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back to article Virgin Media Superhub customers still hitting big speed bump

It's been nearly two months since our exclusive report about Virgin Media's Superhub router/modem combo boxes playing havoc with newly-upgraded customers' connections - but sadly for the telco there's still trouble at the mill. That's despite Virgin Media promising to fix the dips in speed and stability problems by issuing a …

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Headmaster

turn off the wireless

the BlooperFlub is a piece of shite and turning off the wireless greatly improves its usability. Then you've got to swallow the costs of the damn wired ethernet powerline adapters I've put all over my house (£150 and counting) then an Apple AP so I have reliable wireless (£90) so for £240 I've fixed the BF's freaking problems.

I'm now getting 40-45Mbps on a 50Mbps service and have spiked 48Mbps more than a few times.

Of course if I want to use iPlayer, etc it is less hit-n-miss with BF's wireless off than with it on, if that helps anyone.

Virgin keeps saying in broken engRish "no problem found, we no ship you replacement router".

Nice

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Feeling rather glad I haven't upgraded yet

I've been too lazy/tight to both upgrading yet.

Looks like I'll be sitting tight until these problems have all been sorted out.

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FAIL

Me too

I phoned up only last week about it, and was told it was only available to new customers or some such nonsense.

As it is, I'll keep using my 10-year old Motorola Surfboard SB3100 from back in the blueyonder days until it absolutely blows up. The wireless from my Linksys router is perfectly acceptable!

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FAIL

Super tuning required

I am a new customer. Their solution offered to me as a result of poor performance, as validated by pingtest.net, was to turn off the firewall. This worked, however, I really would like to have this switched on - despite their claim that there was no effect on security at all.

I suspect the router does not have the processing capability to deal with 30 or 50Mbit/s and to also inspect the traffic.

I could go and spend £200 on an alternate cable router with 802.11N - I should not have to though. Also, I was not aware of the upgrade, I'll turn the firewall back on tonight and see if the problem I had is resolved - however, I'm not hopeful having read the article...

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Unhappy

No point

"I could go and spend £200 on an alternate cable router with 802.11N - I should not have to though. "

They won't authorise it to sign onto their network, you'd just have a very expensive doorstop

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Bronze badge
FAIL

Turn off the (hardware) firewall? Unbelievable!

"Their solution offered to me [...] was to turn off the firewall. [...]I really would like to have this switched on - despite their claim that there was no effect on security at all."

Perhaps point out to them that router manufacturers are not going put money and effort into including a feature which had "no effect on security at all"...?

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FAIL

Very Frustrating...!!!!!

I work from home and this CrapperHUB is driving me mad.... you only have to use it for a few minutes and it dies and this happens a few times a day....

And I am a computer engineer so I need to be connected to servers all day....

I had to get my old router out the closet because the LoserHUB was about to be thrown against the wall.

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Anonymous Coward

It's an odd one this

I've had the "upgrade" to 30Mb and the superhub and in speed tests I actually get 30Mb d/l....however, my bittorrent speeds are worse than when I was on the 20Mb service. I used to get downloads in uTorrent of 2.3MB/sec (which is give or take a few bits a 20Mb service) now I'm lucky if I can get above 1.2MB/Sec in uTorrent...

iPlayer is no different (worked before still works now), You Tube is much MUCH better than it was and playing COD is much more stable and actually lets me play without random lag.

Swings and Roundabouts really...Having said that turning off IPFlood prevention sped up the connection immensly as when I first got it, i was totally and utterly disapointed with the speed and service reliability (or my percieved reliability). If VM had just kept the same hardware as before (or at least same type) allowing an easy connection to the WAN port of my decent router rather than forcing use of the cheap and crappy superhub no one would be having these issues.

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Silver badge

re. reduced uTorrent d/l rate

Are you sure you're not hitting your data cap? I ask because my VM service slows down on uTorrent d/l's when I go above my 1GB cap and I can get around this for a while by closing it down and restarting on a different port.

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data cap

Hitting you data cap in my experience means your upstream bitrate gets gut down to about 5% and your ping-times go through the roof, although the ping time issue may have more to do with your network buffering packets when it hits the US cap.

I'm of the opinion it's this upstream cap they are using to cap your downstream, although the net result is that the internet is pretty much unusable except for basic browsing on a single computer, if they actually stuck to their quoted figures (i.e. cut your u/d to 20%) you could quite happily keep on streaming video / using p2p, just with significantly reduced bitrate.

Switching ports on utorrent may confuser their p2p traffic shaping for a while, but if you've actually hit your data cap then your whole connection goes to shit (for 5 whole hours no less) regardless of what applications your using.

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Understandable

While I can understand them rushing out a patch to disable the sshd, it was theoretically possible for someone to uncap their services via the ssh console, although I know of nobody who did so. VM should have made best efforts to remove the bugs before forcing the firmware down peoples throats, and no, they did not appear to make any effort, as these bugs were reported, in detail by their volunteer beta testers, who were then ignored and unacknowledged by VM. The firmware rolled out regardless.

While I have not experienced any of these issues, and I do have an R25 superhub, I know of others who do. This makes me wonder if the superhubs are actually actually manufactured with two different chipsets, and the bugs only affect one of the chipsets.

Of course the paranoid cynic in me suggests that these bugs are not really bugs, but deliberate features to reduce load on their network. ;)

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Unhappy

It's not just the connection that's flaky

I've got 30Mb on virgin. I've had no end of issues with the wireless on the hub too. It loses signal way before my old router would, meaning I lose wifi connectivity in parts of my house where it used to be OK. Luckily I managed to persuade someone at Virgin to give me one of the 50Mb modems to use on my 30Mb connection to get wireless working using my old router. The superhub is a bad bit of kit, and I don't see how firmware can fix flaky wifi.

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FAIL

Hush hush.. What What??

Same thing here on the Perry Barr UBR in Birmingham, TCP connections being reset all over the place, it makes watching Youtube near impossible at times, not to mention working from home (IT worker also like @koopmaster, working from home with a broken leg).

When I called up Virgin Media support for this, I had some difficult-to-understand (possibly Indian? Can't say for certain) guy telling me "you need to wait for the signals to refresh for 5 hours before we can call out an engineer"..

Not only had I been having this problem for longer than 5 hours (try weeks!), what good is an engineer callout going to do when this affects hundreds of thousands of customers?

I'm starting to regret coming back to Virgin.

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FAIL

Time for a letter...

Its custard Richard, Custard with Mustard!

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WTF?

Only affects IE8? What kind of DPI is it doing for that to happen?

Virgin appear to have unintentionally given the game away here.

If it can behave differently based on minor differences in the http headers sent during a browser request, which is the only substantial difference in the traffic generated between browsers, then it must be doing some fairly heavy-duty stream inspection. (And presumably getting it wrong, but that's turned out to be a good thing, or we wouldn't know it was going on at all).

The fact that these problems actually also occur with other browsers doesn't prevent us from making inferences from VM's apparent belief that their modem is potentially *able* to discriminate between user agents like this. They ought to know, after all.

I'd really like ElReg to pursue VM for full details about what kind of inspection and/or monitoring and/or traffic shaping these hubs are doing and a full technical explanation of exactly how this problem could affect one browser over another. It will be particularly instructive if they try to bullshit us with science-y bafflegab or vague handwaving explanations.

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@Only affects IE8? What kind of DPI is it doing for that to happen?

Reminds me of when I was called into a fault to be asked the question "Why would the network changed the date field within a DB entry from Friday xx/xx/xxxx to Mon xx/xx/xxxx"............

Dark art this networking ;-)

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FAIL

Downgrade?

I have one of these devices, and was hit with the upgrade to R25 which has disabled the SSH service (replaced with a telnet service which doesn't accept any user/pass i can think of) and is causing TCP connections to be dropped when downloading large files.

I have also had problems with short nat timeouts, whereby things like SSH connections will die if left idle for a few minutes, highly irritating...

Can someone point me towards how to downgrade to R20? Or does anyone know how to access the telnet service? I would much prefer to run this device in dumb bridging mode, at least then it's got less things it can screw up.

I doubt SSH could be used to uncap, even if you could uncap the local loop you still would still be subject to the traffic shaping virgin perform upstream so it wouldn't help you much.

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Thumb Up

No Superhub issues

Strange, I've not encountered any issues with my superhub on the 50mb service, i've had it maybe 8 weeks or so now (i was using the modem only option). No need to reboot, no issues with latency or speed. Getting 6mb sec down and 500k +\- sec upload. I'm on the 'Soton' exchange. I've ntoiced that the 100mb service has been pushed back from June to September but I will most certainly be going for that when its available.

One small thing that I have noticed, as mentioned before is that my SSH connections are also timing out relatively quickly as well - which is a pain to say the last.

Other than that no bad words from me.

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Anonymous Coward

BITD

Back when I was a Telewest customer I found there was no need to pay for upgrades. I just threatened to leave. Three times I threatened to leave, three times I got a free upgrade.

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Silver badge
Headmaster

"... trouble at the mill." ??

... trouble at 'mill. :- Fixed.

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Paris Hilton

Super hub? But hubs are crap!

I'm still waiting for the promised 'bridge mode' to disable all routing and wireless functions and to operate simply as a cable modem - then I can use my discrete router which handles all my dynamic DNS, QoS, port filtering, firewall and wireless N that extends further than the first wall.

Paris, because she's not very discrete either.

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Silver badge
Stop

Bridging doesn't totally avoid the crappy ISP box

I have Be, and use their supplied/rented speedtouch router in bridge mode. It still crashes occasionally, requiring a hard reset, despite it doing nothing more than a glorified packet pusher.

Mind you, it is an age better than when you use it as a router, when it dies within seconds of launching a multiplier network game with high numbers of UDP packets.

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However . . .

. . . with Be* you can just go and buy any other ADSL 2+ modem and plug it into the connection.

It's what I did, as I wanted to cut out as much extraneous nonsense in a single box and let all my other network gear cope with the network.

The Speedtouch is kept handy in case of problems and the drone on the phone insist on me using their hardware.

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Anonymous Coward

Virgin suck the sweat off old mens bollocks.

I'm on Virgin currently, their 10Mb cable service and that's turned to total and utter shit over the past 2 or 3 weeks. The last time I phoned to complain I threatened to leave. The fella I spoke to, and I kid you not, said I can PAY to upgrade to this new faster shit and my problems with severe latency will magically disappear. I said to the guy "Are you fucking taking the piss out of me?" He was unsurprisingly ticked off.

Sadly I live in an area lost in time. ADSL is from BT only and the exchange can *maybe* cope with 6Mb/sec. After several other nightmares I'd had with this retards I've now accepted that a downgrade in speed is infinitely preferable, even if it means the nightmare of BT.

I'd really rather have ants eat my eyeballs whilst satan inserts plutonium pellets into my arse and be forced to listen to Celine Dion at loud volumn on an infinte loop than have any further dealings with Virgin Media.

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Alert

@zootlewurdle

I think you will enjoy this letter sent to Virgin's predecessor, NTL:

http://www.boreme.com/posting.php?id=1695&page=1

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Anonymous Coward

@Top 38

Thanks for that link Tom, I see the fella clearly attended a very similar, if not the same, letter writing school that I attended. Having sent similar letters in the past myself (although I hasten to add I've never added an 'extras' into the envelope)

Ironincally I never had much problem with either NTL or Telewest, and I've been on cable pretty much since it was acctually possible. Telewest I found to have the edge in general quality.

Oh, and my BT order got 'lost', despite the confirmation emails, so they are at least as bad as Virgin. Next in line; O2. More expensive because they don't have access to the exchange but on the plus side, UK call centers, so I wont need to keep repeating myself 5 times because the person on the other end of the phone doesn't understand an English accent.

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Anonymous Coward

Shoddy bit of kit, with seemingly little alternative

I was on the Virgin 20Mb service with the cable modem and my own router. Having upgraded to the 50Mb, and despite me being dubious, I decided to take the plunge and accept the cable modem/router combo that is the superhub. Quite frankly I've had nothing but issues with it, and would like to go back to using my 4/5 year old linksys wrt54gs.

Has anyone had any luck with Virgin providing them with just a cable modem for the 50Mb service, so we can happily use our own routers?

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Anonymous Coward

This is definatly possible with a bit of tinkering...

As long as you use the superhub as the DHCP server and forward all ports to the new router it will work fine with existing equipment (it's how my wireless is working at the mo)...Of course they wont support you at all...but they also couldn't work out how to get the Digital Box to send digital TV around the house....bunch of monkeys.

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Some context

Take a look at VM's set top boxes, the last "major" firmware update as far as I can discern is when they re-skinned all the telewest branded menus, my V+ HD box goes to shit at or around 12:30 every night, and typically at least 1 other time during the day (essentially locks up, or becomes so slow as to be effectively unusable) doing a hard reboot (the only kind) means your going to have to wait 2-3 minutes for the box to boot, and then wait another 10 minutes for it to become something like usable while it sluggishly pulls down EPG data etc.

I'm very much of the opinion that as far as VM is concerned, if their kit meets some very tenuous legal definition of "works a significant fraction of the time" then they don't give a fuck. If the super hub doesn't play well with streaming media, and throws a tantrum if you try and throw a few dozen p2p connections through it then they probably see this as a bonus. I will certainly be hanging onto my surfboard 2 cable modem until they pry it from my cold dead hands (or someone provides a decent FTTH service, although I'm thinking the former may come first)

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Thumb Down

speed, what speed

Oh yes they have lots of problems.

Virgin say they can't push out a fix quickly to give option to make superhub into a modem, and let the user add their own firewall etc.

yet when some one finds ssh and posts the commands needed to do just this,a fix is pushed out almost next day to 'fix' the problem , which virgin define as turning off ssh,

so now no one can implement the modem mode in the super hub.

The way to get speed for the on line tech, seems to be top turn off firewall, wireless, and most protections.

semes this does little to increase the speed, but these features are never truly off, so still can't get performance.

Also seems the super hub , using dociss 3 not the older 1, is much more critical on the quality of the line. What used to work reliably on dociss 1 won't on dociss 3.

that could be the hub being ' fussy', or it could be the encoding needs better lines than virgin currently have.

and the great update in data needs, as everyone is being encouraged to switch form 10 Mb to 30 / 50 / 100 Mb means the virging system could be showing the cracks.

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FAIL

R25

Has royally screwed it right up!!!! I was coping ok, no stable wireless on the old firmware but the speeds were fine wired, now:

50-75% packet loss

downloads stop half way through (if you get that far!)

youtube stops buffering

streaming audio stops after 5 seconds in media player or winamp

speedtest reveals 2mbit on a 50mbit connection but stops half way through

its a total joke!!

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Unhappy

Pah!

Fancy new router you say? You dont need one of them.

I still have an old NTL cable modem on 10Meg. And I get the same crap service, knackered downloads, busted streaming and hamstrung bittorrents.

We are supposed to have 1Meg upload. (Well Virgin Medias website says we do) Do we? Do we hell. (Well that's what the cable modem says)

According to the hopeless helpline wally, "you don't have it yet".

No shit Sherlock!

So save yer money and get the same quality service!

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FAIL

If my experience with Virgin and service issues is anything to go by....

.... then this issue will be resolved sometime late 2012.

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Thumb Up

Been on cable since it was invented in the UK

Diamond Cable, then NTL now Virgin Media. Never had anything but a great service with cable.

The 8 months I endured using sub 4meg DSL will haunt me forever.

Despite my concerns, moving from a rock solid 20meg service to the new 'super' hub everything is ok here.

http://www.speedtest.net/result/1259622746.png

Obv, that's the kiss of death :(

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Re: Been on cable since it was invented in the UK

Similar story here, although not as long as El Presidente. I was a Cable Telewest Customer back in 2002, then Virgin Media. I was a fairly happy customer until this year, when I noticed my bill creeping upwards with sneaky price increases - the odd £1.00 added to a service here, the odd £1.00 added to a service there - at least 3 prices increases since October, excluding the change in the VAT rate.

I never received any correspondence to inform me of these price increases. I then suffered extreme poor broadband speeds - 56k modem speeds. The slow download / streaming speed, compounded with the price increase caused me to investigate the competition. I realised I was paying for XL TV that I don't actually watch apart from South Park and CNN!

The real kick in the nether regions, was that when I compared my package with the current deals, I was paying approx £4.00 a month for a poorer package (comparing the packages excluding the 6 month half price sweetners for new customers).

I've just switched to TalkTalk for a better phone and broadband package (less TV package), for £13.50 less a month. I'll probably buy a Freeview box for the BBC 3 and 4 channels.

Underhand price increases without notification, and a poorer service equals instant switch. I'm on the whole fairly loyal (provided I still receive a good - not necessarily a great - deal) but once a company starts taking the proverbial, I have no compunction in switching.

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Go

Similar to me

I've been on very slightly longer than you - since about 2001 - and i noticed the same thing. In the end my monthly bill was a small fortune!

I ended up phoning, speaking to retentions, and explaining that I could get a similar level of service from Sky for much much cheaper, that I would prefer to not have to swap, but would be forced to unless some sort of arrangement could be reached.

Spoke to a very pleasant English chap, who I *think* was called James, who got me a pretty good deal sorted out with a Customer Loyalty bonus.

Certain areas of VMs CS team are actually not bad - you've just got to get through the Tier 3 imbeciles to someone who can actually make a decision.

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@BenR

You reckon? In 3 months time you will receive a standard letter telling you that during "routine" audits, they "discovered" that you are on the wrong price plan and they will correct it for you by upping your monthly charges.

I hope you have this new price plan in writing.

This happened to me, at which point told them to shove it as it is a significant change to the t&c and that they are on 30 days notice.

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Silver badge

Hmm....

...no issue for me here (SuperHub on R25) but then I "only" have the 20mbps service.

Which I got days before the 30mbps came out. Not sure whether to be happy or sad that I missed out.

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Update: 9PM 19/04

Just a quick update regarding this problem. I am a VM beta tester and in the last few hours Virgin have pushed out a new firmware to their SuperHub beta testers.

It is version R26, intended to fix the problems mentioned in this article

After a few hours of testing, I would certainly say it looks very promising - this is the first time since R25's test and general releases I've been able to reliably stream audio on Last.fm and watch YouTube videos in HD.

If you're strucken by the issues, I'd recommend you keep a close eye on VirginMedia's forums, as I believe the plan is to offer R26 to new testers before any general release.

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Anonymous Coward

not amused

actually, id rather have this problem and get good speeds at least some of the time, but alas im not so lucky, i live 15 yards from a cable access point but they wont put a line in so im stuck with flaky 2Mbps ADSL from an exchange 1.5K away

Even 4Mbps would be nice why or why to these compaines taunt us so, with fancy letters and emails advertsing 24-50 Mbps "in my area"

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No Problem's

I have a 50mb superhub and a 50mb modem which does not use the superhub.

I never have any issues with mine but to be honest I don't use Bit torrent's and I rarely stream video from Youtube but when I do it work's fine.

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Bronze badge
Thumb Down

Letters, digits.

Interesting.

Up until a week or so ago, I was on the 10Mb/s package. I hadn't bothered to upgrade beyond that because my useage doesn't really warrant it - and in general, I've had no problems with my internet connection.

However, over the past month or so, my usenet feed (which consists of a small selection of text only groups with a releatively small amount of traffic, and for which I pay Giganews) has been suffering really badly - and at first I had no idea why and put it down to a temporary glitch. The problem being *really* slow NNTP fetches, even to the point that the connection will often time out. I used to get a more reliable NNTP connection when I was using an old 14Kb/s modem.

Eventually, though, frustration led me to investigate and I discovered their new P2P/NNTP traffic management via the forums at http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/General-broadband-questions/Upstream-P2P-Traffic-Management-Trial-Feeback/td-p/372857 - I had no idea they were doing this until that point (that was the first time I'd ever even looked at their forums).

I found a suitable contact form on their site and sent them a steaming complaint about this, because that's not just traffic management, it's traffic choking until you see the very life fade from its eyes.

I received a telephone call about it, and the guy (who was otherwise nice enough) was positive that their traffic management wasn't the cause (conveniently ignoring that it only happens during the hours the traffic management is in place, and only on their connection: I borrowed a mobile dongle at one point, and after watching a failed NNTP connection die after only a handful of messages were fetched from the first few of my groups, I immediately used it and watched the dozen or so messages from the rest fly down).

However, he suggested as a possible fix an upgrade to the 30Mb/s package - which would require a small increase in my payments, as well as a new 12 month contract. Hmmm.

As you can imagine, I wasn't entirely convinced. I was /half/ tempted, on the basis that the higher speed package MIGHT (if the P2P/NNTP traffic management is slowing things to a percentage, not a fixed stupidly low amount) equate to a reliable, if slow, NNTP connection.

But a new 12 month contract?

Hmm.

He could hear the doubt in my voice, because he then suggested increasing the package to the 20Mb/s one, at no extra cost and no extra contract, as well as sending out the new hub. I agreed to this.

I'm now on the 20Mb/s package and, frankly, it's not made any noticeable difference to the NNTP fetches.

The hub has arrived and is still boxed. I'm reluctant to set it up given what I've now read here - not least the comments about using existing routers (which he told me wouldn't be a problem. FFS! I've only recently replaced my aging and unreliable router with one that cost £120 because it has some features I want!)

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Headmaster

RE: Letters, digits.

Switch your NNTP client to use port 80, or 443 for SSL (You can do this with giganews I believe).

They dont like usenet traffic, so traffic shape 119 and 563. Not so with 80 and 443 though, as these are typically used for HTTP / HTTPS.

The conditional throttling between 10am and 3pm, 4pm and 9pm will still apply if you go over your limits though.

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Bronze badge

Letters, digits.

Shhhh. Don't tell them, but I've already done that*. I just keep switching back so I can see if they are still being total berkshire hunts or if they've taken a more sensible approach.

After all, I'm paying them for a "broad"band connection, not using anything even close to their limits**, paying someone else for a service that I can access over that "broad"band connection, and having them strangle it to the point of death if I use the default port. They should just get it right to start with.

I've yet to get an answer from them on this point - but I'm unsure if their P2P/NNTP traffic management is applied to the two seperately, or as one. My opinion - and I'd say common sense - dictates that it should be seperate: Throttle P2P if P2P useage is too high, throttle NNTP if NNTP useage is too high. I suspect, though, that what they're doing is throttling them both if the use of either/both (it matters not which) is too high.

Which means my fetches from 17 low traffic text only groups could be screwed up even if there are no other NNTP users in my area, but lots of P2P users. Which is sheer idiocy.

My comment to VM on their forum this morning ended with something like: If you don't answer this question, I'll have to assume that my suspicions are correct and that your employment policy doubles up as a brochure for a retirement home for the technically inept.

* Port 80 (and IIRC Giganews also allows #23). My news/mail client doesn't seem to want to make a successful connection over SSL. I should probaly report that to the developer as a bug.

** Giganews reports my useage of their server as being less than 0.01Gb/day on average. Obviously, my bandwidth for Virgin-on-the-preposterous Media is more than that (email, web, etc) but that does show the unfairness of their P2P/NNTP traffic management policy.

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FAIL

Vote with your feet

I signed up to the 20Mbps VM service just before Xmas (Bermondsey, London) and they ended connecting me a month later in late January. The new box dully arrived home, but speed with VM never went above 1Mbps for more than 5 minutes and as a new customer after multiple technicians visits with no results I ended cancelling.

Interestingly, one of the technicians that came to our home said that connections will not be upgraded in an area until the contention is very high.

it seems VM is happy to sign up new customers and not serve them at all hoping for short term gains.

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FAIL

remote assistance

Since going superhub, live messenger craps out when I try to accept remote assistance requests. Not good when trying help your mother out at 10pm.

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