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back to article Virgin Media's 'bye-bye to buffering' ad nuked by watchdog - AGAIN

For the second time this year Virgin Media has been berated by Britain's advertising watchdog for making unsubstantiated and misleading claims about its fibre-optic broadband network. The claims in question relate to a TV ad that suggests VM's customers would not be beset by buffering delays. The ASA upheld gripes submitted by …

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Anonymous Coward

As punishment

They should made to advertise the truth.

We will corrupt your downloads.

We will throttle your bandwidth by 75% as soon as you download something.

We will provide you with a shit wireless router and not give you access to it.

We will insist on making you take a day off work every time you report a fault, so that someone can come round to tell you that there's nothing wrong with the equipment in your house and the problem is yet again in the box at the end of the street.

We will increase your bills for no apparent reason.

We will send you constant junk mail telling you to take out a contract on some shitty Blackberry you don't want and never will.

etc.

etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: As punishment

Of all of your points, it's the router that causes me the most frustration. Their tech. guys in Hook must have been taken out to some pretty nice restaurants to sign it off and buy millions of them. Superhub indeed.

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Meh

Re: As punishment

Yeah, the truth..

We will throttle you to a speed still far faster than the maximum any local competitor can be bothered to supply.

Unthrottled you can have speeds far in excess of what any local competitor can even dream about..

And that's on the "it was 10, its now 30" tarriff, let alone 100..

Time to fix Sky's "unlimited", it is limited, by the relatively lame connection speed and BT's "well , great, but even though you've supposedly upgraded the local box, you won't accept connections" network..

Mind you that router is only functionally competent as a modem..

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Flame

Re: As punishment

Exactly right but you missed the part where for the first 2 days you've taken off work, the engineer doesn't even show up and the one about them sending junk mail for their cable broadband to areas that have no cable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: As punishment

..we will send you constant shitty junk mail if you're not a subscriber too, which is sure to endear us to you.

(Actually so do Sky, and send gonks to knock on my door, like I would ever willingly pay for anything that still reeks of Murdoch)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: As punishment

"it's the router that causes me the most frustration"

Haven't had any problems with mine ... though I did resolutely stay on the 20Mb XL service with their older modem until they allowed "modem mode" on the SuperHub so when they sent me one for the 60Mb upgrade virtually the first thing I did (after initial registration bootup connected direct to one PC) was to switch into modem mode and connect into my existing router. Only remaining issue is my elderly WRT54GL router isn't able to take the full bandwidth from the SuperHub^H^H^HModem (maxs out at 30-40Mb) so I've got a new router on my "to do" list!

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Bronze badge

Re: no access to router

My experience (and obviously my anecdotes are 6 sigma evidence and everyone elses are a load of bunk) is that, the first thing the installation engineer did after running cable was to give me access to the superhub so I could piss about with the settings and change the admin password. Dunno if he was supposed to do it or not but that's a different story.

Agree about the junk mail (though I still get more of that from BT and TrashTalk).

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Re: As punishment

I find that even in modem mode, it still requires rebooting once a day otherwise it decides to randomly slow everything down (though in fairness this could be the network's fault too). Funnily enough the most noticeable symptom of this is that if I try to watch something on iplayer then it wont start for about 30 seconds as it is "buffering".

VM is really very poor at customer service, despite being more expensive than Sky. For example, they randomly and deliberately (by means of checking User-Agent and equivalent in Flash) dropped support for Linux from the "VM player" service without telling anyone. This service is already worse than the Sky equivalent since it only works on your home connection vs Sky which works anywhere. Then there's the fact that you can't get Sky Atlantic on VM. And that the price of a package without phone service is no cheaper than one with phone service (despite their product being priced to be slightly more expensive than Sky TV+BT line rental+a decent xDSL ISP). And they will offer you a "loyalty" discount if you complain, but only if you sign up for a new 24-month contract.

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Mushroom

Re: As punishment

Anonymous Coward - re junk mail. In my house, we get these junk mail regularly for the last three years, and I'm not even a customer of Virgin Media (last house owner was).

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FAIL

Re: As punishment

Agreed - just get it in to bridge mode and BYOD.

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Bronze badge

Re: As punishment

Been with VM for four years after moving into a flat-share that had it (and later took the connection with us when flat-mate became girlfriend/cohabitant in a new house).

- Never seen a corrupted download (and I would, because I actually check things like checksums of huge ISO's etc. before running them).

- Never seen the bandwidth throttled (and I do some hefty downloading).

- Had a modem for 10Mbps, that worked fine. House move forced us to move onto SuperHub, I didn't touch anything except to put it into SuperHub mode and then plug into the same wireless router the old modem had always been plugged into. Never had a problem (I suspect a lot of people live in VERY noisy wireless areas and would see unusual problems like connections cutting and corrupt downloads from their own crappy routers and even VM'S SuperHub when it's over wifi). Also, the SuperHub, I have an admin login for (was set up that way, didn't request it or anything) and the previous modem I had the same. But I *did* have to reboot it when they did a firmware update recently, and it stored all my settings and worked perfectly on reboot.

- Reporting faults? Generally nobody calls until they've been to the cabinet first and then they escalate a problem. The one time I had them out in the old house (because we lost interactive TV too), they were there next day, on a weekend, sorted it in an hour, didn't even need to come in the house (but they did, just to check it was up).

- Never seen an unauthorised bill increase (and the increases they charged, I got free upgrade to 30Mb, and they'd waived several days for the switchover between houses anyway, so it ended up as nothing in either favour.

- Junk mail - yes, I agree. But then, I have a Virgin contract phone because I saw a good Android deal on one of those junk mails and chased it up.

Virgin are no better or worse than any other company, but people have to realise that it's EXTREMELY variable based on your own hardware (which no-one wants to blame), how many people are cabled in your street, and how you deal with them when you speak to them on the phone.

The only "outage" I ever experienced above and beyond what I've seen with BT, PlusNet (before they were BT and were FANTASTIC), etc. was a PPV movie stopping half-way and losing signal. Refund, free re-run the next night and sorted out in ten minutes.

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Re: no access to router

Errr the socumentation tells you to login and change the passwords.

The sticker on the router with the following is also a quite decent hint

username : admin

password : changeme

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Anonymous Coward

Re: no access to router

Hahaha: The O.P.'s bandwith probably varies with the number of PFY's currently downloading warez and ripped pr0n in his name ....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: no access to router

OK so I'm the O.P.

I actually don't mind the policy of limiting bandwidth and it rarely affects me. It does when I decide to download an ISO though. The point is they advertise speeds and don't mention the fact that you only get this speed if you don't download anything significant. Yes, other ISPs with their "up to" claims are just as annoying, but two wrongs don't make a right. I'd rather they were just honest about it.

A lot of people are suffering corrupt downloads with superhubs at the moment. Look at VM's forums. For me it's on and off. Luckily I can get round it by downloading via work as my VPN connection has error correction. Apparently it's down to the firmware on the superhubs, which of course, you can't control because you don't have access to the device. And no, calling the user "admin" doesn't mean you have control over the device. You have control over some aspects of the device. Most of the time this is fine, but there's nothing stopping VM logging into your home network and snooping. After all, they can update firmware remotely.

Many people also struggle with the wireless strength on the router. I don't personally and have found that reducing the wireless speed helps. They should probably be open about this rather than pretending there's no issue.

davefb says "Unthrottled you can have speeds far in excess of what any local competitor can even dream about.."

You're right and ultimately it's why I stick with VM. We call this a monopoly. There is only one cable provider. Others have to make do with ADSL and can't compete. How is this good?

Lee Dowling says "Reporting faults? Generally nobody calls until they've been to the cabinet first and then they escalate a problem. "

Erm, no. This isn't how it works. Every time I phone them up they say they have to send someone round and they need access to the house. I tell them that the problem's in the box down the street, but they don't accept this. On one occasion my phone was dead and I tested the line with a multimeter and it was clearly disconnected. Even if they do check the box first before they actually ring the doorbell, they still make you take a day off work to stay at home.

And yes, I do treat the person at the end of the phone with the utmost respect. I worked for many years in support and I'm quite familiar with India too, and how they expect to be spoken too, having spent a lot of time in the country. Don't blame the support people at all and they are usually very accommodating, as are the guys who come round. It's the system that doesn't work.

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Mushroom

Re: As punishment

My Sky 40/10 fibre unlimited is just fine, thanks for asking.

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Re: As punishment

"We will send you constant junk mail telling you to take out a contract on some shitty Blackberry you don't want and never will."

Or we will repeatedly send you attractive offers which you cannot take advantage of as you're an existing customer.

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Bronze badge

Re: no access to router

OP: Your first point - you say yourself other ISP's do it, and Virgin HAVE to state it if they don't want to be sued. It's in the small print, same as every other ISP. I assure you they do not "guarantee" your final download speed. Because they can't. Same as everyone else. And I download ISO's all day long and never see any dip in my networking graphs at all.

Superhub download corruption? I'll give you that, but purely because I'm sensible enough to ONLY operate third-party junk ISP hardware in modem mode and do things like wireless myself (you trust wireless from the cheapest-bidder provider on your home network? More fool you). Ever since I saw a BT Broadband modem that wanted to offer my connection to all-and-sundry without asking as a guest network on whatever their global WiFi network is called. From a quick Google, I believe in modem mode, that corruption problem doesn't exist in modem mode - hence it's almost certainly just the usual junk wireless on an ISP-supplier router. Same as every other ISP.

Admin - just what do you WANT to access on the SuperHub that you can't? I can't see anything that it does that I can't control except Virgin's remote-support (see next paragraph).

"Most of the time this is fine, but there's nothing stopping VM logging into your home network and snooping."

Except a decent firewall on your network from the Internet connection and not relying on a junky, third-party, home router to do an effective job if that's what you're worried about. My "firewall" is actually a 10-year-old WRT54GS - it stops ANYTHING coming from the SuperHub going anywhere unless I've explicitly allowed it. Virgin get to see exactly what I send them and no more (and I send it to them because I need them to deliver it). They can't do anything on my network - the only things accessible to them are the STB and the SuperHub device. Everything else is blocked off from Virgin as it is blocked off from random people on the net. If you're on The Reg (and so presumably an IT professional or at least geek of some kind) and don't get this, it worries me.

And this is no different to other ISP - I've never used nor trusted any of their supplied modems/routers whatsoever. Stick them in modem mode or (at worst) DMZ with wireless disabled, install your own firewall/router/access point and get on with life in the secure knowledge that silly mistakes on Virgin's part (e.g. remote accessible admin interfaces, predictable WPA keys, WEP available on the wireless etc.) won't do anything to decrease my own security. The wireless router I use has piggy-backed on at least five different ADSL / cable modems / routers in its time, from a variety of ISP's, and is there to keep my local config consistent (who cares what IP Virgin give me?), and to stop junky routers ruining the connection (e.g. bad NAT limits, terrible Wifi, responding to UPnP when I don't want it to, opening the ports on MY commands, etc.)

Struggling with wireless strength on the router? The above solves that permanently. And it might be the cause of, say, corrupt downloads, etc. etc. etc. It's a cheap, junky, supplier router that tries to do-all for the home user. Switch it off, buy a real device (what's that now? £25? A month's subscription, if that?) and you can use that FOREVER on whatever ISP you go to and do the same for their problems. Same as every other ISP.

"Erm, no. This isn't how it works. Every time I phone them up they say they have to send someone round and they need access to the house."

Night workers. Emergency shift workers. People who just aren't in. What do these people do? Tell them no, tell them to fix it, problem solved. You have no idea how much leeway I've had on things that "require a home visit" from BT etc. just by telling them that I wasn't going to be there (and, no, I'm not a night worker, but they have to cope with that issue the same as any other company would). They *can* fully diagnose, reboot and check your connection remotely - exactly the kind of admin access you are complaining about. I've had them reboot my modem remotely and check logs from their end ON THE PHONE and it was the first-line support who did that, not hours on the phone. The point of a cable network is that they OWN it all, they can not only remotely reboot your device but watch it's login to the cabinet, to the network and have it report back SNR's etc. once it's back up. Have you not seen the little PDA gadget the engineers carry that they can see the local cabinet status of any connection in the area? That's how they initialise the MAC's of new modems to the nearest cabinet, last I saw.

Everything else is the user's problem and (therefore) obviously requires visits to sort. Junky wireless is, I imagine, their biggest problem and their usual test would probably be something like "I can access it from the engineer laptop 1m away, so my work is done" - like any other ISP.

I'm not saying you haven't had a duff experience, but you're having a duff experience that others on the same service aren't getting - either because they accept it and compromise (like any other ISP), or they workaround it, or they just don't accept fob-off excuses.

And, seriously, stop using ANY ISP's supplied router. It's just asking for trouble and has been since the very first ADSL days (hell, I still have the ADSL router that I moved through 3 ISP's because their supplied ones were so crap they used to crash if you opened a Counterstrike server list).

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Bod

Re: As punishment

"Exactly right but you missed the part where for the first 2 days you've taken off work, the engineer doesn't even show up"

And where they turn up outside the stated time, several days in a row and then the old classic of turning up on the wrong day and blaming you for not being in!!!

I miss the old NTL days where we had nthellworld. There was a very good reason why it existed.

The company keeps adopting the name of those it buys (CabelTel->NTL->Virgin), but the service is the same old.

Much of the technical problems are still down to the antiquated hybrid fibre coax system used by cable companies that has had digital tv & broadband shoehorned into something designed for analogue cable. HFC at the neighbourhood end is like old thin Ethernet. Remember why that was crap? Well that's why there are so many problems usually down to a connection somewhere else in the neighbourhood (unterminated connections for one!).

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Re: As punishment

None of which I as a Virgin Media customer have experienced.

But when I saw this ad it was blatently obvious it was bull.

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Anonymous Coward

ASA - toothless body acting in the interests of advertisers ?

There should be a penalty for misleading ads - e.g. a requirement to contribute 50% of the revenue spent in promoting the advert to charity (e.g. children's hospice). That would make advertisers think twice before making misleading claims...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ASA - toothless body acting in the interests of advertisers ?

There's a lot of anger round here about misleading tech ads. But what's so different elsewhere? Look at toilet paper, where it is variously marketed as kitten soft, koala soft, and by inference only in another advert, labrador puppy soft. Now, either there's been some animal cruelty, or those adverts are lies.

I'd suggest wiping your behind on a koala is rather more serious than making a few unbelievable promises about buffering - anybody want to make an ASA complaint about that?

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Re: ASA - toothless body acting in the interests of advertisers ?

That comes down to the question "what is misleading?" The answer to which is always going to be subjective.

Still, I don't think many people expect toilet paper to be like wiping one's arse on an animal. They could be forgiven for expecting a service they're paying through the nose for to deliver what was promised.

...if promised is the right word, which of course it isn't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: ASA - toothless body acting in the interests of advertisers ?

"Still, I don't think many people expect toilet paper to be like wiping one's arse on an animal. "

They say "kitten soft", that's a specific offer, and I want kitten soft. And no claws or teeth mind you.

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Bronze badge
Happy

Traffic Shaping!

You mean like their traffic shaping practices? Download two Linux ISOs ( I wanted to test variations of Linux Mint last night ) next thing my Missus is moaning at me that she can't watch some z-list celubtard on Who Do You Think Will Save My Career? ( sorry, "Who Do You Think You Are?"! ) on the BBC catchup service!

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FAIL

Re: Traffic Shaping!

Except they don't limit Streaming services, only P2P so maybe you should stop trolling so badly.

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Re: Traffic Shaping!

Unless he hit the 1GB in an hour limit. In which case his connection would be throttled for everything for a few hours.

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Silver badge

[no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s] ASA

Erm, bollocks. Maybe when then finish the upgrades, but we're not due (Edinburgh West) to be upgraded (now) until Q4 2013.

Currently my services is 10Mbits/sec (I'm a cheapskate), and normally it's round about 3Mbit/sec (the VM network in my area is crap, needs updating and is oversubscribed).

If the ASA had a problem with the advert under the assumption that the minimum speed was 15Mbits/sec, then I suggest that they check what the real situation with the VM upgrades was.

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Silver badge

Re: [no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s] ASA

I'm a 10Mb/s cheapskate too. I politely suggested that it was time for me to leave them, since I hardly ever use my VM cable phone, and since '3' seem to have nice mobile broadband offers. They offered me a 'special' deal of £25 a month gets cable phone and 10Mb/s internet. I took it. I doubt that my speed will be upgraded :)

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Re: [no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s] ASA

I think they're upgrading everyone, regardless.

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Bronze badge
Facepalm

"Could"

I am forced to back VM on this one; "could" is an empty promise as much as "up to" is. Meaningless but not misleading. I can however understand the ASA wanting to protect hose who lack the most basic comprehension skills.

If I were the ASA I'd favour balance. Let VM continue to use "could" so long as they added a flashing "this means fuck all" subtitle to clarify what they are saying. Maybe we should demand honesty subtitles for all adverts?

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Bronze badge

Re: "Could"

Thumbs up from here....Seems as though the ASA is happy to let any number of companies use a non-standard meaning for Unlimited without action but jump all over an advert which is actually a proper use of English. Anyone that phrases their services to define the best case and imply you may not get it is a damn sight more honest than being promised the World*

*World only available in 1:1,000,000,000 scale and may only be a representation of the real thing and we may choose to substitute a photo of a representation instead.

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Re: "Could"

Difference between "up to" and "could" is that someone, somewhere, will be getting the "up to" speed. However they cannot say that you will never experience buffering again, as that is entirely out of their control. There will always be at least one streaming service which does not have sufficient bandwidth to meet its users needs. Unless of course they mean 'say goodbye' in the same way that you say goodbye to your kids when you drop them at school in the morning - i.e. in the full expectation that you will be saying hello very shortly.

That said, I often go for days or even weeks at a time without seeing any buffering on my VM connection. But a few hours on the phone to India and a couple of days waiting in for the engineer, usually fixes that.

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Facepalm

[no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s].

Well thats untrue.

Yes, they are working to "upgrade" everyone to 20Mbit minimum, my upgrade was meant to be June, then July, August, Dec 2012 and then jumped to some time in 2013.

Needless to say I phoned up to moan and got a free (cheaper than current) upgrade to 30Mbit, however I doubt _every_ customer has done this in the last few weeks.

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Re: [no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s].

Not really untrue if you consider the context - it is an advert to attract NEW subscribers, hence IMO, you should really read it as "No NEW VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s".

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Re: [no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s].

I did the same, but it took 2 months of raging before they bumped my up after I called up to cancel my contract stating they were in breach of contract(I had NO www connection for days at a time) and I wasn't going to pay a cent for early cancellation.

Everyone on the 10/20Mb package should try something similar.

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Silver badge

Re: [no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s].

"you should really read it as "No NEW VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s"

No I shouldn't. If the word isn't in the advert, I should read it as "No VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s" which is what was written, and no implicit assumption of any word being inserted can be made in judging whether the statement as printed was accurate, which it isn't.

Given the stats that are published, I'd think that new customers are not a large component of VM users - I'd reckon a considerable proportion of their customers do not get 15Mbit/s.

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Re: [no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s].

>> no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s

I am sure lots of VM customers get less than 15 Mbit/s. Whether or not they expect to is a different matter. , my 60 Mbit/s connection has dropped to less than 2 mbps on a few occasions - generally fixed after a few weeks.

Perhaps it should be "no VM customer expects to receive download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s". Or "no VM customer receives download speeds of less than up to 15Mbit/s". Or "no VM customer pays for download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s"

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Anonymous Coward

Well in some instances you could say goodbye to buffering.

You could also say hello to buffering as well, depending on circumstances.

I find it particularly polite that we are saying goodbye to them in the first place, this shows the UK in a good light. Now if the UK was screaming "feck off you miserable bufferering bastards" then maybe that would be an issue.

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no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s

I beg to differ:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamiekitson/8050119110/

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Thumb Up

Re: no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s

Kudos to your analysis, evidence and presentation :)

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Re: no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s

"Kudos to your analysis, evidence and presentation :)"

Kudos for maintaining 105% of your tier speed for 13 hours straight without a single, noticable dip...

Won't ask what is was...

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Re: no VM customer receives download speeds of less than 15Mbit/s

It's what you get when you sign up for Sam Knows broadband analysis: https://www.samknows.eu/

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Silver badge
Linux

Well, it's good that they are not able to continue outright lying to their customers and would be customers. I get nothing but problems with streaming video, even from the big boys, such as, iPlayer and YouTube.

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Anonymous Coward

Dodgy ads?

So VM has more phorm beyond their link to Phorm.

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Bronze badge

buffering will always exist, flash movie players suck and only a handful actually have buffering and work, most people wont download at a constant 1.3mb to cover HD movie bitrate, pings and keep alive

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FAIL

Strange

Buffering is actually pretty much non-existant on VM until their traffic shaping policy kicks in at whatever time it is. After that time you can kiss goodbye to watching anything on Youtube at 720p or above until midnight even if you haven't gone over the stupidly low "fair usage" cap.

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Bronze badge

Re: Strange

bt is probaly complaining about 1080p with 5 channel ac3 audio, flash will always need a 5sec buffer

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Unhappy

Just checked

An average of 3 speed checking sites gave me a little of 12Mb/s

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Meh

I have discovered proxpn

It makes a very good compliment to VM as they can now no longer traffic shape *anything* (p2p or http) and also I can watch hulu and other such services too. And of course you are no longer blocked by any sites the the UK govt or VM deem as unsuitable for paying customers.

I initially only got a vpn service so I could have a point-of-presence in the US to improve skype (the alternative was allow skype nodes to do the routing and that was .. basically ... abysmal).

I only wish I could put a referral link here....

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60mbps and still never get through a youtube video in one go. Virgins fault? Not a clue really, but it buffers nonetheless.

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