Monday, October 19, 2009

Appalling Virgin "Broadband"

I've had a home broadband connection from Virgin - formerly NTL - at home for years. Until recently, the quality of the service was excellent - I could almost always get the full quoted speed, and we only had the occasional minor outage.

Recently, though, the connection has been terrible. It's been several weeks, almost a month now. I'm supposed to get 10M/s (that's 10 megabits). Trying the various speed tests that are available - including the ones recommended by Virgin themselves - and I get 5% at best, usually rather less. And I suspect that those aren't telling the full picture, as the actual rate I'm getting in practice is worse. Web pages can take minutes to load. Watching TV programmes or gaming is simply a non-starter. I tried downloading something an hour ago and it's not even managed to get a single byte yet. Packet loss is 10% and up. It's not usage or time dependent.

(Fortunately, gmail seems to remain moderately responsive, but pretty much anything else is essentially down. Attempting to actually work from home is a disaster.)

Virgin Media's online support is awful. For starters, their web form is completely incapable of working out who you are even if you're logged in - so you have to fill in all sorts of account details. The first one I sent was acknowledged and then ignored. The next one got a standardized answer. I did what was asked, got given some more things to try, and did those too. (My connection is sufficiently poor that some of the tests don't even work.) The no response in over a week. No response to my following up.

So I tried the telephone. Oh dear. After the usual rigmarole of giving them every single piece of information they already know we go through the standardized script. Have I rebooted the modem? Tried that, several times. Have I rebooted my computer? Yes. Have I checked for spyware? Yes. Am I running XP or Vista? Well, I have both, and they're slow as well, but they can't even spell Solaris. Can I run a speed test? I try that, and get almost 5% of what I'm paying for, which is actually better than most of the times I've tried.

The poor chap then has the temerity to tell me that my broadband connection is working perfectly, and that I need to call the PC helpline who'll help me fix the problem with my computer. I think I managed to stay civilized throughout the resulting exchange.

It's possible that there's a problem somewhere in the house, of course. I've tried to exclude that, and can't, because the test required to do that - direct connection of a machine into the modem - simply fails completely. I regard that as an interesting data point, but I'm only a sysadmin not a call-centre automaton reading from a script.

Faced with a combination of a terrible broadband connection, and useless customer service, I investigated alternative providers. Which leaves me stuck between a rock and a hard place, because my house must be a long way from the nearest exchange, so that using the BT line (which is the only other connectivity option) would take me down to 3M if I'm lucky. And I really do need the 10M I'm paying for.



jackie said...

For browsing a internet @ mobile means the wap browser is enable then we can chk the internet speed. But i know to find the internet speed test from This for computer. Like the same is their any website or way to find the speed test for
mobile......... if so pls inform me.

William Yang said...

The direct connection to your modem is a reasonably important test since it can rule out your router or anything else on your side of the connection. Several months ago I was getting spotty internet from one of my computers, and it wasn't until I plugged in a new laptop and noticed that it was only connecting at 10 Mbps that our router was dropping packets like flies and it was time to get a new router. Not sure if that's the same problem you have, but it might be worth a look.

Anonymous said...

How about setting up a continuous ping to your gateway and then figuring out whether it's a device/media problem, or something further upstream ?