back to article Virgin demands ISPs end broadband speed 'con'

ISP Virgin Media said today that it wants other ISPs to bring an "end to misleading broadband advertising" by stressing typical or average speeds rather than the infamous "up to" broadband bandwidths they claim to offer. A good call, but it's case would be strengthened enormously, we'd say, if it had the bottle to do downplay " …

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FAIL

Good point

Even the first paragraph on their 'stop the broadband con' site reminds me of the new throttling measures they introduced a while ago - P2P is throttled, Usenet is throttled and FTP is throttled. So, no, I don't actually get what I pay for.

You'd think this was put out by some marketing department completely clueless as to what the rest of the company is actually doing.

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IT Angle

Speed, we all need it.

The link for average speeds is http://shop.virginmedia.com/broadband/about-virgin-broadband/speed-matters.html?buspart=6469 for those wondering.

And very telling it is too. No wonder Virgin want the current practice to stop as it will show their offering in a much better light for cable broadband.

Of cource Virgin ADSL broadband is just as bad as the rest. Wonder if they will lead the way with honest speeds on that ?

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So what?

'up to' is technically correct.

'average' is technically correct.

If the punters signing up don't understand the technology then neither nomenclature will help.

Trying to predict and describe network throughput is like trying to predict and describe road journey times. It depends on the end points of the journey, the route you take, what type of vehicle you drive and what time you're driving.

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Not to mention

"average" will be a dynamically changing figure with every sign-up. Not to mention a lot of poorly performing lines will be due to people having DSL modems at the end of 100ft extension cables that have the attenuation figures of cable I wouldn't use to light a christmas tree.

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Those words may be technically correct

But can anyone justify the use of 'unlimited'?

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Anonymous Coward

Average?

Would that be mean, mode or median.

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Too True

I love that advert and VM's use of little numbers to hide the headlines!

I don't know how they can get away with using the word UNLIMITED and then applying a limit to it.

I mean I personally can deal with the "Up to", BT's line checker tells me the damp bit of string that connects me to my exchange "should" give me around 1 Mbps but I actually get 6 - 7 Mbps but there are a lot of people out there who see unlimited and think that's what they are going to get - Fools!

UNLIMITED DOWNLOADS 1

1Acceptable use policy: Acceptable use policy applies. Traffic Management operates from 4pm to 9pm and 10am to 3pm to ensure a consistent user experience.

UNLIMITED EVENING & WEEKEND CALLS 4

4Unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines: You will not be charged for the first hour of direct-dialled local and national geographic voice calls (numbers beginning 01, 02 or 03) made during the weekend period (all day Saturday and Sunday). Re-dial before 60 minutes to avoid call charges. For full details of call charges and connection fees, visit our calling costs page.

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Badgers

Unlimited (*)

Well, you'll note VM are quite happy to use the weasely Unlimited downloads! (1), where presumably the (1) states "not really unlimited".

Reminds me very much of the Simpsons episode where Bart wants to buy a cartoon cell of Itchy and Scratch and they mock TV adverts: "it is absolutely, 100%, guaranteed to increase in value! (not a guarantee)"

But then, weaseling out of things is important to learn and what seperates us from the animals - 'cept the weasel..

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Correction?

I wasn't trying to defend VM. Really just pointing out that nothing they suggest is going to make any difference. It's all immeasurable twaddle anyway. The best thing is to ignore the advertising and do your own research. There's plenty of sites around (www.thinkbroadband.com is one of the best in my opinion). Ask their users (past and present) and even better educate yourself about the technology. That way you stand a reasonable chance of getting what you expect.

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FAIL

Virgin - the crippled broadband provider

Unless you pay Virgin the top amount for their broadband packages you get what is essentially a crippled service. Their 'unlimited' broadband gets cut to 25% of their advertised service if you exceed a predetermined amount of date in a peaktime period.

i.e. if you watch a few episodes of programs and a movie from iPlayer you will suddenly discover your internet dying. Their cable modem also doesn't deal well with Bittorrent (which is now a legitimate method of getting updates and demos around the web) and essentially collapses your internet connection. Open uTorrent and you can't browse the internet.

Added to this their help centre in Bangalore is a painful experience where I have had the operators lying to me and pretending that they are fading out when they can't answer a question speaking quieter and quieter despite all the voices in the background being clear as day.

I would not use Virgin even if they paid me - they need to clean their own house before they start throwing stones.

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WTF?

RE: Virgin - the crippled broadband provider

Hmmm. I don't know where you live but things are very different in my area.

During peak times, I can still hit the maximum. In fact, during non-peak times I have had speeds which exceeded the maximum broadband speed that Virgin sold me.

They used to have a few problems but I've not experienced any for about 8 years... their help centre has been helpful too on the last occasion that I called them (8 years ago).

...and I've never had any problem with torrent files. Ever. I can download multiple torrent files AND watch streaming media at the same time.

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its your router screwing up

torrents can indeed bring many domestic *ROUTERS* to their knees, I literally fried one (it died of heatstroke) and Nvidias woeful chipset network interfaces curl up and die at the slightest hint of torrents. Never seen the modem break sweat, it's not doing any packet processing, just forwarding them. It doesn't even notice that your torrents hitting a few hundred different IPs.

Personally I've seen a consistent 10Mbit on my 10Mbit connection since it was installed. On the rare times I suck 3+Gbyte of data in the afternoon and get throttled, the torrent slows down but iPlayer carries on working perfectly.

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Where I live?

I live in the middle of London - WC1. I'm glad you had a nice experience with their helpdesk 8 years ago - what possibly relevance does that have to their current helpdesk?

I'm not suggesting that I couldn't hit maximum, I'm saying that I couldn't hit maximum for long without their control freak throttling kicking in.

I wish people would read.

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VM Customer support

Our household has never needed to deal with the helpdesk out in the back of beyond, because we use their support forums to flag up any issues - or even simply ask questions. They're well-monitored and there's usually a response within minutes - we've never had a situation with either TV or broadband we couldn't resolve that way, and only once have we had any substantial downtime... that was the year before last when the cable box for the TV died on Christmas Eve (oh how we laughed...).

http://community.virginmedia.com will take you where you need to go.

Not a Virgin Media shill - just a very satisfied customer. :-)

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FAIL

Typical

Just checked out that URL and of course, there's nowhere to submit comments politely requesting them to explain their hypocritical, two-faced stance on the issue!

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Anonymous Coward

checked out...

http://www.stopthebroadbandcon.org/contact.php#

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FAIL

Colour Blind?

Red bar at the bottom of the page!

Daft place to put it but it is there.

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Paris Hilton

can see why

it is a bit hypocritical of virgin to say that when they do the same but in my experience when virgin say "upto 10meg" they aint far off it all, i'm still yet to have an 8mb connection that yeilds more than 3mb where as on virgin i've always been within 1mbit of its advertised speed.

Paris, because she is also misleading

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I get..

8.4 Mb on my up to 10Mb cable connection most of the time. Upload is another thing entirely though, until last week it was a paltry 0.46Mb. In the last week this has doubled to 0.96Mb but its still rather crap.

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Get what you pay for ...

You do realise that at 0.46mbps you are getting what you are paying for?

This link clearly defines what Virgin actually offer in terms of upload, download and traffic management : http://shop.virginmedia.com/help/traffic-management/traffic-management-policy.html

If you now get 0.96mbps, that means you have been upgraded as part of a program to make download:upload contention 10:1. Obviously that isn't standard yet, hence why the above link hasn't been updated.

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@Alex Walsh

This has always been the case with both ADSL and Cable. The upload speed is a small fraction of the download speed, and they have never claimed otherwise. That's what the "A (Asymmetric)" in ADSL stands for, and I'm sure it is described in the T&Cs for cable customers as well.

If you really want good upload speed, might I suggest that you invest in a leased line, but I think you will be shocked by the price.

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Oh I know that

but its still irritating that you can download a large file from dropbox in minutes but have to leave the machine running for hours to upload something similar. It's time the marketing swizz of download tunnel vision is looked at IMHO. I don't use P2P but there are legitimate consumer uses for reasonable upload speeds now days- you tube, picasa, online back ups etc, all at a speed that's incredibly sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.

Whilst it's no doubt in the terms and conditions, it really is getting to be not fit for purpose in the rich content age.

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Unlimited

Are they going to advocate pulling the expression "unlimited" when it comes to downloads as well?

It's all a load of bollocks!

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Go

And the other big con......

UNLIMITED

(*subject to what we consider to be fair use on any particular day)

Either it is UNLIMITED, or it has a LIMIT. It is the difference between a finite number and infinity - the two do not exist in the same numberspace.

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Magic Asterisk

Thats my big gripe about the blurb as well. You can say what you like, as long as you stick an asterisk on the end.

"Subscribe to our 50mb broadband, and we'll give you a free Aston Martin*

*Only if your name is Sir Richard Branson"

Apparantly this has been taken through the courts already, and unlimited is a perfectly acceptable word, as long as the statement is qualified with a little get out at the end

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The sky is blue

..and advertisers fib. This is still news to people?

I suspect that the reason the '*' trick is allowed is because the law knows that adverts are so full of horseshit from beginning to end that there's no point getting too pissy about them.

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FAIL

Pot, meet Kettle.

I've had Virgin's XXL service for a month now. 50Mb, supposedly. Oh, I'm sorry, UP TO 50Mb.

Have I ever got the 50Mb I'm paying for? Once. Very briefly, on a Sunday morning. Most days my connection wobbles anywhere between 11Mb and 40Mb depending on the time of day and the site I'm trying to access.

I'd hardly call that a satisfactory state of affairs, Virgin, and for you to call on everyone else to stop this "up to" crap just reeks of hypocrisy of the highest order.

And don't even get me started on the bull with them throttling Wow-related traffic on what is supposedly an unrestricted connection....

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@Llyander

When you say "Most days my connection wobbles anywhere between 11Mb and 40Mb depending on the time of day and the site I'm trying to access." do you mean that some sites are slower at some times of day? Also, how are you measuring download speed when accessing these sites -- do you take into account the latency from when you first click to the site replying, for example?

Sorry to pick on your post specifically, but in my experience (and that of people I know), the limiting factor for downloading from one site or downloading a torrent can often be the speed at which the site or seeds can upload and not the download speed of the provider -- this is especially relevant as your download speed increases (a colleague on 50Mb tell me he hardly ever manages to max out his broadband from one site, for example).

I hate to sound like a VM apologist -- I assure you I am not -- but I do get very sceptical of claims that broadband speed is very slow "for some sites" and similar claims. The only real way to tell how fast your broadband is at a given time is to download something like Google Earth and the latest Microsoft patches -- i.e. sites that stand a chance of providing you with data as fast as your connection can take.

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FAIL

When you get to these speeds

you have to look at all parts of the link between you and where your data is coming from. Just because you can receive 50Mb/S does not mean that the other end can or will send it at that speed, or that the shared inter-ISP links are not congested. Try selecting a service from your ISP, and measuring that.

I think it's about time that people start looking at this in a holistic manner, and expecting the Internet as a whole to have infinite bandwidth.

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Speaking...

Speaking to the chap who hosts our web server at work not that long ago we came to the conclusion that the bottlenecks are moving as people's download speed increases... away from their neighbourhood pipes towards the servers themselves.

It doesn't take many people with a 50Mbs connection all downloading from the same site at the same time to effectively flood the site - so, of course, none of them will receive 50Mbs because the site can't serve it at that speed to all of them.

At the moment, I'd argue, there's not much point in a 50Mbs connection unless you're downloading large files in the wee small hours of the morning when your neighbourhood is quiet AND the server is quiet... tricky if you're downloading a large file from somewhere halfway across the world of course.

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I would ask the question

What is the bandwidth if the site you are trying to download from and how many users are downloading from it?

I often get users complaining that the internet is slow, and it turns out that there's 50 users (on our site alone) trying to connect to some obscure webcam which is connected to the internet via some tiny link.

Then the user states that they saw the link to the webcam from BoingBoing or something.

Even then the user will still insist that it's our corporate internet connection is crap.

<grumble> most users shouldn't be allowed to have machines, and that includes most IT depts <sulk>

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Clarification

It varies from site to site, and I know that's subject to a number of factors entirely outside of Virgin;s control, but I've also been checking it every day with speedtest.net at different times of day.

For example this lunchtime speedtest claimed I was getting 18Mb. Yesterday it was 17Mb. Tuesday was 11Mb, Monday was 25Mb. (I've been keeping track, just for my own curiosity. You'll note most of these tests are still barely 50% of what Virgin claims to be offering.)

Downloads from, for example, rapidshare, megaupload and so forth tend to top out at 40Mb, except for that one day where I did actually get pretty much my full bandwidth.

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Quite

When you get to these speeds, you also need to start paying closer attention to the bit between the cable modem and the PC. Consumer-grade routers, whilst able to cope quite happily with high speed traffic on their LAN ports, may struggle once you start passing data between the LAN and WAN sides of the network. My download speeds went up by 5Mb/s (I'm on the 50Mb service) just by upgrading my router.

It's also an education issue, because I'd suggest that most people using wifi to connect to their router won't be aware of the overheads in a wifi link, and then wonder why their supposedly 54Mb/s connection is still too slow for a 50Mb/s (or even 20Mb/s) internet service.

So you're right that it's important to consider all parts of the link, provided you remember that the stuff at your end of the link is just as critical as the stuff at the remote end - even with a remote server capable of saturating the ISP-provided link to your modem, if the bottleneck is in the last few feet from modem to PC then you're never going to know what your connection is truly capable of. And in my experience, VM cable connections are truly capable of delivering the advertised speeds.

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Alert

Fair charging

How about detecting the various speeds we get over a month and charging us based on that? If an ISP was brave enough to do that, they might get a lot of people signing up.

It would also be fairer to those people further from the exchange who get slower connections.

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Flame

And I challenge you...

... Mr Branson, to stop being a prick and actually take some of your companies to task over their shoddy service and rip-off products... isn't it time for you to piss off in a balloon across the sea yet? I have a boat and an air rifle I need to practise with.

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Mr Branson!

As far as I am aware Virgin Media are not actually part of the Virgin Group, and that NTL paid the Virgin Group to allow use of the Virgin brand (Bransons group probably now have some minority stake in VM)

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Stop

Whoah @AC 1039

Steady there lad... lest a crazy judge decide that is menacing and we see you prosecuted under s.127 Communications Act.

Crap! I was playing flight simulator and just blew up.. I'd better get my shit together.

Perhaps the reg better start auto "joke alert"ing posts?

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Happy

Is the alternative much better?

My ISP has gone 'honest'. I subscribe to their 'Pro' grade of service at my country / summer cottage where they say the standard of service is 12.6Mbytes and their stated minimum is 512 Kbs. (Non-dynamic).

Actually I am about 370 metres from their pole-mounted DSLAM broadband appliqué box even though we are about 62 kilometres from the backbone fibre, they feed a string of villages from a spur fibre.

So my version of 'up to' has figures but still looks bad on the minimum service end. We've had one outage in 4 years that lasted about an hour.

Cable TV is the real con, since most systems are essentially a WAN so when active subscribers increase, especially in the evenings and on weekends, the speed is pitifully low with timeouts commonly showing when loading web pages.

I use Wimax as back-up (we have country-wide coverage) when needed (1.51173 GBP/100 Gigs).

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Megaphone

Line rental

The other con that they can stop is failing to quote the proper headline price when advertising their broadband - they forget to mention that you need to pay an extra £12/month or so renting a phone line that you may well not want.

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Stop

My thoughts exactly

While line rental isn't included, they advertise that their packages include "calls" (next to a picture of a phone), which is rather misleading to say the least.

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Anonymous Coward

@twelvebore

I hardly ever use my landline. In fact I think I get more calls from foreign identity thieves and clueless salestwunts than I actually make.

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FAIL

The hypocrisy of it

Maybe Virgin should stop massaging the truth, if they want some credibility with this.

To quote from their http://www.stopthebroadbandcon.org/ site: "You should be getting what you pay for"

Yet, their "traffic Shaping" means I now get about 5Mb connection in the evenings, whilst paying for 50Mb.

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FAIL

And they obviously don't like criticism on this point

They're obviously not willing to listen to criticism on this point either - the contact form on the stop the broadband con site appears to be borked!

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Anonymous Coward

Get your own house in order first Virgin.

Poor technical support from 'off shore' support teams. Rude customer services that expect you to pay for a service that you are not receiving, that think "it'll be fixed at the end of February next year" is satisfactory and that think using ~5GB (around half of BT's monthly allowance) over the period of a month is against their unlimited "fair use" policies. Virgin Media, an utterly useless gaggle of twunts.

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Badgers

Nice legs, shame about the face

Virgin media seem to have good cable infrastructure (it's customer support which really, really sucks) so should be well placed to state a truer average speed and not lose face. In my case for "up to 20Mb" I consistently get 19.5+ which cannot be faulted but I am sure it's not so good in other areas.

While they are at it they can also work on exposing their own and others' "unlimited" downloads as a lie. It's not that hard to work out what the maximum amount is which can be downloaded in a 24 hour period when capping kicks in.

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JDX
Gold badge

oops

Maybe their departments aren't quite in sync. Hopefully anyway, that would be better than deliberately being hypocritical.

Throttling is fine too, IF they make it quite clear.

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Stop

Phoney speed claims bad - Phoney unlimited claims good?

Clarity in advertising and yet Virgin still claim unlimited downloads - really? Unlimited??? that tiny 1 next to the claim... doesn't that apply to an FUP or some other limitation to the "Unlimited downloads" that you proudly claim in a font several times larger??

Phoney Unlimited deals are as bad as "upto speeds" and would probably be illegal in any other industry - and would be illegal here if we didn't have political entities so corrupt that they allow huge amounts of influence by Business in return for party funding - a practice as corrupt as any padded expenses claim - don't hear the party leaders condemning that one do we?

Pot meet kettle. ISPs (including virgin) and politicians .. they all smell as bad - rotten and corrupt. Put your own house in order first Virgin, you are as bad as any of the others.

Hypocrites!

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Coat

Weeeellll......

I understand where you are comming from, but in this particular case, I personally believe you are just splitting hairs....

I have a 50MBps fibre feed from VM and I have a DSL connection from Eclipse Internet facilitating a BT line.

The DSL connection trickles somewhere around 1.4 - 2.1 MBps, which is not really Eclipses or BTs fault, but never the less, I am paying for "up to" 20MBps, where as on VM I am paying for 50MBps.

That I don't always get 50MBps lies in the nature of the biest, as the chain is only as strong as the weekest link.

But I ca nsay, that whenever I donwload something from within the VM network, I certainly do get my aprox. 6 MByte/s

And if VM would provide something like a /28, or at least a /29 subnet (free of charge idealy), I would probably kill my DSL completely. But I still ahve to say, that service wise Eclipse is one of my favourite ISPs

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Headmaster

Seconds

The SI unit of time is the second (written in lower case) which has the symbol s (also in lower case). The only symbols which are written as upper case are the litre (L or l) and those derived from people's names, such as the watt (W) and pascal (Pa).

So 50mb/s is the correct way to abbreviate fifty megabits per second.

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