back to article About that TV service, Mr Branson...

Dear Richard Branson, I don't know why on earth I'm writing this to you, because I happen to know it's got nothing to do with you. But the message may be of interest: "Virgin Media, farewell!" I'll be dropping my subscription to Virgin Media just as soon as my Virgin phone starts working again and I can contact customer …


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  1. Silas


    Totally agree with this. Unfortunately I also agree that you may well be better railing against the stars.

    Spent an interesting year with Telewest watching the download speeds falling to the point where I was getting about 44kbps between 6pm & midnight. Rang and complained about this. Was told I had a problem at my end. Laughed. Rang back. Was told there was a contention issue on ubr03. Rang back to see if it was fixed/timescale for fix and was told there wasn't a contention issue on ubr03.

    Rang back, cancelled subscription. Rang back and asked for refund of monies they continued to take. Rang back and asked for another refund as they were still taking money for a service I wasn't being provided with.

    The losing of Sky and the subsequent drop in subscribers masks the people who were already intending to leave the Telewest Broadband service but had to wait the 30 days before they could do so.

  2. Jon Brindley

    How much?

    £90? What on earth are you paying that for? We get the top broadband package, 3 set-top boxes with the top TV package and a phoneline with free weekend calls for £60 a month.

    That's why we ditched Sky to be with Virgin.

  3. Silas

    Oh and I forgot to mention

    The reason why I cancelled was that I was told that there was a problem on enfi.ubr03 but that it was "too expensive" to repair. Which stunned me at the time, but having read the other article about Virgin Media today, makes a great deal more sense in retrospect.

    Telewest are, I would agree, only doing the minimum possible work to maintain *any* kind of service. The headline speeds that they sell the service on are only achievable in some very specific circumstances (like at 4am on a Tuesday morning). But until a majority of their users complain and move their service away I can't see them actually doing anything about it.

  4. jubtastic1

    TV service

    I cancelled mine yesterday, a month after installation it still showed less channels than freeview, multiple calls to the Indian support centre basically came down to power cycle it and leave it on for at least ~2hrs, apparently that's how long it takes [s]NTL[/s] Virgin Media to get a message to a decoder box on their own cabled network.

    To be fair, when I finally got through to the UK support people they were pretty good about the whole mess, no charges for the broken service or cancelation. I'm keeping the Broadband, it's been pretty decent for the last 6 months.

  5. Tom Chiverton


    I've got the exact opposite of your experience with the V+ PVR service.

    Sounds like your line is broken - have you actually had them round to check it ?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nearly right...

    "I appear to be one of the few in the country who knows that Telewest owns the name purely because they bought Virgin mobile and the name with it."

    No, NTL owns the name - Telewest were the first victim to NTLs plans. And the ex-Telewest areas have suffered ever since.

  7. nikos

    spot on!

    ever since virgin took over from telewest, the cable tv feed went $#!+e. When it doesn't crash outright, the pic is full of gaps, sound blackouts and assorted bugs

    what did they do, change the OS on the box with windows?

    i say bring in Stelios, he'll sort virgin out, easy!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shhh.... i have a plan

    I am going to put up with this service from VM, i can watch sports and the Discovery channels. I have stopped even looking at the movie channels, even i am not old enough to remember the cr@p they are showing!!

    However, if i persist, i may be the last one on VM and as long as i don't try and download Lost between 4pm and midnight, i should get a pretty good broadband service.

    *thinks* I hope nobody else thinks of this!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We have short memories

    Have we all forgotten that Virgin Media = Telewest = NTL? Both pre-Virgin companies did not have very good track records and were the subjects of ridicule, slated for bad service, touched not even by barge-poles handlers and sold on in "pass-the-parcel" business deals as their business went from bad to worse. Why should the Virgin name bring instant overnight improvements... same management, same work ethics, same-o, same-o? Just remember NTL, folks...

  10. Chris Cheale

    I'm with Virgin...

    Have been since we moved last August - the latency is good on the broadband, noticably lower than I had on ADSL at my previous address (which was only a couple of miles away)... however the actual download speed is often nowhere near what it should be - and I sort of expect that, I live in a flat, in a city - during peak times there's probably quite a high number of active users in my immediate area.

    The TV service seems to be very stable for me, although you can really notice the MPEG2 artifact compression on a 32" widescreen TV. I'd upgrade to the V+ (or whatever) for HD - but there's simply not the channels available to justify the cost at the moment. To be fair though, the new Virgin branded TV guide does seem to be somewhat faster than the old Telewest one - especially in the TV on demand areas.

    But I keep glancing at the junk mail from Sky that comes through the door... I could save about £8 a month with Sky, whilst getting free eveing calls as well as weekends and an 8meg ADSL service rather than 4 with cable. This is possible because Sky seems to have a far better and more flexible TV package system, I'd only really want 2 of their 6 mixes and that would give me all the channels I want - with Virgin's L TV package I get lots of crap that I don't want whilst still missing some of the things I DO want (the Sky free channels weren't in the list of things I wanted anyway so no loss there) - to get the extra channels I DO actually want I have to encumber myself with the gamut of absolute junk... and Virgin claims to be flexible.

  11. Barry

    Thank yourself lucky you aren't a VM ADSL user!!

    With regard to the experiences of the VM cable usage...

    Here's a typical day in the life of a VM ADSL user.

    5pm - Service is 'good'. Latency around 30-40ms (bear in mind same latency to same servers would have been 8-12ms with anyone else). No packet loss. Download speeds near max that modem/connection allows.

    6pm - the rot starts to set in. Latency shoots up to 100ms. Download speeds dropping.

    8pm - full on rot has set it. Latency now 340ms. Packet loss averaging 7-12%. Download speeds similar to ISDN. If you like online gaming, you thinking about selling your PC/console.

    11pm - no change.

    1am - Starting to return to normal.

    1:30am - Service returns to 'good', shame you're already in bed and didn't get to use it.

    The thing is, a few of us (from the ThinkBroadband forums) have worked out that if you:-

    (a) take note of your BAM (first hop onto their network)

    (b) run some continous PING tests.

    (c) keep disconnecting/reconnecting until you see the latency improve.

    Then eventually you'll connect to a BAM that isn't so loaded, and you'll be able to avoid this daily rot-routine.

    And, if you want to see my monitoring -

    See the daily 'rot' for yourselves!

  12. George Brown

    Broadband fine, TV rubbish

    I've had broadband through NTL/Virgin/whoever for a year or two now, and I've barely had a problem with the service itself (the year it took them to sort out a refund for them opening two accounts and charging for both is a different story altogether). The up and download speed have been fine, and I do a pretty hefty amount of downloading torrents and the suchlike.

    The TV, on the other hand, is pretty appalling. The guide is incredibly slow, and there seem to be several buttons I can press which seize the whole thing up for a minute or so at a time. The 'On Demand' service simply doesn't work, and every time I phone the call centre in India I have to go through the rigmarole of them sending something to the box, which apparently takes two hours. Of course each time I phone the person I speak to has no record of previous calls. The new much-vaunted Central service doesn't work either - scant recompense for the lost Sky channels. Nor (often) do the pay per view movies. I am generally met with indifference by any customer servants I eventually get through to. The service offered by Sky (including interactive) is considerably better - I would have it if my landlady would let me put a satellite on the roof.

    And mine costs me about £70 a month for the pair. I was paying a price similar to another poster, but that went up very quickly after the offer period ended. When I pay this much for something, I really do expect it to be pretty perfect, and frankly it isn't.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    im off

    I am stopping my Virgin Media subscription this week as well, broadband was the only thing keeping me and it has always been very good. Its better to get be internet now I think.

  14. Cliff

    Oh go on NTL story...

    So Virgin Media is a rebranded NTL, nothing more...

    I once worked at a place who bought a set of phone numbers (not the phone service itself - that was the excellent-by-comparison BT) from NTL. NTL hadn't used the block of numbers in over 2 years, we were assured...except one was still listed as a complaints number in an internal directory somewhere. Every day, we'd have people calling for NTL (having been forwarded from another compalints person after holding for best part of an get the idea), only to find they were talking with a software engineer at a completely unrelated company. By this point, they couldn't help it, these people were at their wits ends - I had grown men crying and telling me their NTL nightmares. Some were truly hauntingly bad.

    I then knew I would never leave BT - we've had niggles in our relationship, sure, but we always kiss and make up, and they give me gifts to say sorry, so I'm happy. The life insurance premiums for NTL call-centre staff must be huge with the number of people I heard who really were baying for blood...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hear Hear

    I concur with most of what you're saying... I can't comment on all of it, as I ditched NTL a while ago because the TV service was so poor (loss of service, lack of interactive TV, EPG updates causing channels to switch automatically, etc...). I didn't get to try the TVD because it wasn't available when I switched to Sky, and the level of service I've received from the evil, baby-eating Mr Murdoch hasn't caused me to consider switching back to NTL again.

    However, I kept the broadband service due to my BT exchange not having been unbundled at the time. I was getting a good deal with the 10MBit service, so didn't expect the upgrade to 20MBit to affect me as much as it has.

    Unlike the author of the article, though, I'm not worried about the bandwidth throttling (NTL/Virgin Media like to call it traffic shaping, but if all traffic is being shaped, surely this is bandwidth throttling?). The reason I'm not concerned by it is because I don't stand a chance of downloading anything fast enough to even get close to their daily 3GB limit. My bandwidth speeds have dropped from a reliable 10MBit to sub-56K dial-up speeds.

    Like one of the author's of the comments above, I've been speaking to NTL's oh-so-helpful Indian call centre on numerous occaisions and have received various explanations - always of a hilarious nature. I've been told it's because I have a router (even if I remove the router), because I have Linux (even if I dual-boot with Windows), because I have spyware/adware/viruses (even if I have scanned my machine immediately prior to calling them), because I have been a victim of their traffic shaping (even if I have been at work and the PC was switched off), etc..., etc..., etc...

    I do take some consolation in the fact that I'm not alone... I'd be even more annoyed if I was the only person to be paying NTL/Virgin Media £37 p/month for nothing. By checking the forums of sites such as Digital Spy, Cable Hell and even the biased Cable Forum, I'm left feeling slightly less suicidal as I realise we're all in this together. It's a bit like it was during the war!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sky isn't any better

    You get signal dropouts there too, especially when its very cloudy or raining heavily (like it was yesterday).. pixellated picture.. yes you get that too. The time you might as sit down and watch TV and its "no Satellite signal is being received"

    Indian call centers with staff who don't understand you... yes you get those too..

    Sky even throw in abusive Customer Support staff for free (well actually you have to pay for an 0845 call for that privilege )... the way I was talked to yesterday by someone in customer services was enough to convince me to cancel my Sky account (even if I hadn't been going to anyway).

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £90 - what on earth are you getting???

    Let me see...

    I have free telephone to non-geographic numbers 24/7

    Pretty much all the channels Virgin carry & that includes Sky Sports & Sky Movies

    V+ box (better than Sky +)

    Additional Set-top box

    20MB Broadband (or will have later this month)

    Over £10 per month discounted from my TV package cause I complained about the loss of Sky One.

    Video on Demand etc

    That lot costs me just over £70 per month & when the spat with Sky is sorted it will still only be £85 - i'd have to throw in the 300mins/300 texts for £10pm with Virgin mobile to get close to your your cost!

  18. Dillon Pyron

    90 pounds????

    Here in Austin, Tejas, I pay $135 a month for digital, HD, a DVR and 6Mb Road Runner. My new DVR will have a hook up for an eSTAT drive, on which I will attach a 500GB drive.

    Now, if only Speed would carry F1 in HD (does Bernie?). And SciFi would carry BSG in HD.

  19. Daryl Dickson

    What Problems?

    I'm up in an old Telewest area west of Edinburgh and we don't seem to have any of the problems reported by everybody else. Sound & vision quality are fine on the TV, and the broadband rarely seems slow - even at peak times.

    I only have two complaints:

    1: The lack of the Sky channels due to the current spat.

    2: They aren't the most flexible when it comes to the channel selection. Why can't I pick individual channels instead of packages? You always end up with 50 channels that'll never be watched to get a couple you do want.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    yeah right

    "As you know, despite my paying you £90 a month, your lords and masters have decided that this isn't enough to warrant signing a contract with Sky to provide me with the channels I signed up for."

    Actually £90 pays for your entire services from Virgin, not just the TV, you might want to mention that before making misleading statements.

    Also if Virgin had given in to Sky and paid the extra cost then it would've gone onto your £90/month, then we'd have had a column denouncing Virgin for their price rises.

    Dont mis-understand im not a Virgin fanboy, i (depsite being an almost non-existant downloader) have been hit with the new cap^H^H^Htraffic management policy, it's just nice to have all the facts :)

  21. Gavin Hamer

    I see toys all over the floor...

    Couldn't agree less with this article. It typifies the culture of greed. I want everything now, I want it cheap and if anything isn't just-so, then I'll throw my toys as far as I can. The author is completely unrealistic. All big companies are virtually the same, they cut costs to the minimum, employ masses of stupid people to fend off masses of stupid customers, play PR games with the competition, merge and acquire, pay the directors big fat bonuses. That's what they do.

    Virgin are, frankly, much better at customer service than NTL used to be 5 years ago, and if you persist, you can get superb internet and superb value recordable high-def TV.

    Diddums if you want to download a series of illegal TV between 4pm and midnight, just do it in the morning, or the night, or use a speed scheduler.

    I'm with Gordon:

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice rant but...

    I love a good rant as much as the next guy, but this sounds more like something that should be on a blog then El Reg..

    I mean c'mon, the author apologises to Sir Richard twice for dragging his name into it, and goes as far as saying he should sue etc..

    I'd have thought he'd have checked out his facts first ?!

    I mean a search on The Register's own website spits out plenty of articles with statements like:

    "NTL's biggest shareholder Branson had given public blessing to a tie-up with ITV. He netted 11 per cent of NTL in the Virgin Mobile deal."

    Tsk Tsk.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moved to Sky

    I moved to Sky in full after being ripped off by TeleWest/Virgin. Was paying £57 a month for Sky Multiroom and Sky HD package on one of my boxes. Then £11 Telephone rental and £25 for a 2MB Broadband connection. Plus calls on top I was seeing over £100 a month go on "services". Now get fee Broadband with Sky and pay £11 to BT for line rental for Sky BB and free calls when I need them most, weekends and evenings. Woman I spoke to at Virgin didnt care I was leaving after 5 years. Just put something in on her "system" and that was that, no cheap subscription offers or anything. Sounded to me that I was one of the many leaving! £66 a month, cheap voice calls, enough broaband speed for me and Sky Sports in HD. Much happier.

  24. Damian Jauregui

    Virgin - NTL - Telewest

    Please don't forget, NTL exists because it bought up CableTel, who in turn bought up Diamond Cable, etc. and was the company behind Virgin.Net in the first place (and which online originally). Virgin.Net is operated like the rest of the Branson empire, i.e. I will take 50% for the use of my name, you will take 50% for doing all the work, oh yes, please don't screw the punters too much, it is my name after all. Peace out baby!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: have you actually had them round to check it ?

    "Sounds like your line is broken - have you actually had them round to check it ?"

    Ho ho, ha ha, he he, LOL!

    The fine art of getting NTL (sorry VM) engineers to come out and fix problems.

    Queue hour long waits on the phone to get through to CS only to be cut off (repeatedly).

    Eventually get call outs and they don't turn up when they should.

    They turn up on the wrong day and blame you for not being in.

    When they do turn up they have not been briefed and are unprepared and cannot fix the problem. They arrange another call out...

    ... same thing happens. Arrange another call out...

    ... Fix it this time. Oh wait, turns out they've broken something else.


    I tried to claim back lost earnings due to all the time I've spent off work waiting in for these morons but they flat refused on the basis they don't compensate for lost earnings.

    Result... vote, feet, move to Sky, BT and PlusNet. Never been happier. At least my broadband now WORKS. NTL couldn't achieve that in all the years I was with them.

    Oh, and as for the above comment about them not wanting to upgrade/fix the UBR (broadband router thing we all connect to somewhere locally), I'm not surprised in the slightest. It's probably why my connection was so rubbish, but they likely wouldn't admit it.

    But yeah, rather than fix the infrastructure, just bring in new customers with the promise of ultra high speeds they cannot reliably sustain.

    At least with ADSL they test your line first and tell you if it's too rubbish. NTL never do tests on the line when they install it.

  26. A J Stiles

    One thing in Virgin's favour

    One thing in Virgin Media's favour: the now-and-next bar and TV guide display the time using VCR notation by default.

    Sky Plus uses the confusing AM/PM notation; and the menu item to change it is so deeply hidden, I haven't found it in more than a month. I gave up in the end, and bought myself an LED clock.

  27. Pete Miller

    Signal loss on sky when it's cloudy?

    Have you tried mounting your dish on the outside of the building?

    Once maybe twice a year in torrential rain maybe you will lose the signal for a few minutes, but not the drizzle we have had this weekend - and certainly not just with cloud.

  28. Ken Hunter

    It makes the old NTL look good

    I'm about to cancel after 6 years with broadband, tv and phone in Stoke. I must have been the first round here with broadband, they need to keep doubling the speed to stop it from completely stopping. Since VM, i've seen my broadband speed get worse, around the time school finishes, a new un-intuitive EPG, my Red Button f****d, TV freeze or loss of service and ofcourse I lost LOST... so Sky vs. VM...VM...LOST !!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trades description?

    OK, <diatribe mode=ON and apologies to any Reg staff who reckon that it always is when they see a post from me>.

    First things first. I now live abroad which limits me to (illicit) Sky and moody reception, although I do have something that looks suspiciously like Jodrell Bank in my back garden (I think it's cool - feel free to think what you will).

    I am about to move back to the UK. Last time I was there (and I still own the same house - or, rather, a small bit of it) I had a Telewest Broadband / Phone connection. I was thoroughly satisfied with this and I should be a shoe-in as a repeat signup.


    1) Posted anecdotes here and elsewhere.

    2) My Mother's recent experiences with Virgin Broadband who retained her as a customer using only what we used to call FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt - an IBM marketing term as I recall). I could digress here, but suffice it to say that my suspicions of this mob turned to deep ingrained hatred while attempting to sort her issues out (blame everyone else, admit nothing and keep 'em hanging on the 'phone as long as possible appears to be their mission statement here).

    3) My tenant's experiences attempting to reuse the existing cable connection to my house (don't ask, it stopped being funny when the fourth incompetant f***wit got involved at Virgin - the answer here was BT, which makes for a sodding stupid question at the best of times).

    So: Dear Virgin. The name only works for signup purposes. The grinning, bearded wanker can only sell new contracts. If you want repeat business GET IT RIGHT!! Currently the word "useless" does not even begin to get anywhere near where you are in terms of competance. When I move back to the UK at the end of June I *will* take a phone line and I *will* get ADSL FROM SOMEBODY ELSE. YES, ANYBODY ELSE!!! Hell will f***ing freeze over before I ever call you again. If there was a cup for sheer, sodding incompetance and mind-numbingly ignorant staff, they'd be commisioning a new one about now, 'cos you would have won the current one in perpetuity. You are so f***ing awful you make Sky look like a good TV company, BT look like a good phone company and Spurs look like a good football team.

    God I needed that......


  30. Colin Jackson


    That's strange, it still says 'no download limits' on VM's website

  31. Tim

    Vm (blueyonder)

    virgin are getting really bad i've had blueyonder broadband for 3years. Now the service is running at :-Date 14/05/07 16:35:18

    Speed Down 515.79 Kbps ( 0.5 Mbps )

    Speed Up 357.46 Kbps ( 0.3 Mbps )

    Port 8095


    This is the fastest it has run for ten day's .On the vm page it say's


    * Up to 10Mb

    Rolling out up to 20Mb

    * No download limits†

    (unlike some of our competitors)

    * Download a music track◊ in under 4 seconds "

    FALSE ADVERTISING .any one from bt like to respond to the quote (unlike some of our competitors)bit. Then again you don't need limits if no one can download .

  32. Mike Green

    Orange isn't much better.

    Orange is really good until you have a problem (which is the true test of a provider lies). I recently lost my broadband connection and spent the next three weeks trying to get something done about it. For three weeks I called their service centre in india, to be told the same set of instructions for testing the router they provided me with and checking the connections etc, and then to be told they were going to do a line test and to call back the next day. So I did this, over and over and over, till finally one 'engineer' (being an engineer at orange's technical support seems to mean being able to read from a cue card) said to phone customer support as my connection wasn't active. I called them and they told me there was a fault on the line, when I had been told there wasn't by the technical department for the previous 3 weeks. Finally they got someone out and the problem was fixed by the weekend. When I got annoyed at them for not being able to sort it out after 2 weeks, and asking for my transfer number, they refused to give it to me unless I paid for the rest of my contract. Surely there should be some legal time limit for consumers beyond which they can say I haven't got the service I'm paying for, I want to leave?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rookie mistakes.

    Another column, another lot of typos and grammatical errors. When are the editors going to proof read the articles?

  34. 4.1.3_U1

    ntlhell -> cablehell

    Sometimes I wistfully look back to the days when I was an NTL customer. I still get letters from them (or VM, rather, now) occasionally (I mean snail mail) offering me special deals, and noting that I have a few pounds credit on my account. I did ring them up several times before they 'migrated' their 0800 customer services number to 0845 (for my convenience), and after the customary 30 minute plus wait was eventually assured that I would be getting a cheque for what they owed me in the post. Maybe that's it landing on the doormat now ... Nope.

    Like many loyal subscribers I recently received this email from cablehell. Nice to know I'm still welcome there too.


    Hello *************,

    As you are probably aware, ntl:, Telewest Blueyonder, Virgin.NET and Virgin Mobile have recently rebranded to Virgin Media. As such we felt our name, ntl:hell, was no longer appropriate, so we have there rebranded too! Our new name is CableHell and our new address is

    With our rebrand we've also expanded our coverage too. While we have historically focussed on being a place for ntl: customers to vent, get help or just have a chat, our forums are now open for posts about any provider. So even if you've moved on from ntl: you're still more than welcome!

    Unfortunately the old address of no longer works


    In principle cable TV service seemed to me like a good idea (works fine in alot of countries), but until a few things are fixed cablehell seems like the place to go. I've just given up on cable in the UK for the time being.

  35. Chris

    £11 off?

    I phoned up the other week to alter my package. I too realised that the channels I was watching were equivalent to FreeView, I phoned to change my TV to the small (S) package.

    Before I could get a word out beyond 'I want to alter my package' they were offering me an £11 discount. They must be losing customers fairly rapidly on the back of the Sky debacle.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My Two for Twenty

    On the day that Virgin Media launched Two for Twenty.

    ME: Hello Virgin Media you now do Two for Twenty, I'm a long standing NTL customer & have a Virgin Pay As you go phone. Can I go on the 2 4 20 scheme please

    Virgin Media: Hold on Sir, we need to do a credit check... I sorry Sir your credit rating has failed & this will you will not be able to ask again for SIX MONTHS!

    ME: You're nuts! I Just bought an Apple Mac on credit for £1200 last week & the week before I got a £1750 Credit Card.

    VM: I sorry Sir your credit rating has failed & this will you will not be able to ask again for SIX MONTHS!

    Me: OK cancel my contact with you, oh BTY how long have I been with NTL?


    Me: You have now lost TWO Virgin Mega customers in less than five minutes.

    I now use Freeview & when my Pay as you go phone runs out, it will not be topped up but be replaced with an O2 SIM card.

  37. Luke Painter

    Some good, some bad

    Testing at 00:10 I get 15mbps down and 1.1 up. I had a problem with my cable modem recently and an engineer was booked for the next day and turned up on time and fixed the problem. Some of the customer (dis)service advisers haven't been great but I don't think I've come across a good customer service department ever. I'm not exaggerating. I get the basic tv package for £8.5 and no phone service (they actually discount my £18.5 bill by £10 because of this). On demand is really good for catch up tv (no PVR but they keep the good shows for a whole week) and I've managed to see the first 3 peep show series on it for free. The old movies cost too much, £2 for a movie over 30 years old (in the heat of the night) is ridiculous so I don't buy them. Not perfect but better than some of the experiences related, plus I'm glad they haven't kowtowed to sky.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More Virgin whinging

    £90pm bill - ouch, maybe you should downsize. Oh, and it was NTL that took over Telewest (and promptly screwed up tv+broadband) to become Virgin. As far as I can see all I've got from the takeover is less communication (of new plans etc), slower broadband (grrr!) and a less stable TV service. Although the new TV front end (when it works) is better than the old one I think.

    And I definitely don't agree that Virgin should have just paid up to bully boys Sky! On the other hand I'm equally in agreement that VM desperately need to put some investment into the broadband service that's now visibly beginning to creak at the seams. (But I'm not hopeful of any progress anytime soon...more's the pity).

    But what's the alternative? For my TV I'd have to go to Sky who, according to friends and work colleagues experiences, have customer service for which the descriptions "incompetent" and "insulting" would be high compliments! My broadband - which is important to me because I've got a home office - would have to switch to ADSL, which is half the VM price but only a quarter of the speed - not a good "value propostion"!

    So for the moment, despite their shortcomings, I'm staying with Lord Beardy and co. Sigh... :(

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I Agree, EX Telewest Downhill...

    As the title says, since NTL acquired Telewest its went to pot. Everything that was wrong with NTL now seems to be wrong with ex Telewest customers and it does not seem to be getting any better!!!

    What cable need to do is invest in the network and capacity and do it fast before they well and truely stuff themselves up to the point of no return. Billing is a joke (ex NTL Systems, my folks have nothing but trouble with), Customer service outsourced to India (another joke) faults IN INDIA, and installs delays in getting dates, outsourced techs to save money again, and quite frankly the job not being up scratch...


    If I was Richard Branson I would be furious. Why cant he take total control of cable and invest some of his MILLIONS rather than just being a share holder. That way cable will truely be a VIRGIN company and not same old NTL with a different name....

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's like anything in life... get the people with such poor service that they scream and shout bloody murder about it, then you get the people who have good service and never hear from them.

    Myself, I'm somewhere in between the 2 groups.

    I pay out about £60 a month for the XL TV package, 20MB broadband and just a standard phone line.

    TV: The only problem I've ever had with the TV is that the On Demand service has (very) occasionally dropped out, but this has always been down to a fault on the network and resolved fairly quickly. I do get occasional freeze ups when in the EPG, but then I don't use it a huge amount so I'm not too bothered.

    Phone: The one sore point about my service with them. During the install the 2 guys they sent out couldn't get the phone service working. They did come out again the next day to try and fix it without any joy, a call was logged with the call centre and someone came out a few days later and had it working in 10 minutes. Since then it's stopped working again, which I've yet to report to be repaired as talking with the customer services team is a painful experience (see below).

    Broadband: I've never had any problems whatsoever with the broadband service. It's always been running at full speed (except for the traffic shaping during peak times) and I frequently have no problem downloading at ~2300kbps. Sure the upload sucks, but if you need to have things that fast and bittorrent isn't cutting, there's other services out there to accommodate (read: Usenet).

    So do I have any major gripes with VM? Sure, the customer service.

    When I've had to call the couple of times that I have, firstly I'm in a queue for ages, then I get through to someone in India who is usual about as helpful as a broken leg. I had an issue with my broadband where it had cut out suddenly so I called up and was told by the lovely Indian call rep after being in a queue for 20 minutes that they were transferring me to someone else. I then got through to a native English-speaking person who told me the issue with my connection is that I owed £105. Surely not I said, as I'd recently paid my bill (which did seem low, a problem I figured was on their end). However what I hadn't been told when I signed up is that broadband is billed for separately and that they'd been e-mailing my bills to an address I apparently setup during the cable modem registration process. Naturally I was a bit miffed by this and forked over the minimum needed to get my connection back up and was told I had to pay the rest the following week to avoid another outage. Ok, fine.

    Move along to the following week when I called up hoping to use the automated service to quickly pay my bill, only to be greeted by an extremely slow talking automated system that couldn't understand that my Maestro/Switch card doesn't have a start date. Cue another phone call to India. This time I got through to someone almost immediately which threw me for a second and I explained exactly what needed to be paid. I give over my card details, nice this will be over in 2 minutes right? Wrong. The person I was having to deal with first of all couldn't find both of my accounts (why TV/Phone and broadband are on separate accounts I don't know) and then when asking for the card number he took it down incorrectly, despite me telling him so numerous times after he kept trying unsuccessfully to put through the payment. After about 20 minutes of banging my head against my desk he got it right. I then asked for paper bills for both accounts so I can just deal with things myself.

    Sorry for the long post, but in summary, I've had no real problems with the service provided, but the customer service leaves a lot to be desired. Those of you screaming that people should move to Sky should remember that at the end of the day, they're really not any better and if you're a private tenant like myself, you can't just have a dish slapped onto the side of the building.

  41. Rob

    Gavin Hamer...

    ... clearly has more money than sense and thanks to numpty's like him we will continue to live in "Rip-Off-Britain".

    This article just resonates the complete lack of service all Virgin brands are now offering to paying customers. I have experienced a number of Virgin products and services and they have all been substantially less than what I have paid for compared to what the competition could have given me and yes I don't use Virgin anymore because of these experiences.

    It's about getting value for money not being greedy, do you work for the government on IT projects by any chance?

  42. Martin Hayman

    All true!

    I agree with all this. And the landline is pants too.

    Just passed a Virgin Media truck, blazoned with the slogan 'Faster, Faster, Faster!' Not in north London that's for sure!

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get a clue?

    All of you!

    It costs to provide you with this service and you all want the world for a pound! If you where charged a rate that reflected the true cost of the service then you would have quiet a large hole in your wallet.

    I do see a trend in the complaints though, you all seem to be southern, York downwards.

    The VM service in Newcastle has been consistent and reliable.

    Oh the move to the 0845 number would have been to help recuperate income lost on dropping the prices to help pay for your support. Yes support like morons calling VM to tell them they have a virus on their computer or that their computer is not working since they spilt coffee on it.

    Get a clue!

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the alternatives aren't that rosy..

    I 've been with Telewest for nigh on 10 years, and was delighted with the broadband service, especially when they upgraded to 2Mb/s for free. We've only had their TV for a year now, and am somewhat disappointed - menu freezes, then plays all 500 key presses in quick succession. Channel hopping with freeview is so much quicker. I agree, the current broadband service sucks, which is a shame as it cannot be that expensive or complex to improve. The alternatives aren't that brilliant. I severed ties with BT 7 years ago after they inisted on billing me for a phone point in our new house, even though we transferred our Telewest line. It took me 2 months, and a letter to OFCOM to resolve this. I wouldn't go with Sky on principle - everything about the brand gives me the shudders - like the first hit - always coy and sweet. Remember what sort of media empire that shrivelled, twisted, demented bastard presides over (esp in the US), his exit from Fleet Street to his bunker at Docklands, his smash and grab demonstration over football viewing rights. I'm no big fan of the bearded fellow either, but at least he makes a show of putting a little something back from whence he wrenches our millions....


  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Things Have To Improve!!

    Personally I think that there are some areas VM need to really look into such as: providing a more competitive landline service with cheap unlimited calls and additional features, invest in the broadband network now so they can plan for the future rather that run it into the ground and have a bigger task to sort out at a later date when it nearly collapses, and improve the software issues they have for cable TV (maybe change to a more reliable platform) and increase capacity, and finally sort out the billing issues plaguing ex NTL customers which I believe they are in the process of doing with the plan to complete it by the end of the year!

    Saying all of that I do believe customer service received by the UK call centres have improved a hell of a lot, staff are more friendly, queries are dealt with, and with the exception of faults and the offshore indian centres things on this aspect are moving in the right direction. Its the outsourcing and offshore things that let them down as the fact is you cant get the right level of service from these areas so an option to withdraw maybe worth exploring.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Little Respect!!

    Maybe another thing they should focus on is treating staff with a little more respect rather than just a number that way they might actually get more from them and in turn it will reflect on customer service being improved!!

    Being a now 'Virgin Company' isn't it meant to work different to others out there by looking after staff and moral? Its meant to be happy staff will look after customers and give excellent service which in turn will take care of shareholders - But after speaking to a few people when calling thats not the case.

    Once that takes care of customer care, and they sort out the behind the scenes in house issues they can then invest in the network and services provided making them more competitive, reliable, future proof and stable that way more people will want to join Virgin Media meaning more money for the business!!!!!!!

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one staying with VM?

    I don't do much downloading, (much prefer to buy my music and films), so download speeds and limits don't bother me too much, it's more than fat enough to check my emails and look at el reg.

    As for all this nonsense about loosing 'quality' sky programming, well, I'm happier with out it, if I want to watch Lost (or what ever other drivvel they are showing these days) then I'll buy it, I spotten the complete S1 Lost for £25 the other day.

    I love the new catch up tv (On demand) by some stroke of genius it has the programs I enjoy! and can watch them when I get in from work when I want to!

    I'm sorry to die hard Sky fans, but for £30 pcm for everything I actually wan't, and a service I have been happy with for 6 years, why move to sky and pay £50?

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reducing picture quality to promote upgrades

    The last software update stopped my set top box producing an RGB signal, even when told to do so. I noticed the loss of picture quality immediately.

    Customer Services insisted that if I get a picture, everything is working fine and noone else is reporting the fault. Complete nonsense on both counts. They also told me that the way to stop my video settings (such as widescreen) being lost during power down was not to power down.

    I persuaded a manager to swap out my box next week, in the hope that the new software will work better with that. Despite these faults, he tried to persuade me to subscribe to V+.

    If faults are being introduced and used to promote subscription upgrades, they must be desperate.

  49. Henry Wertz


    Ouch! It sounds like the cable cos around the UK are using the higher-frequency channels without upgrading infrastructure as needed. I live in Iowa (USA) and for $56 get oh, I think it's up to 5 or 6mbits/sec cable internet, and 22 channel "broadcast basic" TV (there's a $10 discount for the TV and it cost $11.95 a month.. and there's no good over-the-air reception at my place, so $1.95 is pretty worth it I guess 8-). If I wanted to spend the cash I think I can get phone internet and TV for like $100. I worked for a little bit at my local cable co, and they don't have any tech to detect cable faults, but they upgraded all lines down to the city-block level less than 5 years ago. And, (I know this since I worked the phones..) they only would give a 2-hour time window, but they'd show up within that window, and actually get things fixed.. they had a signal-strength tester of some kind and also eyeballed the picture on the TV (if possible..) to make sure things looked good.

    What IMHO all cable cos SHOULD have, but apparently don't, was something I saw in a trade rag where it'd periodically (maybe even only once a day..) poll all the cable modems & set top boxes to send back signal strength information. Low signals, possibly high ping, and especially no response then showed up on a map. With something like that and a map of how the cable lines run, a cable co could likely detect and fix faulty lines before anyone even phoned in to complain, rather than waiting for complaints, and maybe messing with an end user's line when it turns out some line further up is what's actually bad.

    On the other hand, the cable here is a monopoly, and I have *NO* DSL available despite living in a town of around 50,000 people; the phone company won't invest in remote DSLAMs, so only people within about 10,000 line-feet of the phone switch (downtown) can even try to get service.

  50. M Gale

    Lies, damned lies, and inconsistency.

    To "get a clue", the real cost of bandwidth is rather low. So, therefore the service to end-users should reflect that. Most of the people here aren't complaining about not being able to get gigabit connections for 50p per month. They are complaining about not being able to get the service they are paying for.

    And in reply to other comments, I have heard of some pretty funky excuses from VM before. Someone I know was recently told that the reason his Internet service wasn't working is because wireless routers are incompatible with the service. Well. Half an hour and a quick router reset later and the Internet is working again.

    Now, a few months ago I phoned the tech support line for another friend after even I (I'm humble, I know) couldn't get a D-Link router to play ball. The person I got hold of helpfully went through all the usual DHCP renewal procedures and such. None of it did anything, but the router did inexplicably start working by itself 15 minutes through the call (the guy on the other end was as surprised as myself). What's happened in the past few months apart from the name change? "We don't provide support for routers" would have been fine if somewhat annoying, but why are tech support blatantly lying to their customers?

    I'll go with VM for broadband as and when I get around to upgrading from dial-up, simply because in this area the ADSL availability is somewhere between abysmal and non-existant, and because the speed of the cable broadband service in this area is pretty good (less so for TV). However, I won't be ringing tech support in the event of a problem unless it's absolutely necessary. The last thing I need is for someone to tell me that the Internet won't work because I'm not connected via a Microsoft Windows machine, and the last thing some poor sod in 1st-line tech support needs is me achieving critical mass and nuking their earhole with obscenities while explaining exactly how wrong they are.

  51. Nick

    NTL/Virgin Media

    Hmm. I don't have the cable TV, but I've got their 10mbit service. Had it for about a year, and it's bloody good (in my experience, at least). I never fail to download at between 550kib/s and 1.1mib/s, with the 550 as a worst case!

    Perhaps I've escaped stuff so far, but no traffic shaping here. However, they did send a letter saying they're upping connections to £20 so are charging £2 more. Fair enough, I thought, until I realised that my area won't get 20mbit for nigh-on a year. So I'm paying extra for you lot to get your traffic-shaped double XXL packages :P

    Sky's gone out the window this month - ditched for my new HTPC with dual DVB. Much funkier, much faster, less on - but generally the bits of Sky you don't get on freeview are crap anyway (Discovery, on the whole, the exception).

    I stopped watching Sky One and its ilk nearly a year ago. Re-run after re-run after re-run. VM hasn't lost much by parting from their BSkyB partnership!

  52. Gavin Hamer


    To the guy who was refused compensation for time off work, that's exactly what I got in order to be home for an install after they botched the first engineer booking. It was based on my annual wage, and I didn't even pretend to be a brain surgeon - thus confirming my 'numpty' status, as flagged by Rip-Off-Rob above. It all depends on the luck of the customer service draw, but the good news is that you can enter this raffle as many times as you like. Using the S word seems to help things along.

    More recently, they have given me a £5pm reduction in my bill after they got the amount wrong (no idea what the garbage on the other five pages was about, but I understood the bottom line).

    Loads of people get reductions in their monthly bills... by asking. Fur egg sample:

  53. Richard Williams


    I have long recommended telewest to customers for their homes and friends alike locally to me, as I have always found the cable broadband service more reliable than ADSL here.

    Up until the start of this year I have been on 2Mbps broadband and found it fantastically good. No complaints at all. I do a little torrenting but nothing outrageous.


    As this year moved on, the service has degraded and degraded. Much like many of you, my numerous calls to Telewest (and subsequently Virgin) were met with talks of over-provision, the 'top 5% spoiling it for the others' and frequent 'turn the modem off and on' as well as 'known issue, it's in hand'.

    So finally I got fed up of paying for 2Mbps and rarely getting 1Mbps. A mate of mine said he had called up and moaned about the loss of Sky and they reduced his TV package cost by about £16.00. I called up and did the same, but instead of reducing the cost, asked them to offset the cost against going up to 10Mbps as a final try. I am aware that contention ratio issues would be unaffected just by increasing the 'potential' line speed, but I thought I might get at least HALF my 10meg, in the same way I was getting half my 2meg. I was WRONG.

    Spoke to "Virgin on the ridiculous"... They suggested hanging in there as I'd get free upgraded to 20Meg soon. I asked what the hell was the point in that if I don't even get anything over 1.5meg on 10meg, considering I'm paying a fortune for it. The line went very quiet. That fatal standard response "I can only apologise" fluttered across the phone lines to me... "OK then", says I, "I want you to downgrade me back to 2meg, refund the 10meg costs (I was only using 10meg for two weeks) and terminate my broadband service" (which I know takes 30 days to terminate - not paying for 10meg in that period). The guy says OK.

    A few weeks later, the bill comes through. I've been charged for the 10meg line... Phone call time, and the guy informs me that 'according to the notes on the account' my broadband upgrade to 10meg was a 'special deal' which cost only £1.50 so that's all they knocked off my bill! I pointed out the 'loss of Sky' deal I spoke of above and the Virgin guy told me that wasn't what they did and that I was still paying the full price for my TV package. I pointed out that either way there's a big difference in cost between 2meg and 10meg so there MUST be a reduction! They wouldn't have it. I asked to speak to a supervisor/manager and was told that wasn't possible. I asked to be transferred to the complaints dept and was told they could only be contacted in writing (delaying tactic?).

    I called the termination team and cancelled the whole thing. I don't like getting a crap excuse for why my broadband service has magically degraded, I like being ripped-off even less. Very disappointed in this big change, and seems I'm not the only one...

  54. Matthew

    Go Freeview!

    I hate satellite dishes and live waaaaay to far out in the sticks to get cable. So I've been with Freeview since the ONDigital days and it has *always* worked well and been consistently reliable. Plus the guide doesn't have Sky's obnoxious muzak...

    My Freeview DVR (Humax Duovisio PVR-9200T) offers all Sky+ functions but series link which is being added later, and I don't miss anything Sky can offer.

    My ADSL is through Nildram and speed is *always* as good as I can expect (1.5 MB due to remoteness) with genuinely helpful helpdesk staff who don't treat you like a numpty. They have clearly defined policies and an online chart to see how close you are to your limit, chosen based on what you choose to pay.

    The stuff I can't get through Freeview comes from scheduled torrents in the early hours (outside my download allowance). As to the legality, if a programme has been publicly broadcast and isn't being sold on a prosecution would be difficult. Programmes like 'Lost' can be downloaded free from the makers anyway if you have an apparently American IP address: easy to arrange or use AOL if you really must...

    I think the trick is never just to go for a headline price: I used ADSLGuide's ratings to pick a broadband supplier, and Which for my Freeview 'Sky+' box. It's not like NTL/Telewest/Virgin have ever had a good reputation: why on Earth did you expect a different experience to thousands of unhappy punters?

  55. Scott Hillier

    Well said

    Nicely said mate.

    You've summed up EXACTLY how I feel.

    I normally have a lot of respect for Branson, don't feel that he gets much wrong, but he has royally f*cked telewest and I could scream at him for it.

    Round of applause from me matey.

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