across the borders and find a way to stay relevant. We had pointed out that a consortium of incumbent carriers were developing their competitor to Skype. Ribbit-type platform could be used to develop apps for the incumbent supra-net.

Ribbit has so far raised $13 million from Allegis Capital, KPG Ventures and Alsop Louie Ventures. The company has attracted about 4000 developers to its platform, though it is hard to tell if it is making any revenues from its platform. Over past few weeks, I had heard about Ribbit being in “play” and talking to likely buyers, but there is nothing concrete to add.