Internet service providers (ISPs) are asking the BBC to fund network upgrades to cope with the popularity of the iPlayer viewing system.
The stunning success of the BBC iPlayer has seen one million programmes watched online every month, but now ISPs are claiming that the increased traffic is overloading broadband networks and they want the BBC to contribute to the costs of upgrades.
"The question is about whether we invest in extra capacity or go to the consumer and ask them to pay a BBC tax," said Simon Gunter, from ISP Tiscali.
Ofcom estimates that the cost of network upgrades could rise as high as £830m, predominantly because the UK broadband infrastructure is still built around copper rather than fibre optic cabling.
But some are claiming that this row over the iPlayer is a ploy by ISPs to get public funding for network upgrades. Michael Phillips, from broadband comparison service broadbandchoices.co.uk, said the problems have arisen because ISPs underestimated the amount of downloading customers would do.
"The iPlayer has come along and made downloading a legal and mass market activity," he said.
"They have priced themselves as cheaply as possible on the assumption that people were just going to use email and do a bit of web surfing,"
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