back to article Virgin Media's flaky broadband network turns Bolton off

Virgin Media customers in Bolton have been moaning about the telco's network since late last year, with some subscribers in the area claiming that the firm's techies have ignored the complaints or blamed the connection problems on individual routers. But – for once, perhaps – the SuperHub, which has been cheekily dubbed the …


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  1. Kevin Johnston

    Find the fault or restore the service

    a perennial problem with know that switching off/back on again makes a problem go away but doesn't really fix it but the guy who knows how it really works is on extended leave because he wasn't allowed to take time off. Come year-end he had to use up his leave so he was out for a few weeks but now he is back he can look to see what the fault really was and everything will be unicorns and rainbows.

    Or something like that

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Find the fault or restore the service

      I worked in support years ago for a EPOS software company on their unix based system, find a fault fix it properly.

      It wasn't particularly liked internally though, the support companies salesman kept trying to move our customer across to their NT based software and one of the selling points they use is SLA's, the NT guys took loads of calls and then fixed them really quick with a reboot so the SLA looks great and the staff look busy to the management even though a lot of the fault calls would be from the same customer as the problem would just keep recurring.

      Meanwhile us sitting there a lot of the day reading the papers was not seen as being busy to the managers and our SLA's were poor because we took considerably fewer calls and after a quick fix would then be on the phone a while really sorting the problem out.

      Funnily enough the customer always refused to move.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Find the fault or restore the service

        "A lot of the fault calls would be from the same customer as the problem would just keep recurring."

        Any manager who didn't spot THAT trend is incompetent and should be removed.

  2. Anonymous IV

    "Virgin Media finally fixed the flaky service just hours after the Reg contacted the ISP. "

    Only time will show whether the fault has been finally fixed, as El Reg undoubtedly knows.

  3. Crisp Silver badge

    You told me it was Ipswitch!

    ...It was a pun.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <wavy lines x 6>

    before Virgin bought NTL, my NTL internet connection in Bolton seemed to be constantly flaky. After many many phone calls, I once managed to connect to a guy who really knew what he was doing (he forgot to reset a DNS server)

    But during our chat, he explained that Bolton was the main pilot area for changes or trying new things!!

    I wonder if Virgin are still carrying on doing this?

    I'm no longer with them, I sacked Virgin off because of too many incompetent staff at their offshore call centres

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: <wavy lines x 6>

      "before Virgin bought NTL,"

      NTL bought Telewest (but for contractual reasons, smaller TW "bought" bigger NTL). Some time later NTL:Telewest bought a 10 year licence to use the Virgin brand and re-launched as Virgin Media. They are still NTL:Telewest and are listed as such on the stock market. Now it's all owned by Liberty Media.

      Saying Virgin bought NTL is a bit like saying Persil Soap Powder bought Lever Bros.

  5. a_mu

    power cycle

    if only virgin would fix the rest of the network,

    it seems to be going down over time

  6. Doogie Howser MD
    Thumb Down

    Careful with that fault ticket, Eugene

    Time will indeed tell if this has been fixed. I've had the same issue and I'm in the BL5 postcode for about that length of time. We've had a new SuperHub 2, we've had engineer calls, filters fitted, old lines terminated, lamps rubbed and various other excuses/fixes.

    The engineer's parting shot was that this area is being upgraded to a faster speed, hence the outages. Sounds like a load of bollocks to me, but I'm too weary to argue anymore. That and plus every time I call customer services and someone in India answers, I just immediately hang up.

    Always goes off the same time mind, round 1640 and 1940 every day, like clockwork. Even the main tool in the troubleshooting arsenal, turning it off and on again, makes no difference and you just have to wait it out.

    I have to say that when it was NTL, we had two faults in about 10 years, so no grumbles from me. Stop pratting around with space ships Richard, and keep the home fires burning.

  7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    The road to hell…

    If you live at the end of the A666, what do you expect? ;-)

    1. NogginTheNog

      Re: The road to hell…

      Funny, though inaccurate: the A666 runs *past* Bolton, northwards to Darwen and southeastwards to North Manchester somewhere.

  8. Shady

    Should have purchased...

    ... the reliability bolt-on...


  9. frank ly Silver badge

    re VirginMedia

    Whenever I have a fault with my VM service, I always connect my laptop directly to their modem before calling and reporting the fault. Why? ... Because my experience is that they always blame my router and tell me that I need to download the latest firmware for it and then restart it before I call them again. Every time I've phoned them, it's turned out to be a problem in their network.

  10. TheDillinquent

    Borged by Liberty

    The VM service has generally deterioated since they were borged by Liberty.

    - Broadband is sometimes flakey

    - CTV picture sometimes breaks up

    - Catch up tv has become unreliable, often 'Unavailable in your area' or programmes I want to watch aren't on the list

    - Prices going up

    - Call centres in India are slow to answer.

    You may ask why I don't switch provider. I don't have a BT landline so all the others want a £100 to install the copper. Even then they can only offer a max of 8mb/s as opposed to the 20mb/s (upgradable to 120mb/s), soon to be upgraded to 50mb/s, I usually get.

    1. Shady

      Re: Borged by Liberty

      With my service it's the audio on CTV channels. And it whenever it drops out, it is coincidently *always* during an important part of the dialogue.

      And as for On-Demand?

      Browse films.

      Pick a film

      Pay for film

      Only *then* do I get the message "On demand is unavailable - oversubscribed" (or some such - and I'm the only person on the street with VM)

      Then I have to phone VM and ask for my money back, because they've already added it to the bill.

      "But you can watch the film anytime in the next 48 hours" they reply,

      Then I want to sigh down the phone. "you fucking worthless cretin - do you not understand the concept of 'on-demand?' Do you not understand that I've opened a bottle of wine, sat down with the missus, the kid has gone to sleep at a reasonable hour for the first time in a fucking month and I won't get this opportunity again for another month? Why can't your piece of shit set-top box just not tell me I can't watch a film BEFORE you've fucking billed me for it?"

      But I bite my tongue because I'm far too reasonable for my own blood pressure, and ask again nicely

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Borged by Liberty

      "You may ask why I don't switch provider. I don't have a BT landline so all the others want a £100 to install the copper."

      I had a Sky rep at my door a while ago. I told him there was no BT line from the pole to my house so to switch from VM would be expensive for me. He said they would have the line installed.

      Personally, I'm happy with VM for now, but you might want to try that one with a Sky rep if one knocks on your door in the near future. We get them approx. every 2 months.

      1. TheDillinquent

        Re: Borged by Liberty

        Thanks for the heads up JB. I'll give that a go. I know people who have got a (nice low) quote from Sky, phoned VM's 'if you're thinking of leaving us line' (which, coincidently was answered very promptly by by a nice British-sounding lady), told them Sky's offer, and received a reduced tarrif and a Tivo box.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Borged by Liberty

      I was an NTL customer from their initial purchase of the local cable network right up to the changeover to VM. I have to say, despite their notoriously flaky Customer Service dept (prompting the self-help forum set up at at the time) the actual broadband was peerless. Never slowed down, I think we had to reset the STB about twice in about 8 years. In the first week alone after Virgin took the reigns I had to reset the STB about 15 times. And then it started to get really bad, sometimes needing a reset about 3 times in a half hour period. Then they introduced traffic shaping which pretty much killed the ability to watch iPlayer at 'peak' times (6pm-10pm) because after 20 mins of streaming they'd limit your bandwidth to essentially a dial-up speed. They (VM, not NTL) always used to try to blame it on customer equipment and their Customer Services department became so abusive that I ended up deciding a more accurate title would be Customer Skirmishes. Good riddance.

      Oh, and for the record - Bolton is in Lancashire. Any Boltonian worth their Fred Dibnah cap will tell you so. If a Boltonite tries to tell you they're in Greater Manchester, remind them that Manchester is classed as being in the south seeing as how they renounced their right to be 'northern' when they decided they were too good to be Lancastrian. We don't want their soft southern shandy pants Mancunian ways creeping out and infecting our good solid northern towns.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh, and for the record - Bolton is in Lancashire

        Up until 1974. Then the earth moved Notlob out of Lancashire. Dibnah's dead -- get over it. You (and me) are Greater Manchester lads now.

        C'est la vie!

    4. Jonathan White

      Re: Borged by Liberty

      FTTC Is supposedly being switched on in Bolton either this month or next. Just looked, I could get 60mb/s on FTTC. OK, it's half the 120MB/s I currently get on VM but the upsteam is twice as good (20mb/s rather than 10) - I do a lot of remote stuff - and it costs £15 a month less.

      VM had better pull their finger out.

      1. Feed The Enemy

        Re: Borged by Liberty

        I'm going to be dropping my Home, Virgin account and putting in one of our own (Zen Internet) Fibre connections now that Egerton can get Fibre. I'm sick to the back teeth of paying Virgin £127.00 a month for a service that is flakier than a Psoriasis sufferer.

        One of the CS droids suggested that as they give us Netflix then that is somehow a great deal. I don't consider crap 80's films that I wouldn't even rent on Video back then let alone now a good deal.

        Sort your shizzle Virgin and don't patronise us.

  11. Quentin North

    EE/Orange/T-mob is just as bad

    In Brighton the EE/Orange/T-Mobile gsm network has been broken for about 2-3 weeks now and the problem is spreading. You can't even report the problem because the you can't phone support and the only other way of reporting a problem to EE is to write a letter by post, no web form or email support. When will these companies employ competent engineers and provide decent service?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: EE/Orange/T-mob is just as bad

      If it's not working for that kind of period, then you should raise an "unfit for purpose" complaint and use it for no-cost contract exit,

  12. Peter 26

    Virgin Media have lost the plot

    Warning, random rant about Virgin Media follows.

    I don't understand Virgin Media's business plan. Surely you make the most of the advantages you have over other competitors. Virgin Media have the only cable network in the country with massive potential bandwidth. Why then have they been dragged into offering faster speeds through the last decade just so they can compete with other ISPs speed offerings?

    Even now for the fastest speed you are best going with BT. Technically Virgin Media can go faster, but with the amount they throttle it's useless.

    Their advantage is their own cable network, they should be boasting faster speeds than any other ISP... I just don't get it...

    1. Dr Dre

      Re: Virgin Media have lost the plot

      I don't know how you can say that they throttle the bandwidth to the point that it's useless. I'm on their excellent 60meg service and it just works. I've never had a problem with the bandwidth being throttled - even when downloading large files (for example a Ubuntu image) - it all just seems to work merrily. Downloads seem to happen at the advertsied speed - apart from occasionally when the serving site seems to struggle for bandwidth.

      I only use the superhub as modem connected to my own Asus router and I can't remember the last time I had to reboot it.

      Coming to Virgin from BT is was like chalk and cheese - despite being less than a kilometre from the BT exchange the mix of aluminium BT wires and general lack of investment in the system gives me the option of 1 meg (on a good day) using the BT infrastructure or (if I wanted it) 120 meg on Virgin - plus a good choice of TV without defacing my house with large aerials and/or dish.

      Virgin have their faults - who among us doesn't - but throttling their broadband to the point where it's useless isn't one of them. I can only imagine that you are downloading lots of very large files constantly to hit the limits where they apply a throttle (and then you still get 5 megs - which is 5 times what BT can supply to me) - I really don't need to fill the house with drives full of dodgy downloads to enjoy life.

    2. TheDillinquent

      Re: Virgin Media have lost the plot

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fixed one day, broken the next

    Random times, random durations and empty fix promises!! I confirm this issue is NOT yet resolved for the good people in Bolton.

    Oh it was amazing yesterday 6th February we had 100% up time for maybe 20 hours. I'd nearly forgotten how nice it was to open a browser and see the webpage actually appear. You might think I'm exaggerating but this issue has occurred almost daily (roughly 25 days affected during January) over the Months since December.

    Today the troubles are back and killing my social time, my work time and my play time....this is no longer just inconvenient.

  14. Dan Atkinson

    A happy customer?

    Am I the only person here who is a happy customer with Virgin Media?

    Sure, I've had problems with Virgin Media's service in the past, and had an occasional outage, but I've had severe outages with other ISPs such as Karoo (KC) and BT as well.

    Every time I've called them, they've been helpful, and if they couldn't solve my problem there and then, they credit my account with a chunk of money and free services until the engineer can come out.

    I've not had any problems with the Superhub either. I'd prefer it if they didn't reskin it and take out useful things like DNS, but there are ways around that anyway.

    1. Ryan Clark

      Re: A happy customer?

      You are not the only person who is happy. Our cable TV with V+ and Tivo has been very good. I added broadband last summer and it has been much more reliable than my previous service (all faults were with the wires not with ISP which is why I got off ADSL). The superhub has worked fine with all devices we have and we see very good speed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A happy customer?

      I am generally very happy with VM. It has not always been so.

      We had the Superhub issues for long enough, and I can confirm that the

      "When calling tech support they do not acknowledge an issue, usually claiming the fault is with [the] customer-owned router. "

      complaint is a general VM issue and real enough.

      But don't blame the guy on the hell desk.

      VM top brass don't seem to think they need to keep front line techs up to date about systemic problems.

      I know because I've had words with one of the bosses, who reluctantly acknowledged this was a problem, couldn't explain why and didn't offer an answer.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: A happy customer?

        I'm a sorta happy NTL/VM/Liberty/whoever the fuck has bought them out this year

        The superfail hub works because like everyone else... putting it in cable modem mode stops it f***ing up most of the time.

        And the only real outage we've had with them was when some twat let a 16 yr old trainee drive a JCB on the northern bridge project here in Portsmouth......

        "err boss, whats all these black stringy bits coming up with the bucket?"

    3. Dave 62

      Re: A happy customer?

      I'm happy with the service, but not with the service.

      Never had any connection issues except one time I forgot to pay my bill and it was restored 10 minutes later when at 7pm I called and paid.

      But whenever I try to set up a DD the page that process it is broken and has been for months. Plus it's a pain to use because they have their own special combo boxes which don't work.

      So after a while I am fed up of manually paying bills (the page for paying individual bills works fine, bar combo boxes) and I try to report this fault. I phone and after going through menu after menu after menu it hangs up on me. I think the fault report on the website didn't work either. Ended up going through facebook (their facebook page is covered in complaints) only to be sent to some secret error report form, which then didn't work, so I reported this on facebook only to be told to email and.. I can't remember if they even replied. I guess it's time to try the DD page again.

      So basically, the service is fine but the customer service is hopeless. But I thought VM were consistently top ranked for customer service, which doesn't bode well for talk talk..

      1. Sooty

        Re: A happy customer?

        I'm a very happy Virgin media customer it's an excellent broadband service. The problems only start when something goes wrong and you have to deal with their customer service. If you get really lucky and get through to the UK somewhere they are really good, but the majority of the time you get somone who sends some 'signals' to you, tells you to reboot your router then books in an engineer for a weeks time when that fails. I can only assume that the majority of the time, whatever was wrong with the network has been fixed by then and the appointments get cancelled.

        I had a problem for ages in my old flat, it would drop out for hours at a time, but was always working when the engineers came, it affected the whole building. Eventually, after months of this, someone managed to get hold of a number they shouldn't have and speak to an actual techie, they came out that day and rewired the cabinet in the street and everything was fine after that. The serivce is good, the people are good if you can get them, but the actual interface with the customers is painful and obstructive.

  15. Mark C 2


    Have had 30 Mb Virgin cable since August and haven't had an issue for far, not even rebooted the modem/router once, deliberately anyway...

  16. Graham Marsden

    "When calling tech support they do not acknowledge an issue...

    "... usually claiming the fault is with [the] customer-owned router."

    This seems to be Virgin "Support's" default position and they'll try to get you to book a technician to come round in a couple of days and tell you that, no, it's a fault with their BB Network...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Trick

    If you know the magic its possible to avoid the Indian call centre and get a UK based one every time..

    To be honest its not a dig at VM (only for they fact they use them) all the Indian call centres are as bad...

    Although it would be nice if VM could actually gave the speed they promised/sold, pay for 120 real world speed is more like 60-70 to anywhere worth while (due to network saturations and over subscribed ubrs) and if you dare to use it for anything more than a single hd episode jaunt on iplayer and its back to 40 - 60mb before you can blink thanks to their carrot and stick like fair use policy.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: The Trick

      "To be honest its not a dig at VM (only for they fact they use them) all the Indian call centres are as bad..."

      Believe it or not, there are some decent indian call centres - but they cost too much for the likes of Virgin to consider using them. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

      There are also some utterly fucking abysmal UK call centres. Phone monkeys are phone monkeys no matter what accent they might happen to have.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virgin bb ok, hub iffy

    I have Virgin bb, up to 30Mb, seems to work virtually all the time, any problems seem to be down to the superfail hub (thanks Boris!). It has good days and iffy days, but most of the time it works. I have dumped Sky tv and added Virgin tv (get it next week), going for the premiere package which includes the mk2 superhub. Maybe it will be better. And I got an 18 month discount with which is the only reason why I switched from Sky tv. Everyone else gets 6 months discount. I think the offer ends 28Feb. Just done a speed check with, I am getting 30Mb download speed.

    One thing I have noticed is ethernet check frame sequences errors. I have Wireshark running and have seen quite a few of these errors. I have Wireshark running so I can fine tune my firewall rules and noticed these errors so I now run Wireshark as a matter of course. I save the logs, just in case. I live in the Northwest but about 50 miles away from Bolton so the Bolton issue should not be affecting me. I hope it gets fixed properly.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this the SuperHub?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virgin Mediocre

    I've been banging on for months now as this problem occurs regularly. I suspect it's capacity issues and they are bumping customers off individual pipes to free up capacity but seeing as they won't advise with any details what exactly this problem is, it is anyones guess what is really happening.

    One of their latest customer Service (Technical term at Virgin for tell you Feck all) advisors informed me they couldn't expand on the problem because it is 'business confidential'. Bollocks it is, it's embarrassing and they don't want it out in the media more like.

    Open and honest communication with your customers Virgin media works but as you appear to be shying away from this issue in giving us the real detail then your customer service is one step short of that brown stuff you see in pig pens.

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