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Why is UK broadband so bad? Virgin Media 50mbit customers complaining

Over the last couple of weeks KitGuru have been receiving emails from readers complaining about the current state of UK broadband services. Many of us in dear old blighty hear about fantastic services in Sweden, with speeds up to 500mbit even being offered now. No caps, no limits, just pay the fee and use the internet connection. Sounds logical right? Not if you live in the United Kingdom…..

Lets take Virgin Media for example, a company who are constantly promoting their 50mbit services as some of the fastest in the UK. Sadly it looks as if their services aren't quite as fast as many would expect.

One reader emailed us to say “Virgin Media 50mbit isn't even close to 10mbit in my area, in the evenings its around 2mbit which makes me think they are oversubscribing the services. What makes it even worse is that Virgin have practices in place which ask their customers NOT to download high levels of data between 9am and 9pm. So basically when im at work the lines are faster, but even if I was at home I would be monitored for breaking specific limits. Then when I get home at night, the service is appallingly slow. I am not paying for 50mbit to simply surf basic internet websites at night with only a fraction of the rated line speed being given.”

Checking online we can see that there are many threads complaining about Virgin Media's high speed services in various parts of the country. Threads such as this, this and this are only a handful of the hundreds easily found from search engines. Looking into unofficial cable support forums in the UK highlights many other complaint threads with a ton of problems. Not only are Virgin Media monitoring downloads for 12 hours a day, but they have placed traffic management on both P2P and Newsgroups activity as can be detailed here. Many of their customers are receiving warnings about ‘large amounts of data' and have even taken steps to limit their own bandwidth, to no avail.

One of our readers emailed us with a copy of the Virgin Media bandwidth email he received:

Detrimental Use of your Broadband Connection

We wrote to you on 21 December 2010 to let you know that your broadband usage was having a negative effect on other Virgin Media customers in your area.

As a result we asked you to reduce your level of uploading and downloading during our busiest hours, from 9am-9pm.

Unfortunately, it looks like your broadband activity is still having a detrimental impact and therefore you are in breach of our Acceptable Use Policy.

It's now really important that you change the way you use your broadband connection and move a large proportion of your heavy use outside the hours of 9am and 9pm.  You can still take advantage of our unlimited service, but we need to make sure that other users aren't adversely affected by the way you use your connection.

If your broadband usage doesn't reduce during these hours, we'll have to temporarily suspend or disconnect your services and we might not be able to let you know beforehand.

If you have any questions or need help sorting this out, just give us a call, quoting the reference number above, on 0845 234 7007 between 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week.

Yours sincerely

xxx xxxx
Virgin Media

Our reader said that he then contacted Virgin Media by phone to find out what he was doing wrong, and that the department wouldn't give him any detailed information on how much data he had transferred. He then called customer services to complain and they looked into the issue for him. He was told that he had downloaded 60GB of data throughout December between 9am and 9pm.

While 60GB seems like a lot of data, in reality, for a 50mbit line its really not much. He was simply told to stop downloading data between 9am and 9pm. The customer services representative told him that when a third letter was sent out, he had 10 days to reply adhering to Virgin Media's terms or he would in effect be disconnected.

Our reader told us he was paying over £100 a month for HD TV, broadband and telephone services on their ‘VIP' package, which funnily enough stands for ‘very important person'.

KitGuru can understand with such fast connections Virgin Media need to monitor customers data, but it would appear that they are oversubscribing and they are incapable of delivering the rated speeds. The next logical course of action would be to improve their networking capabilities, but instead they are rolling out a 100mbit service.

How are they going to handle 100mbit lines if they are currently experiencing issues with the 50mbit service? With data restrictions between 9am and 9pm, P2P and newsgroup throttling and many customers getting a fraction of their ‘up to' speeds, is it really wise doubling the bandwidth for their customers? While claims of ‘100mbit' looks great in ad campaigns and to get new customers, perhaps Virgin Media might want to look into taking better care of their current customer base. Getting new customers is great short term, but holding onto them is the key factor to really growing your business.

KitGuru says: The UK is so far behind many parts of the world with shoddy internet connections. Will it change in the near future?

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