back to article Broadband speed testers fail the test

Web-based broadband speed testers are mostly rubbish, Virgin Media research has confirmed. It revealed plans to test the testers last month. Virgin Media didn't believe many were capable of accurately measuring speeds on its top package, which is currently sold at 20Mbit/s downstream and will soon to be upgraded to 50Mbit/s. …

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I don't need no speed tester website

My broadband is so slow we use a calendar to measure the speed. 16KB/s is usual, 18KB/s on a good day. Sometimes the download indicator progress thing goes into bytes per second mode.

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Stop

In controlled conditions?

Unless i'm mistaken, internet traffic is one of the least controlled conditions out there.... so unless Virgin managed to use the websites on a private LAN then I fail to see how this could be a controlled test...

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thumbs up for speedtest.net

They clocked me at 80+MB/s (bytes not bits) down in a hotel room in Vegas, so definitely have bandwidth the test Virgin's new top package!

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Who cares about "controlled circumstances"

When real life speeds are no where near because of over subscription to backends and that you're throttled to nothing because you had the audacity to watch a youtube clip and have gone over your F.U.P.

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50mbit isn't an upgrade

The 50Mbit package is a seperate product, not an upgrade as you keep implying.

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A title is required.

I would imagine that Virgin Media didn't do their tests in an ordinary home, in the evening, when the bandwidth is throttled to buggary.

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Paris Hilton

Not much point in 50Mbit

Virgin Media Unlimited* 50Mbit line

*Unlimited providing you DO NOT perform any of the following:

Use 50Mbits speed or anywhere close to that volume of traffic.

Download anything, from anybody, anywhere at any time

Browse the web

Own a computer, Xbox, or other device that can connect to the internet

Breaching these teams will result in your line being capped to a lower speed just when you want to use it.

Paris - cus she also knows what it’s like to be screwed.

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Paris Hilton

...and only yesterday...

...a Virgin Media "engineer" visited our home to further investigate the flaky service we've been experiencing of late and rubbished the TBB tester I'd been using to log the tardy performance of the service...

PH 'cause she's as tech-savvy as the average VM "engineer".

R.

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Stop

They would, wouldn't they....

"Virgin Media engineers judged that any speed tester that varied by more than 10 per cent from the headline speed was unacceptably inaccurate"

If that test were the acid test of whether Virgin Media were meeting their advertised service standards then they would find they were unacceptable too.

Odd though, since the speedtests I've tried seem to tally almost exactly with the speeds I get from gamefiles.virginmedia.com (the test their techs insist upon to test speeds).

There is an element of smoke and mirrors here, to mask the underperforming network.

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Accurately show their throttling down?

I mean, with the strict bandwidth limits they use before throttling customers down by 75%, an accurate broadband speed tester could use up most of that limit!

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Silver badge

Headline speed?

Hah!

> Virgin Media engineers judged that any speed tester that varied by more than 10 per cent from the headline speed was unacceptably inaccurate.

if I ever got within 10% of my ISP's headline speed (16MBit/s) I'd be laughing. Even on the ADSL connection between my house the exchange I *never* get near this figure and the perl script that monitors my router tells me that over 30% of the time I'm getting 3 (yes, three) MBit/s.

Of course none of this matters as the ISP uses the modern-day weasel words "up to" when selling their package, so they can get away with any line speed they like. I would suspect that the real reason Virgin disliked the speed reports is not that they were inaccurate - but that they were reporting the truth.

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Paris Hilton

hmmmm

Maybe the other speed testers were throttled by virgin. Most people I know who are on their 20Mbs service dont get 20Mbs most of the time.

Paris. You get what you pay for with her service.

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Anonymous Coward

not much use anyway

It would be simple (and is probably common practice) for companies to throttle bandwidth to all sites but the network testers. Most network testers I have seen work on non-http-standard ports, so a simple throttle rule of

10% http, 10% ftp, 10% bittorrent

would cut most peoples data-speeds dramatically, whilst allowing network testers to report good speeds

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Stop

Really non-biased independent news?

Or shameless plug for both Virgin and the Thinkbroadband site?

Are Reg affiliated in any way here?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Really non-biased independent news?

"Are Reg affiliated in any way here?"

No.

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Flame

VirginMedia Cable at 90% of full speed

My Virgin Cable (In Brighton - Ex-NTL) is working fine. As usual. I don't know why there are so many vocal complaints. Funny how a small minority can be so noisy. The rest of us are just busy enjoying the connection. :)

Date 12/11/08 16:34:17

Speed Down 9174.22 Kbps ( 9 Mbps )

Speed Up 482.26 Kbps ( 0.5 Mbps )

I pay for a 10Mbps line, and it is half past four - and heading into "rush hour". I'll check again later, but don't expect much difference. Maybe it is 'cos I don't BitTorrent all day and night. but I do download a hell of a lot of data.

OR maybe I just have more civilised neighbours, and not stuck next door to some pillock downloading every film he can find on Torrents.

If you don't like the VirginMedia service, why do you stick with it? Just move on elsewhere. :) Personally - I think it is great, and pretty rock solid reliable.

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Si
Stop

Virgin Media claims Virgin Media the fastest shocker

What happens if you run the bandwidth test for more than an hour after midday? You'll soon see who is delivering on their bandwidth promises when the throttling kicks in.

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Anonymous Coward

I used ThinkBroadband with Virgin Media

On a 20 Mb/S connection I got

Up: .3 Mb/S

Down: .2 Mb/S

And that's exactly what it seemed like.

Although I think it's due to oversatuation of the Wifi band. I need to test more.

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they have a point

They do have a point, a lot of web testers do have somewhat flaky results. I work on ISP helldesk and the number of times I have used actual downloads to disprove thr results from speed testers is very high...thinkbroadbands though is pretty good.

I have also done the tests from my own machine and connection and got teh same kind of differance. Also weak wireless signals cause a lot of precived slow connections as well.

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Unhappy

Virgin media suck.

i'd treat this story with the contempt it deserves and ask "who cares what that cowboy outfit says?"

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Boffin

In other words...

... Virgin have a shite service, so they want to slag off anything that proves they have a shite service...

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Agreed!

Agreed! speedtest is pretty good, and some are rubbish. I was running one, (note: I live in the US), pick the tester in Chicago... 300kbps? Seems like the connection is faster than that... Run the test again using the one in Milwaukee... oh, 800kbps huh? And this was just testing a *mobile* card, not testing cable or anything that's *really* fast like cable (my card would max out at 144kbps upstream, and 2.1mbps down.. my actual peak is suspiciously close to 1.5mbps, I suspect the cell sites here in town are using a T1 apiece for data.). This is fully repeatable too, it wasn't some random card speed fluctuation. (I'm not claiming my speeds never change.. between 5-7PM or so, and when a (US) football or basketball game's in town, the cell sites load up and my speeds are all over... but later at night or midday they're quite consistent. )

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Boffin

Throttled by 75%??!

And the rest. When I used to go over the '1Gb during peak hours' (4-11pm) limit on my PlusNet 15Gb a month account they would throttle me back from a line speed of 3.4Mbps reported by the router to 128Kbps - until the end of the billing month. Not that I ever got 3.4Mbps downstream (I can't remember what the broadband speed test on ThinkBroadband reported).

No way was that a useable service. What percentage of broadband use is outside of peak? Watch five hours of iPlayer during peak time and that is your 1Gb more or less gone.

Terms of service need to be much, much clearer. At least with Zen I know exactly what I get for my money. No throttling, 25Gb a month, and very clear FAQ on what happens when 25Gb is exceeded.

BTW the ThinkBroadband bandwidth test is a standard HTTP file download/upload test. If the ISPs want to cheat the test what they have to do is throttle based on the ip address you are accessing in the cloud, and use a whitelist system to avoid throttling the broadband test sites.

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Coat

@ Virgin Engineers

That's nothing.....

I had a VM enginner tell me that my V+ box (of which I've averaged 1 per year!) was not simply broken but being interfered with by the signals from the Wireless capabilities of my Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Rest assured I told him that he was talking rubbish and that the boxes are are flakier than a box of Kelloggs Corn Flakes. He succumbed to my wisdom only after working out that I knew more about IT than him.

Lesson? Only bullshit a customer if you definitly know they know less than you. Oh and never take a VM Engineers word for anything unless it works for at least a year.

With any luck that particular moron will end up being let go in 2009.

Mines the one with all the controllers in the pocket.

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Does it also measure

How long it takes for Virgin Media to cut off your connection if you download anything approaching 500MB? Try to download a Linux iso image and you're fucked.

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VM's service is cr@p!!!

I have the 10Meg service with VM. 10 Meg is a joke description. In the evenings this can get as slow as 5k/sec or less, it makes browsing unusable as at literally it takes minutes to get to ONE average HTML page on the net.

Like someone says above, a 50Meg service as long as you dont use it!!!

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IT Angle

speedtest.net

I use speedtest.net which they recommended for tests up to 20Mb/sec.

I suspect something fishy, because I get ~2Mb test result no matter how fast or slow my 2Mb connection is. Either virgin have prioritied traffic for speed test sites, or something I else haven't even though of.

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Flame

Blatant scientific fraud.

>"Under controlled conditions Virgin Media engineers judged that any speed tester that varied by more than 10 per cent from the headline speed was unacceptably inaccurate."

So, in other words, they decided the results first and /then/ went out looking for them? And didn't actually /measure/ the speed themselves but just assumed that it would be what they supposed rather than what the speed test website's measurements told them?

We call that fudging where I come from. By the standards of this massively poorly designed unscientific test, a static html page that says "Wow U r getn 50 Mb/s" would pass and something that actually measured traffic flow rates would fail. What a bunch of horse cocks they are.

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Re:@Virgin Engineers

"I had a VM enginner tell me that my V+ box (of which I've averaged 1 per year!) was not simply broken but being interfered with by the signals from the Wireless capabilities of my Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360."

What....you didn't know about the background interference that can be caused by any device that has wireless capability to a non-wireless device, even if the wireless capability itself is not in use at the time? You have to retune the flux capacitor to block out the electro-radiation.

It was their shit equipment that drove me back to Sky TV. We had a couple of boxes, both of which used to crash all of the time and even when they were working they were so slow to change channels I could go make a cup of tea while I waited. Their "on-demand" service never worked on my demand, but occasionally when it felt like it and not too many people were using it, then would stop working half-way through watching a show and take ten minutes to get going again.

They couldn't even claim that the cables coming into the area were crap, as the broadband service was previously NTL (before they took it over) and pretty consistently close to what it was advertised at. I believe it became crap simply because it started being throttled by their shitty network.

Oh, but interestingly, I do agree that a lot of speed testing websites don't have the capacity to deal with higher-end connections. But Speedtest.net has always proved pretty reliable to me.

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Heart

One more for the "I don't know what you're on about" camp...

VM 10Mb subscriber here. Depending on whether or not next door have got their microwave running or are experimenting with huge electromagnets I mostly get the full whack out of my connection. Unless of course I trip the somewhat draconian STM limit, in which case it's back to 2.5Mb, which isn't terrible unless I'm downloading something huge.

That said there was a pretty awful fault on Saturday which resulted in tons of dropped packets and slower-than-dialup speed.

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Ash
Happy

For all the bad things to be said...

I very rarely get less than the advertised speed.

2Mb line, downloading 250kb/s until my bandwidth monitor hits 1GB, at which point 100kb/s (as per their "unlimited" tarrif Ts&Cs). Even this lower speed is enough to watch the "high-quality" iPlayer programs.

I'd still leave if they brought in Phorm, though.

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Unhappy

Oh how wonderful life is for Anonymous Coward then......

So let me get this straigtht, I have just read your post above telling us how wonderful life is in Brighton and you get such a wonderful connection, well bully for you!!!

There some of us that read the advert and it says 10Mb connection, now forgive me for being plain naive here, but when an advert says 10Mb, the customer should possibly expect 10Meg?....the ad doesn't say,"oh expect 10 Meg when your in Brighton, but everyone else who bit torrents or actually uses their connection will be throttled to 0.2Meg because you have been so cheeky enough to actually use our infrastructure, you naughty person. Oh an if your a torrent downloader you will get 0.1 meg!!"

If the people complaining about the VM service are the minority then why is hardly anyone except you piping up in VM's defence!!!!!?!

My service grinds to a halt in the evening, and it is not wireless's fault as my network is all gigabit hard wired up to the router.

Oh in reply to your other comment about switching, as per most of these F**King ISP's, they lie to you in the adverts, then they tie you in to their sh!te service for a year......otherwise I would switch tomorrow!!!

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I've just picked myself up from ROFLMAO

at the thought that Virgin-on-the-ridiculous-NTHell could actually have the balls to slag off ANYONE or ANYTHING.

Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

So they reckon the speedtesters are crap ? well maybe they are.

I from experience KNOW that Virgin-on-the-ridiculous-NTHell are crap.

The billing department doesn't know what the installs department is up to, well at least not in an efficient automated way. They will bill you for a service you don't have , well at least they did that to me, and then threatened me when I got the money refunded by my bank. Apparently it's okay to direct debit someone who is not receiving a service.

When you are receiving a service they will still shag up the billing.

On the IP side , the upload speed was diabolical. I had quicker upload speed with my first Pipex ADSL line back in 2002 compared to what I had from the Virgin Media bunch of muppets during 2007 -2008.

Plus Pipex and my current supplier O2 don't shag about port-filtering, and can manage to supply a static IP. Something that seems to be beyond the technical capability of Virgin-NTHell "Engineers".

I suppose Virgin have their target audience, the non-tech-savy-proles that just read the headline speed, and well as we know there are millions of them in the UK.

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Jon

BE There(now O2 but hasnt changed the service yet!)

I am with BE and they claimed no limits. Put this to the test last month and downloaded 140Gig of data in 12 days - was still running at the 20meg out of possible 24meg at the end of it. Seems like they were telling the truth :)

I was with NTL/Virgin before and on a good day would get the advertised 20meg but then would get 3-5meg for a few days then back up. This was without massive downloads and before they admitted to capping.

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Good for VM .. shat for others?

Just tried it with O2 ... got 0.7mbps? I was just downloading something at 12Mbps so im not sure how thats a good test.

Mind the test on be internet's hoempage reported me as 3Mbps yesterday and Be are OWNED by O2 ... and again had just been getting far superior download rates ...

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Flame

Testing

I just tested my speed with the sites mentioned, some ISO downloads from the likes of kernel.org and torrents. My speeds varied between 14Mbit/s and 18Mbit/s. This is also at 10pm which is a busy time for internet use.

Given that I'm running a few Linux servers at home with websites, customer mail etc. I wouldn't expect much more than 15 of my 20Mb/s so peaking at 18 is a good sign IMO.

I really do wonder at the testing skills of the moaners on here. For one thing if you think you can do a realiable test over your home wi-fi you shouldn't be making any comments. As for downloading files, I see most people testing a single HTTP connection and ignoring the fact that webservers usually throttle individual connections.

I have a few mates also on Virgin dotted around the country, all of whome are on the 20M service. All of them say they get 12Mb+ at any time of day.

If you're getting 10% of your expected max then try download something from ftp.virginmedia.com. If it's still slow then there's probably something wrong with your cable link.

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Anonymous Coward

@Blubster

"How long it takes for Virgin Media to cut off your connection if you download anything approaching 500MB? Try to download a Linux iso image and you're fucked."

I downloaded 8GB of divx files and a couple of DVD ISOs yesterday through VM, all of which are over 700MB each.

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Joke

Bring back

the 56K modem

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I think virgin broadband is excellent...

Have the 20Mb package and service is pretty good - lot of wingers on here..

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No need to worry Virgin....

...please don't think that people aren't signing up with you because of inaccurate speedtests, they avoid you because you're widely known for being crap at customer service... you acknowledged my letter of June asking for a refund, and nothing since.... only 5 months and counting eh?

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who needs a website?

I'm paying for 22MBits/s down, some other amount up, from be internet.

The router they supply comes with software to tell you the connection speed. I've checked it against speedtest.net and they tally.

Currently I have 1044 KBits up and 6159 KBits down. I realise that service will degrade the further I am from the exchange, but 16 MBits/s degredation is a bit much.

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Stop

Bandwidth Costs Money!

I foolishly signed up with Virgin ADSL 8Mb product, and for the first month it was blistingly fast with the full 8Mb. (Just long enough to get out of the grace period which you can reject the product) Then from then on it was incredibly slow - I even moved house (and exchanges) but this made no difference at all, proving that it is their network that was at fault an not the line.

Speeds I received were close to other people's speeds at circa 18Kbps (even from virgin.com servers, both FTP and HTTP). The funny thing however was the speeds reported from speed tester websites were constistantly higher - talk about traffic prioritising! When I eventually obtained my MAC so that I could leave the service went back to a much improved speed (3.5Mbps actually which is my line speed in my new house).

Draw your own conclusions, but I'm never going back.

When I moved providers I did some thinking, and came to the conclusion that you get what you pay for, and best to avoid providers that offer cheap products.

I think most people here realise that Bandwidth Cost Money!!!

... For ADSL products (excluding LLU) costs to the ISP ex VAT are... (From BT 1/1/2009)

£6.72 per month per user IPStream (from house to BT Network)

£1,029,000 per annum per 622Mbps Central (From ISP to BT Network)

A 622Mbps central can support a maximum of 25,600 users, equating to average 21.7Kbps throughput when inefficiencies are taken into account. This gives a minimum central cost per user of £1,029,000 / 25600 / 12 = £3.34 per month.

£6.72 + £3.34 + VAT = £11.82 / month / user.

Service with such an over subscribed central will be poor to say the least. Using 15,500 users per central will give better expeience, but will cost £5.51 / user / month + VAT, which brings the minimum costs to the ISP to £14.37 / user / month.

Then there are IP Transit Charges to get your data from your ISP to other ISPs, Peering costs (same reason, but cost neutral), Data Centre Costs, advertising, admin, "Free routers"... you get the idea!

Can Virgin really provide a service with just £3.63 (inc VAT) slack to cover all the items listed above? I think not.

Vote with you feet people. Pay a decent price, get a decent service!

Tim

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Linux

I've just tried it

in the evening (20:30) when its "throttled to buggery" . I'm on Virgin's L package which is supposed to be 10 meg.

Thinkbroadband measured it at 9.5 meg down, 400 k up, which seems OK to me, certainly pretty much what they said it would be. Now, I'm no ntl/Virgin apologist by a long chalk, but people won't take your criticisms seriously if you just seem to hate Virgin & thats it, in the same way as a serious critique of the Labour party probably wouldn't contain references to 'Bliar' or 'NuLabour' etc.

My problem with virgin is that theres an obvious lag between the mouse click & starting a page download, thats probably them doing their packet inspection or the like - its definitely noticable compared to other ISPs, regardless of download speed.

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Anonymous Coward

@BLoad

you do realise that there is a difference between a bit and a byte?

4.5 megabits a second *is* roughly 500kilobytes a second

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Anonymous Coward

@speedjunky and all that say their VM service is crap

I laugh at you....I pay for the 20Mb connection, I get 2.3MB/s download on bit torrent....

Of course that is with a wired router, with only me using the network....Not a wireless one, which I suspect alot of people with shit speeds are using.

Also In the last month I've downloaded at least 80Gb of stuff and have only been throttled once. Which was still more than a fast enough speed and it hardly last long at all (a few hours) then your all go again.

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Stop

Online testing sites are all rubbish

The best result I get from an on-line speed-test site for my Be-Unlimited up-to 12Mb/s ADSL2+ connection is 5.5Mb/s down 600kb/s up.

Yet my Up when used by people logged into my FTP server is rock solid at 2Mb/s and I just downloaded a distro via Bit-Torrent at just under 10Mb/s

I don't believe anything an on-line speed checker tells me.

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Ex-VM User Here

Was with VM for years, always on the top package and was always happy, until a year or two back, when the bandwidth mysteriously started disappearing.

Always use Speedtest.net as my tester of choice and my 20Mb line went down to a consistent 12Mb on the tester, regardless of time of day, what I was or had been doing and so on. Same speed was gained from the VM FTP site as well. VM refused to look into it because I run a home network.

After the Phorm debacle and VM's involvement, finally decided to move to Be* - on cancellation VM phone-drone told me that it was impossible to get more than 8Mb on a phone-line. Interestingly I get a rock-solid 20Mb down and 2.3Mb up through my phone-line, close enough to the maximum possible that i'll not be complaining.

Also, as per previous poster "anything more than 10% out was ignored" - so they went with the assumption that the line was actually getting the full band-width and assumed the fault was at the site itself ? We have people in our IT areas that react in the same way and are constantly surprised when you prove them wrong. I believe the same will be true of the VM engineers.

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hmmm

got in last night - 5:20pm

ran speedtest on my 10Mb line.... 3Mb up and 400k down...

i keep complaining but keep getting told to phone their useless monkeys to be told to try to download from their ftp sites... still <5Mb at best.

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