back to article It's true – it really is grim up north, thanks to Virgin Media. ISP fined for Carlisle cable chaos

Virgin Media is facing a £385,000 fine after its cable expansion plans in the northwest of England wrought havoc on the streets of Carlisle. The penalty was imposed after the broadband provider pleaded guilty to seven breaches of street-works safety rules at Carlisle Magistrates' Court. Contractors failed to provide proper …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £170 victim surcharge

    oh dear, that'll teach them! :)

  2. Chloe Cresswell

    So let me get this right:

    They don't care about their existing network/maintenance.

    But now they don't care about new networks/installs either.

    Makes perfect sense.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      They don't care about their existing network/maintenance.

      That's correct, Virgin Media don't give a shit about delivering the contracted service by keeping the existing network in good nick.

      But now they don't care about new networks/installs either.

      Oh, they do care passionately about installs and new connections. They just don't care how shoddily the job is done, so long as it is cheap. They adopt the same approach to customer service, as VM customers know only too well. Vermin Media (and parent company scumbags, Liberty Global) are really keen to sign up new customers, and cross sell to existing customers, in order to put a "growth" story gloss onto the business, so that if and when a mug comes along (potentially Vodafone) and wants to buy Vermin Media, the valuation comes back considerably higher than is actually warranted. This is why the whole Project Lightning fiasco is unfolding, and why VM are offering a 350 Mbps speed upgrade for customers that their equipment often struggles to deliver. The point of the upgrade is not just the extra money for the same thing, but the opportunity to lock customers into further contract periods - again, because that reduces churn, and helps bolster an business valuation.

      1. damien c

        Oh look another person ready to bash a company because of contractors.

        Virgin are taking the hit, because the contractors didn't do the job properly and you say it's because Virgin pay a pittance but the contract, companies bid for the work and if the contractors say they can do it for a value that is cheaper than another company then it makes, sense to go with them in terms of business revenue etc.

        I have worked with and for contractors in the past on the Virgin network and to be honest it would be better if Virgin just got there own staff, in to do the work because at least they could be trained correctly to do the work, instead of the contractors they currently use who will just take anyone and throw them a uniform and tell them to dig or pull a cable.

        I have no issue's with my VM connection, and the one time I did it was sorted inside of a couple of week's, that's not to say some people don't have issues because I know people do but thankfully I am one of those that don't, because let's face it BT and other's don't offer anywhere near the same level of connection where I live, so I would be a fool to pay the same price for a slower and less reliable connection.

        1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

          No mate, Virgin hire the contractors, Virgin are responsible for checking their work is being done properly, safely and up to the relevant standard.

          If the contractors cock it all up it's Virgin's fault because they hired them, that's how it works.

          There are no get outs here, the blame lands firmly on Virgin for hiring the cheapest cowboys they can find and the court made that very clear by fining Virgin Media.

          As for your 'I have no issue's with my VM connection, and the one time I did it was sorted inside of a couple of week's'

          'Let's just drill down into that statement...

          'inside of a couple of weeks' to sort out?

          Are you on drugs or do you work for Virgin/Liberty (or all)?

        2. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Oh look another person ready to bash a company because of contractors.

          Too right I am. The performance of the contractors is ENTIRELY WITHIN VM'S CONTROL. They set the standards and terms, they are responsible for supervising the contractor, and even more importantly they are legally responsible - you did you notice it was VM getting fined, not the subbies?

          I've worked for big companies doing billions of pounds of work through contractors, and there's no magic here. You make sure that you are doing business with a reputable contractor, you issue a crystal clear specification, you use your own staff to supervise the contractors, you keep relations open with residents and local authorities so that you know what's happening on the ground, you move quickly to get the contractor performing, and if things are really going badly you cancel the contract. What you don't do is let the contract to shit company for a pittance where they can't possibly make a sustainable commercial margin, then walk away, ignoring whatever they are doing, and stick your fingers in your ears whilst the residents complain - or rather, you do all those things if you're Virgin Media.

          Note that your point about cable laying and pulling refers to VM specifics - that's not the issue, the problem they got nailed for was blatant and repeated failure to adhere to NRSWA which has been in force for just short of three decades. That's bread and butter stuff, there's no excuse, and the buck stops with VM, who richly deserve their fine.

          1. damien c

            For starter's I am not saying that Virgin has no blame here because they do, they have PSE's which are supposed to check the work is completed to the required standard's but, clearly that didn't happen.

            The contract company though should have done the work to the correct standard in the first place, and clearly they didn't and because of that the company that, hired them get's all the bad publicity and fines etc, which I don't care how you try and swing it, is not right.

            The other problem here is that, because they use multiple contract companies throughout the country they are all smaller companies who will just get any unqualified muppet to work for them.

            You wouldn't blame Ford or BMW if a mechanic did a piss poor job of replacing your breaks would you?

            As for it taking a couple of week's to fix an issue, I knew what the fault was and yes a couple of weeks to sort out that issue was quick compared to what it could have been, especially since it involved the replacement of several key pieces of network infrastructure.

            Either way people like to bash Virgin for any reason, and it just annoys me because unlike any other ISP in my area they actually offer a good connection, I get my full speed, with no latency issues other than the one caused by Intel, my connection doesn't drop randomly and I don't have to live within 100 meters of the exchange to get more than 0.5Mb.

            Say what you want I know what is involved when it comes to the design, delivery, cost etc of these networks and I also know what the contractors are like that offer there services, to Virgin Media and BT and the only thing I can say that you will agree with is that, this will not be the last time Virgin are blamed for the incompetence of a contract company.

            1. Jason 24

              "You wouldn't blame Ford or BMW if a mechanic did a piss poor job of replacing your breaks would you?"

              I would if I took it to Ford/BMW and they then contracted it out to the cheapest indy garage they could find.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              FAIL

              "You wouldn't blame Ford or BMW if a mechanic did a piss poor job of replacing your breaks would you?"

              Rubbish analogy.

              Try, if you took your car to a mechanic that was contracted to BMW to do the work and he did a piss poor job, yes, I bloody would have a go at BMW.

              If you buy a new build house of Barrett or Persimmon and the house collapsed, who do you think is legally responsible, the self employed guy that built the wall or the house building company.

              It's up to Virgin if they now want to pass the costs onto the contractor.

            3. defiler Silver badge

              @damien c

              starters, not starter's

              PSEs, not PSE's

              standards, not standard's

              gets, not get's

              brakes, not breaks

              weeks, not week's

              That said, VM do a moderate job of running a very high speed consumer network. It's not perfect (of course). I wouldn't regard them as "very good" either. Right now we have customers getting notifications that VM will be cutting their services during core hours to perform maintenance. Well that's no use for businesses (and yes, they're on business contracts). They are notoriously bad for the quality of SIP/RTP connections, and they seem to have a fetish for mangling SMTP sessions heading out of their network (even if you start playing musical port numbers). But you know what? They're cheap for the bandwidth you get.

              But yes, they are ultimately responsible for the conduct of their contractors. Just like McDonalds is ultimately responsible for the quality of their burgers. Just like my boss is ultimately responsible if I bin an email server by mistake. The buck stops at the top. That's how it works. That's how it needs to work.

              If VM have appointed a contractor that does a piss poor job, they have to get that contractor in line. If the contractor can't do a good job for the price then that's the contractor's problem, but it's ultimately VM's responsibility.

              1. Slef

                Re: @damien c

                Thank you for your "public School Mr Chips" beginning to your post. I don't know what was in your post as I had switched of by then, as I (mistakenly) thought I was in some alternative reality in which Grammar had become the be all and end all. Feel free to use the red pen on grammar as I do not give a shit if you ned to assert your literacy superiority!!

                1. MonkeyCee Silver badge
                  Headmaster

                  Re: @damien c

                  " I was in some alternative reality in which Grammar had become the be all and end all."

                  It is, when it comes to interpreting the written word. You can have the same words in a sentence where different punctuation giving them different meanings.

                  Same with code. It does what you wrote, not what you meant. You have to correct that part yourself. It's just code for meat space with really dodgy compilers ;)

                  So an apostrophe can mean a word has been missed out or mashed together, such as "it is" = "it's".

                  Using it after a noun indicates a form of possession, rather than pluralisation. The form of possession is indicated by the apostrophe being either before or after the s.

                  So the plural of teacher is teachers, no apostrophe.

                  Something belonging to a particular person uses the apostrophe before the s. The teacher's apple is an apple that belongs to *a* teacher.

                  Something that belongs to all persons in a group uses the apostrophe after the s. The teachers' lounge is a lounge to which all the teachers own.

                  That's the formal and correct way of using them.

                  In normal practise, you would expect to only see the first two cases, since they make a large change to the possible meaning. I don't think I've ever used the last case outside of very formal writing, in most situations the last apostrophe is left off if the context is clear.

                  So unless you're selling fruit and veg from a market stall, no need for an apostrophe if you want the plural.

              2. novice2

                Re: @damien c

                PSE's is the correct form...

            4. Oneman2Many

              "You wouldn't blame Ford or BMW if a mechanic did a piss poor job of replacing your breaks would you?"

              Actually is a good analogy because BMW is exactly who would be blaming if the dealership contracted by BMW did the work. BMW trained the mechanic to their spec and certified them to work on their behalf.

              I would say the VM should pass on the fine to the contractors but they most likely can't because VM's own inspectors probably signed off the work. So the blame here is fair and square with VM.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                "Actually is a good analogy because BMW is exactly who would be blaming if the dealership contracted by BMW did the work. BMW trained the mechanic to their spec and certified them to work on their behalf."

                It's funny you bring up BMW. This is the exact scenario that's happening in the UK with Mercedes-Benz at the moment. Substandard repairs and vehicle-damaging shoddy workmanship at the dealerships is par for the course.

            5. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "the only thing I can say that you will agree with is that, this will not be the last time Virgin are blamed for the incompetence of a contract company."

              One might take that as an admission that Virgin are incompetent and not fit for purpose.

              A contract company they had a duty of care to ensure were up to the job and were actually doing the job.

              Properly.

              SO, Virgin are culpable, the courts think so, we think so, yet somehow you still want to shuck the responsibility onto their employees.

            6. ChrisBedford

              I don't care how you try and swing it, is not right.

              You are 100% wrong, mate. It is *TOTALLY* the responsibility of the company hiring the subbie. That has been a legal principle for hundreds of years and it remains so because that *IS* right and just. So swing it or not, you are totally in the minority in believing VM have no responsibility for the mess.

              The other problem here is that, because they use multiple contract companies throughout the country they are all smaller companies who will just get any unqualified muppet to work for them.

              Again, in this example, VM's problem. Not directly, but they have to keep supervision on every job and make sure any deviations are jumped on, right away, before it comes to litigation. Which they clearly didn't do in this case.

              You wouldn't blame Ford or BMW if a mechanic did a piss poor job of replacing your breaks would you?

              Abso bloody lutely I would. Seriously, if you took your BMW to a BMW agent and some half-arsed mechanic did a botched job, and you were injured as a result, do you honestly not believe BMW is not responsible?

              If not you are a dream customer, letting companies get away with any damn thing they please.

              And its BRAKES, not breaks.

            7. Alan Brown Silver badge

              "they have PSE's which are supposed to check the work is completed to the required standard's but, clearly that didn't happen."

              Not as if that isn't rampant across sectors.

              The local council (Surrey) has inspectors who've been signing off streetworks as completed and remediated for decades without bothering to actually set foot on site. In many cases it's turned out that the work that contractors were paid for, wasn't even started.

              the level of fraud runs into the millions, but large companies and councils are afraid to call in the police because it would expose how slack they've been - one spooks investors and the other results in voter anger.

        3. Pete 39
          WTF?

          Taking the cheapest contractor is not the only option

          See title.

          1. willi0000000

            Re: Taking the cheapest contractor is not the only option

            But C.M.O.T. Dibler offered such good terms!!!!!

            [ thank you, Sir Pterry ]

        4. defiler Silver badge

          @damien c

          I have no issue's with my VM connection, and the one time I did it was sorted inside of a couple of week's

          Damien, I'm not going to downvote you, or criticise your view of the contractor relationship with VM. What I will say, though, is get a grip on your apostrophes, man. It's an infestation!

          1. ChrisBedford

            Re: @damien c

            get a grip on your apostrophes, man

            More than a couple "WTF??" commas in there too.

        5. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

          @damien C you are talking absolute twaddle. If Vermin Media (I use that phrase as well) choose a cheap contractor, they are entirely to blame. It was their decision, on their watch, to choose whatever crappy contractor they chose. They could have gone with a contractor who did good work, or a contractor that did bad work. They chose the wrong one.

          I've talked to people who've been the unfortunate victims of this shower of shit. In one instance, the contractors managed to cut off the electricity three times, cause a gas leak and make a total muddy mess of the pavement somehow. Nobody could talk to them because they didn't speak English. Virgin needs to be taken down a peg or two. Their network doesn't make sense, they lie about 'fibre' and their cable internet service is no good for business. I wouldn't trust them.

        6. Anonymous Coward
        7. schifreen

          Contractors don't add to the headcount, so it makes the accounts look better. Simples.

        8. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Virgin are taking the hit, because the contractors didn't do the job properly"

          It's a systemic problem, not just in Carlisle and Vermin seem disinterested in keeping things safe.

          The thing that grates is that even with the fines you know they're still going to make out like bandits.

  3. Snivelling Wretch

    Same story round our way (Royal Berkshire, dontcha know). They dug up the village for months and badly fenced off really long stretches of road at once with no traffic control, which really clogged things up. Road repairs were pretty patchy too. Then when it was done, they couldn't even tell me what services were going to be available, if any...

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    400 Reinstatement notices...

    Fuck me, that is a lot. Sounds like VM just employed a bunch of local Pikeys they met down the pub to lay some tarmac.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: 400 Reinstatement notices...

      I suspect Pickeys would feel offended being compared to VM's civil works contractors.

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: 400 Reinstatement notices...

      Pretty much- and the cable pullers can't piss in a toilet without it going all over the cubicle.

      Should hire Monkeys- they're better.

      Source- worked near them...

  5. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    £388,670 in fines. To Virgin Media. By a council, for VM essentially trashing a town's roadworks.

    Cheap at twice the price I'm sure........

    (wait, only *ONE* victim here so only one Victim Surcharge?)

    1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

      One victim

      Random issue with the DVLA, gifted bike to my brother and he forgot to tax it 2 years later. I had to pay the victim surcharge on top of the fine lol

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: One victim

        Ah. You didn't send the V5 to the DVLA with the new keeper info then?

        1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

          Re: One victim

          It was my little brother that didn't have anywhere to live. Shoot me for trying to help him out.

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: One victim

            So you send the V5 with the new keeper details at your address with $hisname c/o (care of) $youraddress on it.

            Then if he goes speeding or fails to pay tax, he gets the summons rather than you.

  6. Simon Ward

    Standard operating procedure for Vermin Media, or rather the goons that they (sub)contract to dig holes for them.

    (not at all annoyed because I had a twatting great hole with various bits of cable and ducting sticking out of it outside my house for the thick end of 2 months - ended up taking to Twitterto actually get something done about it)

    1. Peconet57

      OUCH!

      That must have been one hell of a monstrosity cable hole. You did not get any freebies then?

      1. Simon Ward

        Re: OUCH!

        The hole was miraculously filled in a couple of days later - I suppose that counts.

        I have absolutely no use for VM's services otherwise.

  7. Dominion

    Business as usual

    This has been an ongoing problem for well over 20 years - look at the complete mess that Birmingham Cable left behind when they trashed vast swathes of the city. Probably the same cowboys in Carlisle that were in Birmingham.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Business as usual

      I thought the streets were the highlight of my visit to Birmingham.

      Sure they were a bit rough, but in comparison to everything else...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Business as usual

        Don't knock the state of the streets, they are the only thing holding the pot holes in place.

  8. peterm3
    FAIL

    fine seems a bit low

    640 defect notices and only a £385k fine? It seems that it is a good incentive to carry on doing jobs on the cheap.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Marketing

    I always wonder how much Virgin subscribers pay to subsidise their marketing department? I've been receiving junk from them (sometimes nice glossy magazines) every week or two for the last 15 years or so "inviting me back" to their service! I've never even been a customer - I think the previous house owners were with Comtel or whatever they were then. Virgin have somehow managed to figure out that we're different people to send the invites to but not managed to notice that we're not interested over the previous few hundred times they've written to us!

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Marketing

      i pay 32.99 a month for 100Mb and a phone line. No TV and im a grandfathered contract from Smallworld cable when they were bought by Virgin a few years back.

      1. MatthewSt

        Re: Marketing

        I'm on £36.50 per month for 200mb, phone line and the basic TV package. Add to that the discount for paying line rental in advance and it's easily favourable compared to the alternatives. Wouldn't mind a bit more upload though!

      2. John Presland

        Re: Marketing

        That should be "up to 100Mb". What does speedtest report?

    2. Esme

      Re: Marketing

      @AC - same here. And months after Virgin Media stopped sending junkmail to Flat 6 after I wrote to them to let them know that there is no flat 6 here, the junk mail to flat 6 resumed (and I'm still getting junkmail from VM despite my having been with PlusNet (and prior in their incarnation as Tiscali) because their service is so damned good at a sensible price). I won't touch ANY Virgibn-branded product with a bargepole, for choice, it's simply a marque of shite quality all round IMHO. Damned shame as I recall how pleased I was with the quality of record pressings from the Virgin label back when beardy Branson's empire was just a record company.

  10. David Gosnell

    No doubt to be followed here, or one can hope

    They (or, rather, their contractor) made an utter mess of cabling our Surrey street a year and a half ago, having to rip up loads they'd bodged, and cutting through an elderly neighbour's phone line and trashing at least three water meters in the process. They gave less than 24 hours notice before starting. Yellow tabarded inspectors with clipboards and cameras have been a common sight since. And to add insult to injury, a year and a half on, the service is still not available to sign up to.

    1. Chris 69

      a year and a half on, the service is still not available to sign up to

      So there was an up-side to this after all.

      1. David Gosnell

        Re: a year and a half on, the service is still not available to sign up to

        Well yes, there is that! All the more reason to be more than happy with our 55/10 Plusnet, though choice is generally a good thing. But having first hand experience of some of Virgin's other business interests, quite glad not to have to have anything to do with them.

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