Tired of Virgin’s throttling and high prices I’ve signed up for O2 broadband. I currently pay £37 a month for 20Meg broadband from Virgin and while the service has been reliable the throttling is getting in the way. It’s also hard to justify that price when O2, Sky and others are offering equivalent services for just £10. I do however have some concerns.
Back in October 05 I moved to Freedom2Surf’s 8Meg. Initially it looked a good move but after only 3 months I left the service and moved to Virgin (NTL at the time). Since then Virgin have been very good. There’s been the odd bit of downtime and a month of my IP address showing as being routed in Ireland but in general there’s not a lot to complain about apart form the price. Looking back I still have a fear that the ADSL service for my house will not be as reliable as Virgin’s cable service.
That’s why I ultimately chose O2 over Sky. They are currently offering a 50 day money back guarantee which will be plenty time for me to set-up and try their service and ensure that it’s reliable…as well as fast. Speed is up to 16Meg download and up to 1.25Meg upload. So slightly slower download and a much improved upload. Real world speeds, I expect, will be a lot less than that due to distance from exchange and also the cabling to and in the house but only time will tell.
I ordered the service yesterday and the first impressions are good. O2 keep in touch with you via website, e-mail and text messages. The service should be enabled by next Thursday and the O2 modem and router have already been shipped. Hopefully it works out well as the cost saving is pretty massive over Virgin. One snag – the router is only a G so if it initially looks a good move I’ll need to pick up a new router. Anyone have a good recommendation?
Generally my broadband connection behaves pretty well. Indeed I threw up a speed test on Friday night to Flickr showing how close to 20Meg I was getting. Quite impressive especially as it was peak time. I also had a voice in my head saying that posting the speed test will no doubt lead to trouble. Little did I know it would be so soon.
For the first time today I saw adverts on BBC News. As it happened first thing I thought maybe the BBC had decided to cash in it’s sites. I know the rest of the world get adverts so why not UK? But during the day the adverts would sometimes appear, then disappear. Hey ho. Then I tried to access some iPlayer content.
This content isn’t available in your country. What? I so want to see that Doctor Who trailer as well – you know – the one with Davros! So where in the world am I if not in the UK? Trust Google to know…
Yes. Ireland. Clicking on Google took me to what it thought was my home country page. Mmm. What was wrong – Virgin Media or OpenDNS? Disabling OpenDNS showed it was Virgin at fault. A reboot of the modem made no difference. A bit of digging about showed that I wasn’t alone with this issue and that using Virgin’s webcache proxy would solve the problem. So using a proxy of webcache.virginmedia.com and port 8080 I was back in the UK with iPlayer available again. The only snag is the drop in speed. Compare the two speed tests below, the first one with the proxy enabled – quite a difference.
Now I’m not convinced that the webcache speedtest is not reporting right as generally the browsing speeds all felt fine, except they should do, they are cached by Virgin. But site’s that aren’t cached all felt fine too. Weird. I’ll get onto Virgin after the weekend if this doesn’t resolve itself. Sigh. Should have never have done that initial speed test. Jinxed.
More Virgin Media news and this time you really do wonder what’s going on! The one that grabs most headlines is that they are to pilot a scheme working with the BPI to send letters to users downloading music illegally via P2P. The pilot is not up and running but according to the Telegraph is starting soon. In some ways it’s no big surprise as there’s been lot’s of talk about a proposed three strikes and your out system. Indeed some ISP’s have already sent letters to users warning them about the content or bandwidth they are using. As long as there are no false positives and the action they are taking is clear, transparent and applied to all users can anyone really complain? Not really, although I’m still surprised that they will act in cases of ‘suspected’ piracy. I would damn well hope they act when they have concrete evidence and it’s not just a way of targeting heavy downloaders and their Linux iso’s.
What makes this all a bit more odd is that Virgin Media are beta testing a new Usenet service. In conjuntion with Highwinds they are looking to improve their newsgroup offering. What are newsgroups – well according to Virgin they are:
…discussion forums (usually on a specific topic) but can also be used to download and upload files such as photos and videos.
No shit Sherlock. Their binary retention will be at least 7 days and text retention over 90 days. Not bad for a free service although nothing like the service you get from providers like Giganews. Notice also that newsgroups are great for photo’s and videos. No music to be found though. Or applications, games, books etc. Just photo’s and video’s.
This doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. What happens with one provider will eventually happen to all. What I want is a reliable fast connection at a reasonable price. On reflection this isn’t what Virgin are offering although I must admit to it being prety bullet proof compared to ADSL. Time to switch?
Virgin have been running STM (Subscriber Traffic Management) for a while now. To be honest I haven’t felt much impact although it certainly hasn’t increased my speeds any by affecting ‘the top 3%’ of users downloading or uploading at peak times. I’ve got no real problems with the rules but I do have problems when Virgin apply them when they like at times of their choosing.
Now Virgin have confirmed to a user that STM applies at different times at bank holidays and weekends. That would explain why I was throttled when grabbing some Oracle iso’s a few weekends ago. I put it down to general slowness in the area but it picked up quickly a few hours later. I guess it shows how bad the service can be if I people are throttled without really realising it. Of course there’s nothing on Virgins official page about this. This all smacks of Plusnet when they had to deal with the increased pressures of downloads against cost to user. While the STM is sensible in principle at least tell us how and when it will be applied. Honesty makes a big difference.
Some of the other posts in the link above got me thinking though. Is it really a slippery step to a pay as you go broadband service? Great speeds both down and up but you pay per GB? Is that the most fair way of moving forward with broadband in the future? I’ve no clue but it will be interesting to see how the next 12-18 months change the landscape (if at all) with the increased usage of video and the move to HD by more and more people. 25GB download for just one film? No thanks, not at today’s speeds. I’m sure the music and film industry would love a move to that kind of model. I’d just like to see more consistency for my money…current speed is 3MB which certainly isn’t what I’m paying for.
Looking at these two graphs for broadband speed and price, the UK is falling behind not only world but European nations when it comes to overall connection speeds and how much broadband costs.
With more services moving to digital distribution and our ever increasing dependence on internet connections and services it’s critical that the UK’s infrastructure is improved over the next few years to give us a fast and reliable broadband service with a greater choice for the consumer.