Is this Virgin suicide?

One of the most frequent grumbles I see on Twitter from locals concerns the performance of Virgin Media’s broadband service. For months, people ask whether other locals are having problems. A few helpful folk repeat what they’ve been told by the help desk – which has generally been along the lines of “we’re aware of the problem and it will be fixed by … [insert month of your choice here].”

This wasn’t good enough for Steve Berryman – he takes up the story:

“In about October 2011 (I can’t remember the exact date it was so long ago) we (my brother and I) noticed exceptionally poor internet performance at home. We have the 50Mbit package (the most expensive) and  first figured, “It’s only a couple of days. Must be a small fault somewhere. They’ll fix it.”. However, the problem persisted. We called and asked what was wrong. “A fault in the area. It will be fixed in November”. OK. These things happen. An irritation, but no big deal.

November came and went. December came and went. There were some days when it was ok. Many where the connection was mediocre at best, and some where it was simply unusable. This is all during peak hours, of course: those hours when we’re actually at home, wanting to use the internet. The few days I worked from home, it was lightning quick.

We rang back again in January to ask what was going on. “Oh, yes that will be fixed in February”. Not the November we were first promised. A bit of complaining, but the date wasn’t too far away. We’re patient guys. Other people in the area were complaining of similar issues so it wasn’t an isolated problem. Surely that meant that the fix was a priority?

February came and went. On ringing back (and getting a fault reference as well!) we were told March was the new fix date. I went on holiday for much of March but was surprised to see when I came back in April that there were still issues. “Oh, the new date is end of April”. Great. Quite angry now. Paying for months of service that we aren’t getting. We had asked previously about compensation for the months it was broken but only one time were we offered anything: £15 off that month’s bill. I’m not actually sure if it ever came off either… Other requests were fruitless. The first line support are unknowledgeable, don’t seem to have any authority and sometimes are plain rude.

The April date has come and gone. It’s now the end of May and I’m told there is a new fix date – late September. That will bring it to almost a year of poor quality (tonight, as I type this, I am struggling to load the lightest of web pages) internet that I am paying quite a lot for.

I’ve had many conversations with first line on the phone. Many tweets between the @virginmedia twitter social support staff and all they can do is apologise, tell me it won’t be fixed for months, ‘these things sometimes take longer than anticipated’, and agree that it’s not great. I’ve had enough. In my opinion it’s a capacity problem. It’s fine during the day on weekdays, but evenings and weekends it all goes to hell. They are still heavily advertising in my area.”

Thanks Steve. To prove that this isn’t just anecdotal evidence of a poor service, Steve has started measuring packet loss using the tool mtr and recording it in 5 minute intervals. “I believe a problem on this scale should be a priority, and certainly not something that takes a year to resolve,” says Steve.

Here’s the techy stuff: “The graphs show the packet loss for 20 pings on each hop of the route between home and Google’s servers. Each line represents a hop of the route (hence the messiness) and the higher the line, the worse the packet loss. Here is a Wikipedia article on packet loss, what it means, why it’s bad and what can cause it. I have strong suspicions that the NW6 Virgin Broadband problems are due to congestion on the line. They’ve known about the fault for some time – the fault reference is f001829169.”

I’ve included one of Steve’s graphs – in this case from May 23rd, but you can visit his site to see the updates.

Thanks to Steve for letting me reprint his words. The original appears here.

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  • Ryan

    I feel your collective pain.

    I moved into NW2 in Feb, ordered the 30mb broadband & have been having issues with it ever since. Very frustrating.

    Glad to know that I'm not alone & there is an issue.

  • Phil

    I had appalling service from Virgin in NW6. The couldn't even provide me a phone line, because there were no connections left on the street. They didn't know that until the second (failed) installation visit. Customer service was dreadful, TV system was slow…

    I moved to O2 and it's a thousand times better. Wouldn't touch Virgin again with ten bargepoles joined together.

  • Anonymous

    Struggling to see why you still have an account with them despite all these adventures…

    • Personally I'm with BT, but I guess if you're tied into a contract it's not always so easy to move when you want

    • Anonymous

      If they are in breach of their contract (IE not providing the service) I am sure you can terminate or at least refuse to pay and let them come after you.

  • Anonymous

    I'm with VM in NW6 and its bloody awful. they been prevaricating for months on it as well…let's hope this tide swell of customer anger actually achieves something!

  • Anonymous

    It's not surprising given how often you see the Virgin cabinets in the street open and/or in poor condition.

  • Anonymous

    I was just about to give up on Sky and move to Virgin with all the paperwork they have been promising me through my mailbox of great speed and price – Thank Goodness i knew about this! – Its NO WAY now. Sorry to hear about your bad experience – I hope it gets resolved. Nicolle, West Hampstead

  • I don’t know how I stumbled across this article but it’s great. I thought I was alone. My problems have been going on for over a year.

    At first they sent a few engineers out, checked the line, replaced my modem twice. Yet the problem persisted. I literally signed up to the phone and TV package so I could call them for free (so frequent were my calls £3 extra seemed a bargin). Finally I got on the phone to a Virgin Technician named David Finlay who explained there is over 90% utilisation on pipe 816 stream 1, and either servers need to be added or upgraded. This is the reason we get intermittent service.

    The problem means you can forget streaming (HD), and forget gaming, which when paying £35 a month for 50meg takes the p***.

    As you can probably tell from my tone I have not stood for this… My recent discount was little over £60 but my total discount over the year has been well over £150. If they are not giving it to you, be more firm and tell them to check the utilisation history of your line (to the house) because it’s always high. That will usually work.

    On a final note, after sending a technician around last weekend even though I told them not to bother, he told me “There is no point in me coming here, there is nothing I can do. They wont fix the problem until 20% of the area complains… sorry”.

    So if anyone wants to start a petition…

    • Great comment Ryan, thanks. I've tweeted it to the masses, so maybe we can get that 20% number (although that sounds incredibly high).

    • PKeane

      I also thought I was alone on this. I have been given the 5 December date for a fix. They gave me a new modem but it barely works and wireless is very patchy. Having found these posts I am inclined to move provider as I have had my fill of Branson. What provider do people recommend in the area? I saw BT were doing some works on the south part of West End Lane last week.

      I am happy to join a petition – could the blogmaster (if that is the term!) arrange a petition on the homepage?


    • I'm happy to host a link to a petition if you want to start one. iPetition might be a place to start. As I'm not a sufferer, it's better if you word it yourselves, and work out how many signatures you need to collect etc. Or, as a couple of people have suggested, just change provider and take the stress out of your lives.

    • Anonymous

      The virgin service went down completely on 5 December and I think it may be a fix finally as I got good speeds (speedtest 30mb) last night during peak hours. I will test over next couple of weeks – if it goes back to old speeds I will change provider.

  • lilypob

    I tweeted about my ongoing VM ordeal the other day when I got yet another assurance from them that our problem would be fixed soon. The movable deadline now is Dec 5. They say we have a ‘high utilisation’ problem in NW6 which, in fluent human, means that our old and creaking network installed at the time when VM was still Telewest, can’t cope with the growing number of users and devices. That’s why the speeds of 100 Meg I am paying for often drop to as low as 0.5. They have known about it for at least a year, but instead of making it a priority, VM chose, I presume, to chase new customers with their expensive Usain Bolt ads. Calling them is like being in a vicious circle – nobody can say exactly what’s going on, and both customer relations and tech support mention mysterious network engineers who are allegedly working on our issue behind the scenes but tell nobody when it’s going to be fixed. I also heard that they need permission from our local council to dig up the roads. Customer support periodically offer ‘a good will gesture’ to reduce my bill, but that’s not what we all ultimately want – we need decent broadband. I suggest complaining to Ofcom if they fail to meet the Dec 5 deadline. I’ll find out what’s going on after this date, investigate the Ofcom complaints procedure and tweet to all good and long-suffering #whampers. I hope that if we bombard Ofcom with well-argued complaints they’ll lean on Virgin Media to act.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed – happy to support in whatever way I can. I will follow this thread. I find it hard to believe they can get away with this 'service'. It's going to get worse as more people are sold on those stupid ads!!

  • Anonymous

    In these situations the most important thing you can do is write a letter. Make it official and in writing. And always write to the most high up person in the organisation you can. Ringing the call centre is simply not enough, and it certainly won't be taken seriously.

  • No, the most important thing you can do is MOVE TO ANOTHER ISP! On the basis of this thread, I could open a really crap restaurant in West End lane, serve crap, cold food that looks nothing like the stuff you ordered and you would all pay for it, eat a bit of it but moan at me about it, but you would still come regularly for some reason.

  • r87

    Hi! Which broadband provider are you recommending for a newcomer to the area? Obviously not Virgin 🙂 I was looking at sky, talktalk, plusnet, even tesco! Somebody mentioned o2. Are they good?

    • Anonymous

      I use BT and don't have any problems

    • r87

      I have checked BT, but they're too expensive for what I need. Will probably go with plusnet. Any bad/good experiences?

  • Robert carruthers

    As of 10.48 on 26 February my VM service has completely failed. Phone enquiries impossible as contact line unanswered and no indication of how long I will be waiting for an answer. Terrible. VM you should be ashamed.

  • Anonymous

    I had similar broadband probs with VM for a long time and no phone line on 6 occasions in 2012 – at one point for 6 weeks and couldn't do much as tied into contract. They seem ok now but I've had so much aggro from them that when my son flies the nest I'll be pulling the plug on them. NW3

  • Anonymous

    We're getting evening and weekend speeds of 4-5Mb on our 60Mb subscription. Our equipment is fine and the line is good. It's all down to "high utilisation" or put another way: VM selling the service to more customers than they can actually deliver it to. We're going to try and cancel but we're expecting a fight!