back to article If you have inner peace, it's probably 'cos your broadband works: Zen Internet least whinged-about Brit ISP – survey

Virgin pipped BT to be the most-moaned-about UK ISP in Whinge Which? magazine's most recent survey of British broadband. Price increases lifted Sky to third place – even though it had fewer complaints than rivals in Ofcom's survey published earlier this year. Perennial whinge-bag TalkTalk took fourth. Which? ISP survey …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge

    Is it so?

    as long as moaning remains Britain's national sport?

    1. NiceCuppaTea

      Re: Is it so?

      As a Brit i would like to have a moan about the reg saying we moan a lot.... wait, what? This moan proves their point? That cant be i hardly ever moan about the weather, taxes, the charge for plastic bags, brexit coverage, MP's, the American presidency, the housing crisis, bank charges and the general miserable existence we all suffer at the hands of our corporate overlords, wait hold on, maybe i do like to moan (just a little).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it so?

      >as long as moaning remains Britain's national sport?

      Do you not realise you are... well moaning about moaning ?

      1. SVV

        Re: Is it so?

        And do you not realise that you are moaning about moaning about moaning?


  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From A&A to Z?

    I use Zen myself, and would agree that their service is very good.

    I’m a little surprised that there is no mention of the equally good A&A, or are they perhaps just a little too niche a provider to have been noticed by Which?

    (I also wonder if there’s an element of bias in the results? More techie people are perhaps more likely to go for more more techie-minded ISPs, and so if something does go wrong we’re perhaps more likely to know how to fix it (if the problem is at our end), and so complain less? For example, my router tends to take a huff if left online for more than a couple of weeks at a time (my hunch is that its DNS cache (or something similar) gets filled up and it eventually gets harder for it to look up hosts. So I have it plugged into a timer switch in order to power cycle it once a week: problem solved (or bodged around, anyway))

    1. Mike Pellatt

      Re: From A&A to Z?

      Or no mention of equally-equally good IDnet. My only downer on A&A is their cost of traffic, but I fully understand their business model and why they do it.

      Bizarrely, a recent survey by Not Connecting Devon & Somerset At All had A&A in the ISP list but not IDnet.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: From A&A to Z?

        For another survey (with self selection for generally more tech savvy users) try this one. That puts AAISP at the top with IDNet (also my ISP) second and Zen third. Only those three rate above 90%. You get what you pay for ;)

        My assumption would be that AAISP and IDNet fail to appear on the Which? survey because of cost. A lot (most?) people subscribe to Which? to find the cheapest deal.

        VM's almost constant appearance at the bottom of the chart is a sad indictment of the way they run their network. Suck customers in with headline speeds but do the bear minimum to provide those speeds in practice.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: From A&A to Z?

          VM's almost constant appearance at the bottom of the chart is a sad indictment of the way they run their network. Suck customers in with headline speeds but do the bear minimum to provide those speeds in practice.

          Ah, but this is the Grand Deception in advertising. Everyone + dog talks about connection speeds, but nobody as much as whispers about contention. I reckon back end connectivity is where Virgin is saving its money. As long as you keep people "local" to the service, all is well, but as soon as they venture off-platform via LINX, the fun is over.

          (note: it is but an assumption)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: From A&A to Z?

          I've spoken to Which? about why A&A don't appear, who replied:

          "We are very conscious that there lots of new and additional providers out there. Unfortunately we need to achieve a minimum amount of these to make our data statistically verifiable."

          Quite how smaller providers could ever get on to the shortlist in the first place was not made clear.

      2. Dunstan Vavasour
        Thumb Up

        Re: From A&A to Z?

        Actually the traffic limits are one of the reasons I went to AAISP - so I'm not congested by the freetards maxing their lines out all day every day.Averaging about 200GB per month for a family of four including two twenty-something gamers and steady use of Netflix/iPlayer.

  3. Lloyd

    Talk talk came third?

    Wow, I can only assume that's because they've got so few customers left that whilst 99% of them complain that still only leaves under 1,000 complaints.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Talk talk came third?

      They didn't come third on the more tech-savvy survey I posted ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Talk talk came third?

      Eh? On this survey they were fourth worst?

  4. Leigh Brown
    Thumb Up

    Another happy Zen customer here

    Very happy with my Unlimited Fibre 2 because:

    * No throttling

    * No blocking

    * 8 static IPv4 addresses (pay extra though)

    * IPv6

    * Fairly reliable (three outages in the last few years that I am aware of)

    * Northerners providing support

    * They don't piss and moan when I tell them I'm using a Linux router

    1. g00se2

      Re: Another happy Zen customer here

      They don't piss and moan when I tell them I'm using a Linux router

      As opposed to ... Windows routers?

      1. Leigh Brown

        Re: Another happy Zen customer here

        As opposed to the ISP provided router.

        1. Gio Ciampa
          Thumb Up

          Re: Another happy Zen customer here

          "As opposed to the ISP provided router."

          This ... my Zen-supplied router (half) died on me - the Wifi failed specifically, but it still worked wired.

          Asked them about a replacement - they tried to sell me another, but were happy to let me get my own so off I went and got one, no problem at all

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Another happy Zen customer here

            "...but were happy to let me get my own so off I went and got one..."

            What? Why wouldn't they be, how could they stop you?

            1. steviebuk Silver badge

              Re: Another happy Zen customer here

              Virgin do. I wanted my own router to replace the insecure Virgin one but have read you can't. You have to use the Virgin supplied router.

              1. Gonzo wizard

                Re: Another happy Zen customer here

                With Virgin you can reconfigure their router to act as a modem only, reducing it to the role of an RJ45 socket through which internet is available. I've always used it that way and do everything else on my own Vigor equipment.

                That said, that's with the two routers I've had from them so far. When I eventually manage to get them to upgrade my current router to get the 200Mbos I'm currently paying for (sigh) I don't know if that'll still be the case...

              2. Wolfclaw

                Re: Another happy Zen customer here

                BS. Son in laws father had Superdud3, 45Meg on a 100meg connection. Stuck it in modem mode, hooked up a spare Asus AC66+Merlin firmware, 102Meg down and wifi all over the house. Just cheap crap hardware, using dodgy Intel chipset !

              3. Andy 97

                Re: Another happy Zen customer here

                When you do change your wifi router, be sure to change the DNS provider to someone other than the VM-provided one.

                Most complaints about VM Broadband are related to their very unreliable, bundled DNS.

                There are many other reasons to do this too, including not providing VM with your non-vpn'd web browsing habits - which some companies actually sell to 3rd parties.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Another happy Zen customer here

            >This ... my Zen-supplied router (half) died on me - the Wifi failed specifically, but it still worked wired.

            Asked them about a replacement - they tried to sell me another, but were happy to let me get my own so off I went and got one, no problem at all



            Just about every other ISP would replace their ISP supplied router free if it failed. Zen is overpriced for what it is, like Apple.

        2. Adrian 4

          Re: Another happy Zen customer here

          'As opposed to the ISP provided router.'

          Which almost universally run Linux.

  5. TonyJ

    I'm with Vodafone

    And very happy to date.

    Made the move from BT - at the time I got fibre, it was literally on the day that BT updated their site to say it was available, and I had the choice of one ISP - BT.

    The few times I've had to call Voda they've been knowledgeable and helpful (and UK based).

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: I'm with Vodafone

      Blimy, you must be dealing with a different Vodamoan to the one I had to deal with at work. As part of some business changes, we arranged for several customers to move to Vodamoan provided VDSL (FTTC) lines - and it was a complete and utter shambles, one of the lines never did get installed properly.

      Contrast - Vodamoan ordered line from BT OpenRetch, wrong cabinet specified so they should have just ordered a cease and reprovide. After months and months of phone calls they still didn't understand. We also got a line installed from another provider which thanks to BTOR incompetence also had the same problem. However this other provider knew the tricks and got a working line in under 2 weeks. It helps when the provider employs people with a clue rather than script monkeys. Like A&A and Zen, not the cheapest but we always found Gradwell to be good at fixing things when it went wrong.

      To be fair to everyone involved, the premises was supplied by two different cabinets - it's just that only a few of the units were off one cabinet - but that cabinet was the one that came up first in the address search. Also, the BTOR chap that came to install the Gradwell provided line tried really hard to find a routing that would connect the line as provisioned - but there was just no route as the cabling from the cabinet the line was provisioned on went no-where near our unit.

      As an aside, the BTOR guys can fix a phone line by going into the systems and changing the routing to deliver it via the right cabinet - and changing the jumpering at the exchange. Apparently it's Ofcon rules to curb BT's anti-competitive behaviour that stop them doing the same with the FTTC connections - they have to return the job so it gets flagged to the ISP, who have to order a cease and re-provide on the service to get it delivered via the right cabinet.

      Needless to say, we found Clueless and Witless went downhill in service standards after Vodamoan acquired them.

      1. smudge

        Re: I'm with Vodafone

        Needless to say, we found Clueless and Witless went downhill in service standards after Vodamoan acquired them.

        And those of us who had been with Demon for many, many years could only look on in horror as Demon was eaten up by Thus, then flogged to C&W, and then to Vodafone :(

        I tell a lie - actually, we could do more than look on. I am now with Zen.

        1. Blofeld's Cat

          Re: I'm with Vodafone

          "... with Demon for many years ... "

          I too have travelled this route.

          Having signed up with Demon in 300 baud days I still twitched slightly when you mentioned Thus. (Wasn't Scottish Power also involved in that trail of tears somewhere?)

          I have now been with Zen for many years and the hollowed out volcano also moved all their IT and phones to them a few years ago.

          The last outage either of us suffered was when a passing truck scythed down the overhead lines, which doesn't count. Having been reported to Zen, the line was restored by BT's engineers in less than 24 hours, so no complaints there either.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm with Vodafone

            "Having signed up with Demon in 300 baud days I still twitched slightly when you mentioned Thus. (Wasn't Scottish Power also involved in that trail of tears somewhere?)"

            so you signed up a decade before they launched? Impressive ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm with Vodafone

      A friend recently moved from Post Office exchange local loop - to Vodafone for FTTC and landline phone.

      The new broadband worked ok - but they couldn't transfer her old phone number. They allocated a "temporary" one.

      Several months later after much badgering - Vodafone said they couldn't get Post Office to release her old number so the "temporary" one has now had to become permanent. The old number just says "unobtainable" - so it hasn't been given to someone else.

      Is there any technical reason why moving to FTTC should have made it impossible to move the old number?

      1. Humpty McNumpty

        the number thing is weird

        When I switched to Vodafone I forgot to tick the "I want to keep my number box"; I realised after ordering but before it was set up. When I called to say "hang on a sec I don't don't a new number" they told me they couldn't let me keep the old one anymore as they weren't allowed to transfer it but they could cancel the whole process. I figured sod it that is a few cold callers who won't have my number...

        The service itself - for months/years they refused to tell anyone how to use their own router (they had family based ussge control focus to start), the supplied router is pretty poor, and had many weird quirks including at one point not letting the LAN devices talk to the WiFi devices.

        I don't get sync speeds anything like BT/Vodafones tool think I should get 41M instead of "61 minimum" but I have no idea if that is the router or the fact my house still has a twin solidcore drop not the modern multicore cable. Like any other ISP the DNS is pants but otherwise uptime has been perfectly adequate and it is cheap as chips and has got cheaper. For gaming I get pings under 40 for a decent number of servers and Netflix/Prime/iPlayer work as they should, what more do you need?

        From the (terrible) forums I get the impression the support if you need it is shockingly bad and from experience if you use the online support they will take you through your security questions check your account and then tell you theres nothing they can do you have to call the sales line (all I wanted to do was renew).

        Back when self install was new I used Zen (and 8IPs because old routers couldn't handle the NAT table for hefty piracy).. it was great but if you don't need the support, why pay for it

        1. Danny 14

          Re: the number thing is weird

          we use a vodafone backup fibre at work. 25 a month and its been rock solid for us. we pipe all the guest internet through the backup and cut that if we failover. router was a standard thomson affair which we put into modem mode and plugged into our pfsense box.

    3. Rathernicelydone

      Re: I'm with Vodafone

      Same here. I joined Vodafone broadband whilst an employee on their trial and kept it even when I left the company. Service is generally reliable and I get a stable 60Mb download speed with little contention although perhaps that may be down to the lack of customers they have! When I have used their chat function to request changes such as outbound calls barred it has been done - there are very few things they can't do over chat. Router is completely rubbish though - I turned off the wifi and connected a 3 disc BT Whole Home Wifi for good coverage at home. Also no billing issues thank god!

  6. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    Virgin Media.

    I really tech and networks savvy, but am really fed up. If anyone has any ideas whom I replace them with in the South Hampshire area... maybe I'll have a look at Zen.

    They are utterly useless. I've had no broadband connectivity since 21:15 on Monday evening. The VM online status page still says that there are no issues, and this was reflected by the utterly incompetent call centre bod who didn't seem to have a clue (or even seem to care) either.

    I've checked everything my end and it's all ok. So over to you VM...

    And... all of this within the context of yet another mid contract cost increase.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Virgin Media.

      Had my superhub 2 'upgraded' to a 3 a few weeks ago.

      What a pile of poo

      Plus the phone only seems to work for about a week after the engineer has 'fixed' it again (looking at the local phone cabinet.. I'm surprised any of it works..)

      But why dont you switch?

      Because openretch supplied BB is even worse....

      1. Nick Kew

        Re: Virgin Media.

        Because openretch supplied BB is even worse....


        Compare and contrast When BT died on me vs When Virgin first died on me.

        Whereas the BT line remained fine thereafter until my house move four years later, Virgin always had a lot of problems. And their customer support is inspired by Kafka's castle.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Virgin Media.

      I left VM this year after being subjected to their rubbish for way too long.

      The VM supplied router would kick connections off or no allow connections when more than 10 devices connected, or just randomly until it was rebooted.

      The speeds were up and down like a yo-yo. The speed was throttled to absolutely barely useable once due to a cctv camera uploading a few hours of live footage to the cloud even though our overall data use was tiny.

      The basic TV package has lees channels than freeview or freesat. The VM tivo box was so slow I had to use the catch-up services built in to the TV as they were about 15 times faster (even after removing the cache on the VM box).

      There probably wasn't a day that went by where someone didn't swear at VM in our household. So I switched to Freesat (had an old dish already up from previous occupants) and a Now TV broadband connection which has not had any issues at all so far and was a third of the price and works faster than VM even though the service paid for is slightly slower. I chose on price rather than think Now broadband would be anything special.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Virgin Media.

      "If anyone has any ideas whom I replace them with in the South Hampshire area"

      Personally, I've been with PlusNet for 3 years without problems. I'm on their ADSL package, and get 2.4MB/s (~20Mb/s) down, which seems fine. No outages that I've noticed, other than the one The Register covered.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm now on my 3rd line (lift and shift) due to the shit quality of rotten old bellwire that BT likes to hook your premises up to their shiny new FTTC cabinets. This old crap laid down when people had handle bar moustaches and wore tweed is not fucking fit for 21st century digital communications

    1. Danny 14

      aluminium cable up here. loss is measured in meters rather than km on that. luckily the green box is over the road, we still only get 59Mb out of 80 due to the shite cable. Still im not moaning as i realise it is a lot better then others get.

  8. Baldrickk

    Truth, Lies and Statistics?

    Comparing the two different sources of info in the article, is the Which? graph based purely on absolute numbers?

    Because the Ofcom graph shows that VM are below the industry average per capita

    With a larger customer base, but the same problem density, you're going to have a lot more complaints.

  9. 0laf Silver badge

    PN, donkeys!

    Switched recently from Plusnet to SSE.

    Previously (2yr ago) I stayed with PN during a house move. They royally fucked it up and I was without service for 6 weeks. They offered vapourware refunds and refused to let me raise a complaint. I ran out of energy to continue the process since I was dealing with some other big personal issues at the time.

    Shifted to SSE the other month who were offering (after cashback) 35Mb fibre and phone for £15 a month less than PN offered to keep me. They also switched me over on the day with less than 1hr of downtime and it's a one month rolling contract so if they are shit I can switch again without much delay.

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: PN, donkeys!

      I had that problem with Plusnet, but stuck with them because others in my experience were much worse.

      Only left plusnet when another house move took me where broadband-over-copper-or-openreach wasn't available. Signed up with Virgin in my folly, for a long nightmare. But now on EE 4G which, like plusnet, is mostly-OK.

    2. Graham 32

      Re: PN, donkeys!

      > "one month rolling contract so if they are shit I can switch again"

      This! A short contract says the company is confident in their service you'll want to stay. I'm even happy to pay a setup fee because I realise companies have costs associated with the setup. I don't like 12 month contracts but the 18 and even 24 months some ask for are ridiculous. And they own your phone line until you've paid up so you can't even try out a competitor before dropping the current service. Such a horrible market. I'm hoping mobile broadband will take off to fix the lock in.

      Also I rent my home. The fixed term let and expired and so converted to a default rolling contract cos there's no reason to keep paying the letting agent contract arrangement fees (photocopying + postage fees!) every year. So the landlord can kick me out with 2 months notice. Making any commitment to a utility for more than 6 months feels like a risk.

  10. Cuddles

    A bit more information please

    What does any of this actually mean? Some people were apparently surveyed in some way. What were they asked, and what responses were possible? Are the numbers presented absolute or some proportion? 100 people per 100,000 would be huge, 100 total would be tiny, 100 out of some sample specifically prompted to voice their complaints would be something depending on the questions. As it stands, there's no meaningful information being presented here at all, and not even a link to where it all came from to allow us to go and check.

    Edit: Ah, just noticed it's an Orlowski article. I really need to get better at checking that before I waste my time reading.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A bit more information please

      er... you need to log in to get access to this kind of information (chuckle)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've had no problem with BT

    I switched to them two years ago for their FTTC. I wanted static IPs and no limit so I bought the business package. I've had one outage when somebody working on the cabinet screwed something up but it got fixed pretty quickly.

    Mind you that is the only time I call them. Any other issues I can generally deal with myself.

    1. Chz

      Re: I've had no problem with BT

      When I moved to BT in 2010, they were the only option other than (*hack* *spit*) Virgin for a fast service. I could bemoan the price of Infinity 2, but I've had the full 76Mbps from day one, Inf2 is unthrottled, and outages have been quite rare. I've zero doubts that Zen would provide better customer service, but I haven't needed customer service and so I stay where I am.

      I think it would be a bit different were I to switch today. The VDSL2 modem is now built into the HomeHub, which would make running my own OpenWRT router slightly more complex. I'm sure it's still doable, but just more annoying to actually have to deal with the HH instead of having it in a box in a locked filing cabinet in the basement where it belongs.

  12. tentimes

    Glad I changed 2 years ago

    I changed from BT to Zen 2 years ago and it was a good decision. I get faster speeds and have only had one issue and this was down the BT rather than Zen. They seem to offer better reliability even though they operate over BT's network. And you get a real person to talk if it does go wrong. No checking of whether you are wearing brown shoes and your fingers are crossed, your network card certified, windows registry operating and all the other hundreds of things BT got you to check to make it your fault instead of theirs when it goes wrong. Instead, for the one hour of outage I have had I got a simple explanation and an immediate fess-up. BT are wankers.

  13. Keith Oborn

    Usual flawed and partial statistics

    One thing is for sure: you pay peanuts--. Having been inside the industry (not any more) for some time, the main problem is the race to the bottom on price. That means less money to run the network, less to pay good support people, etc.

    Zen and AA have persistent good reputations going back years. I'd add Eclipse, who I've been with since 2002, and despite them being acquired by Kcom, they also provide good service and good support.

    This report also fails to explain to customers who they are actually dealing with. For instance, Plusnet is owned by BT, and is only partly independent, most particularly at the network level. Post Office is entirely operated by TalkTalk - and so on.

    And below that of course in all but one case you are reliant on the Openreach local loop to the street cab (for VDSL) or the exchange. If you report a fault, your ISP has to call OR. Now OR's field staff seem very good (afaik they are actually employees, not contractors), but there is a chain of command problem there.

    The "one case" is of course VM. afaik field staff are contractors, although I think that may have changed. Problem is that DOCSIS, being a shared medium on the "local loop" can suffer congestion on the last mile, and also has inherently more difficult latency characteristics even when not saturated. Add to that the problem of street cabinet maintenance: cable systems are rather like token ring, and any single loose screw-on F connector can mess up the whole segment. xDSL doesn't have these problems - if your Krone connection is bad it only affects you - but does have the well-known speed/range problem.

    Call centre staff have no clue about all of this, and no control even if they did.

    Marketing is very guilty: "Fibre broadband" (no it isn't), "Speed up to xxx" (downhill with a following wind if you live next to the exchange and the entire route to the destination (let's say Facebook) is uncongested). "Lowest price" (no, we can't afford to pay to keep it working or answer your calls). Etc.

    It's a wild west industry still.

  14. adam payne

    "We designed our network with a level of resilience and capacity," Zen founder and chairman Richard Tang told us recently. The company isn't the cheapest, but hires tech-savvy support staff.

    Moved to Zen years ago and never had a problem, rock solid.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ISPs' biggest mistake - Including Wi-Fi routers

    I do wonder how these complaints statistics would look if ISPs still provided a basic DSL modem only, transferring the problem of crap routers and poorly positioned Wi-Fi to the end user.

    Here's how I think those support calls would go:

    Customer : My internet is sh*t.

    ISP : Try again from your PC/laptop directly connected through the DSL modem. How is that?

    Customer : Yes, that works fine.

    ISP : Great! It's not an ISP issue. Goodbye.

    Case in point, I've been with the apparently much bemoaned Virgin Media for 10+ years at three different addresses and have never been without service (that I've noticed). However, I've always used VM's cable modem, or hub in "modem mode", with my own firewall, router, DNS, and wireless deployment in use.

    1. circusmole

      Re: ISPs' biggest mistake - Including Wi-Fi routers

      I switched from Sky who offered me 18Mb/sec FTTC to Virgin who offered FTTP at 200Mb/sec for less money! However the Virgin router's wireless is absolute crap so I also use it in modem mode with my own router - works a treat. I am not an apologist for Virgin but in 10 months I have had one short outage and the speed has been a revelation. When I was with Sky I had an outage a week on average, some lasting hours.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ISPs' biggest mistake - Including Wi-Fi routers

      Working for a WISP that does exactly that, it doesn't work. "But my wifi.."

    3. Phil Endecott

      Re: ISPs' biggest mistake - Including Wi-Fi routers

      > Try again from your PC/laptop directly connected through the DSL modem.

      Some large and growing fraction of customers will only have wifi devices.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virgin works like a charm

    Virgin works like a charm. If you use it the right way:

    1. Put the modem in bridge mode and install a proper CPE behind it. That for SH3 means losing up to half the bandwidth for the higher line rates, but it is better to have half that works than all that does not.

    2. Check your line quality stats. They are shown by the SH even without authentication - the key metrics on the downstream page are power (should be within +/-5 dBmV) and RxMER (it is form of expressing signal to noise) - should be above 37dB on a sunny day and not worse than 35 on a rainy one. If it is less, the speed will be line rate initially after a modem reset and then slowly drop to about 5MB over time.

    3. Never ever use Virgin DNS. The DNS and other infra was marked as "non-revenue generating" by some wise MBA wielding moron around ~ 2003 and it has never recovered from that.

    If you have issue with Virgin it is either one of these three.

    1 - Can be solved by attenuators (if it is too high) available from Amazon or eBay. If it is too low and the solution for 2 does not fix it, you may need to deal with their support and engineers (my commiserations).

    2 - The most likely cause is that the muppet who installed it did not use a spanner on the cables. they never do - it is tightened by hand and to nowhere near the required torque. Unscrew, clean and tighen up with a spanner all connections starting from the box on the outside of your house.

    3. Just point to Google or Level3 resolvers.

    Never use Virgin support unless you really need it - they will try to upsell you new SH or a new package instead of fixing 1, 2 or 3 which are the real root causes.

    When all of these are taken care of it has four 9+ availability, uptime in months and delivers line rate for most of the day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Virgin works like a charm

      In-line with my own post, I agree 100% with each and every point you've made there AC. My own experience and understanding confirms it.

    2. BanburyBill

      Re: Virgin works like a charm

      What He Says. Put the Virgin 'router' straight into modem mode, connect to OpenWrt router, check line quality, fit (or remove) attenuators as required, chose Google/Quad9/Quad1 or any other public resolver for your DNS, and you'll be right.

      That's my setup. I have a lot of folk in my area whinging over their VM connection on FB, and I've been rock stable for months, modulo one few hour outage caused (I think) by them rolling my DHCP lease.

    3. Keith Oborn

      Re: Virgin works like a charm

      :-) - I love the bit about DNS. I was responsible for the VM DNS from 2003 onwards, and from 2006 onwards we could demonstrate, via Ofcom/SamKnows distributed test probes from real customer lines (not selected by us, BTW), that it was the fastest of all the "majors" by a factor of 3 over the next best.

      From 2007 onwards it was also "revenue generating", in that it produced sufficient income to fully offset the NPV capex and opex.

      Perhaps you had a different problem? What I do know is that ALL ISPs have a standard "customer moan" in their list: "Crap DNS", when it's actually something else entirely. Getting that out of the call centre response scripts is a losing battle. VM's CC folk used to recommend users swap to, despite that being 4-5 times slower, when the actual problem was usually a poor last-mile signal to noise on the upstream (a bane of cable systems, BTW). We banged our heads against that wall on a weekly basis.

      VM are not alone in this: find me a major ISP that doesn't have the same problem and I'll buy it for you. The company, not the service ;-)

    4. kpanchev

      Re: Virgin works like a charm

      I agree with almost everything you said, apart from the second part of point 1. If you use the SH3 in modem mode, the only thing you loose is the sh*tty wi-fi feature, the speed works as it should. It did have a problem in the beginning with high latency levels, which messed up the experience for the gamers, but speed-wise it is top-notch. This issue is fixed now so overall a top service. I pay for the 200Mb/s and get 220Mb/s almost constantly (I use Samknows monitoring box so I do know that the speed is constant).

      I think that the more customers an ISP has the higher number of complaints they will have. The survey does not say anything about if this persentages are out of their total sample or out of the sample of a given provider. But again, it is an Andrew Orlowski article, so what else could you expect?

  17. steviebuk Silver badge

    I'm not a fan of Virgin...

    ...and their forcing their own DNS on you. No option to centrally change DNS on their router and their route has insecure login. But I do get judt over 200Mbs down but if I search my address on Zen they say I can only get 54Mbs down so I'm confused. I'd rather go with Zen (although my partner likes all the Virgin TV packages and their PVR so might be stuck with it)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not a fan of Virgin...

      Virgin Media use their own exclusive network, which is how they deliver the 200Mb to you. You're quite right that the DNS lock-down in their router is rubbish, so you might want to do some Googling on how to use your own router with VM's hub in 'modem mode', which would then allow you to use an alternative such as OpenDNS.

      As it stands, ZEN, like pretty much all of the others, are limited to using Opernreach's infrastructure, which in most cases will only deliver around 50-80Mb down.

    2. Keith Oborn

      Re: I'm not a fan of Virgin...

      Don't confuse downstream bandwidth with perceived performance. Latency is a particular problem on cable networks, as is upstream bandwidth. No good having 200Mbps downstream if it takes 500ms for a request packet to crawl upstream, and another 200ms for the first response to arrive.

      As for DNS, NEVER use the ISP router for this. If their DHCP forces it, find out the DNS IPs the router itself uses, and use those on the clients. Home routers are essentially all pieces of crap. If you want to get a little creative, a Raspberry Pi makes a really good home router/firewall/DNS server.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: I'm not a fan of Virgin...

        are rasp pi's still usb2? If so how do you intend leveraging 200Mb internet and routing on a rasp pi? Surely a single client will saturate the USB bus before saturating the internet line.

        1. swampdog

          Re: I'm not a fan of Virgin...

          The rpi3B+ purports to be 300Mb and I can't really test mine as it's running off an NFS mount but running iftop on it whilst transferring a 1G /dev/urandom file to a PC saw the total approx 250Mb.

          However, I'm using an old rpi1 (100Mb) as NAT/firewall and it can only get 35Mb down(*) and 5Mb up from my supposedly (70 or 100Mb) VM connection - I forget what the last "free" upgrade was - so I've been in no hurry to update that rpi. The inbuilt ethernet is connected to the VM hub (in modem mode) and the intranet is sat behind it..

          $ lsusb | grep -i eth

          Bus 001 Device 004: ID 0b95:772a ASIX Electronics Corp. AX88772A Fast Ethernet

          ..which all adds up to be good enough for the wench to play her MMO or for both of us to be steaming video simultaneously.

          Another internal rpi3 does NTP/DHCP/DNS (preferring before because both those are shite so it helps to not have to resolve more than once. The wireless routers have most stuff turned off, MAC address filtering enabled(**) and just point at this rpi3.

          (*) Across both ethernet that probably adds up.

          (**) I have enough bother having to leave sshd open on the rpi1 without worrying about VM superhub wireless!

          1. Keith Oborn

            Re: I'm not a fan of Virgin...

            My pi setup uses a several year old pi b, and indeed one of the nics is on the USB. I tested it and it can support 40Mbps bidirectional when NATting. As my downstream VDSL is only 16Mbps that's fine. It was not compute-bound, so I suspect this is the USB limiting things.

            Haven't looked at the newer models, but a 3B should do a lot better if you use it's wireless NIC for the internal side. Even then, you may not get 200Mbps overall simply because of the real-world performance of 802.11 b/g/n/ac, but a bit more creativity would use one or more of the USB ports to run wired network segments for some stuff and offload the wifi.

            ISPs selling 200Mbps or more services should really take a long hard stare at what wifi can actually deliver on the LAN side. It would help with customer complaints.

  18. Jeffrey Nonken

    I get excellent customer service from a local ISP named Omsoft. And yes, the "om" stands for exactly what you think it does.

    Something to contemplate.

  19. Wolfclaw

    No point moaning about VM, they have it written in to T&C's that they reserve the right to suck !

    1. Nick Kew

      Upvote for the home truth, but is it also in their T&Cs that they be impossible to contact when things fail, and even their high street shop will send you packing?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    81 per cent of those surveyed haven't switched in over two years

    given my choice to whinge about is either 100mb/s virgin, or up to this or that broadband (+ phone line rental rip off charges), I'm not surprised that I haven't switched my provider in over two years... So, a matter of necessity, not choice.

    1. Big_Boomer Silver badge

      Re: 81 per cent of those surveyed haven't switched in over two years

      Agreed, kinda like British Political Parties, you have the choice between shit, crap, excrement, and poop. The more you pay, the more politely their rubbish service is delivered. Yes, I'm a GoM, but service seems to be assuming mythical status these days. Even my window cleaner can't be arsed to show up regularly any more.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another vote for Zen. Was with TalkTalk (not through choice, through acquisition) and needed a static IP. Couldn't get that on home packages, only business packages, but "Steve", "Tony" and "Ian" in Bangalore had no idea what I was on about so I gave up and a mate recommended Zen.

    No Zen isn't the cheapest, but it's been rock solid from day one.

  22. G R Goslin

    Zen, efficient. Don't make me laugh.

    I moved to Zen solely because my village was about to be one of the few to get fttp. My troubles began the moment I signed up. It took countless calls from me to Zen, to get them off their backsides to get BT off theirs. It took eight weeks to get a connection, even thought the termination unit was on a pole only about 30 feet away. When it was finally connected, I found that none of my emails was reaching me. I could send emails out, even to myself, but nothing came back. After many frustrating calls to their help desk, where they assured me that there was no problem, they finally came out with it and told me that they were not prepared to do anything about it. So, to get email, I had to go back to my previous ISP, with whom I had an excellent service, and take out an email only service. Much earlier, even before connection was made, I tried to back out, only to be told that I was locked in until the end of the contract period. Twelve months. I can hardly wait to move to a better service who do give the customer the service that he is paying for. The only thing they did on time, was to send me a modem/router, which was so cheap and nasty, that I put it back in the box and bought a proper one.

  23. crediblywitless

    Mostly troublefree, yes, but when Zen does screw up it can do it impressively. A week without any service after a service change they said I'd ordered, but I hadn't, and then being told "ooh, well, we have to wait 48 hours until we can raise a call" and "ooh, well, we have to wait 48 hours for a response", etc., and then towards the end of the week cancelling my service "as you requested", except I didn't. Zen definitely used to be much better, and they may well still be the best there is, but I get a "lackadaisical" impression when I have to make contact, these days.

    Still a Zen customer, but wary.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Problem seems to be a lot of new hires and unfortunately nearly all of them are young British Asian men from the Pakistani diasporia, the ones who get treated as "little princes" by their parents growing up and none of them have a clue what they are talking about and more front than a used car salesman (which I wouldn't be surprised to find out they used to be in the past)

      Major hassles and excuses, refusals to get managers despite crap service and customer support.

      If it wasn't for A&A cap being so low (my partner does vlogging and video editing as a hobby inc 4K) then I'd change over as I'm so unimpressed by their staff knowldge levels (seriously Sky were of late more willing to get stuff sorted out and their tech support has come on leaps and bounds since they started doing BB back in the mid 00s)

  24. Spanners Silver badge

    I miss the squashed frog modem!

    Now, VM supply a superhub, I either use their shanky kit or have two of them with their one just being some some sort of "pass through".

    I remember laughing at the name they called it, until I actually got the flat green conversation piece. That was something I never had a problem with.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I smell a rat with Utility Warehouse, have their army of pyramid sellers been at it again ?

    That place is like the Church of Scientology.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fair comparison?

    If I understand correctly VM provide two services, if you're not in their one of their cabled areas you get the same poorer connection type as the rest of UK, including ZEN so at best half my current broadband speed. I assume VM cable means they have better control of the overall service as they own the infrastructure between them and the customer whereas anyone else's "superfast fibre" is the re-badged BT service.

    The picture for VM might look better if it was judged on their proprietary cable only.

    I've been with VM since they cabled our street - over 20 years. I appreciate the fast broadband and it usually delivers the quoted speed (150Mbps, option of switching to 350Mbps - but £££), none of these "up to" speeds everyone else offers. I've got no gripes with support, outages are rare and usually fixed promptly. My issue is the continual price-hikes and I seem to be trapped and paying £800 a year (TV, Phone, Broadband). To switch I'd tackle the issue by getting a second broadband service alongside VM 'till it's proven good enough but that means getting a land-line installed £££ and then replacing the Cable TV (broadcast TV reception is patchy here) - but then if the alternative proved to be poor, I'd probably be on a minimum contract length so dropping either that or VM would be a difficult choice.

  27. David McCarthy for us

    After a personal recommendation in 2006, we moved from troublesome PlusNet to They are a smallish outfit who never get into the league tables because they have stayed small. They are based in the Hastings area.

    They answer the phones, they call back when they promise to. There are no call centre staff, just technical engineers. Some of the people we've got to know over the years are still there. And what's more important, some of them know us. We only have a 70meg broadband service ... no phones, nothing fancy ... and yet they make us feel that we are important to them.

    We've had a number of speed increases at no extra cost ... in fact the cost hasn't gone up for several years.

    And if there's a problem with the BT infrastructure ... they do all the chasing and kicking.

    So long as they don't sell out to a big outfit (as happened to our hosting service two years ago), we would never move.

    Do we recommend Beaming? All the time!

  28. Graham Triggs

    "As Whinge? noted, 81 per cent of those surveyed haven't switched in over two years"

    Not to disregard switching as being a solution in some cases, how about we just get fair prices to being with, not all these good new customer deals and terrible treatment of long term customers which means we HAVE to keep switching every couple of years.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Current Zen customer but not impressed at all - Technically astute, yeah they wish.....

    Took more than 5 calls for them to call out openreach, despite my line well below the bottom end estimated speed range, even after it fell well below the handback threshold they didn't want to call out Openreach saying it could cost over a hundred pounds if openreach can't find a fault and are you sure you just can't live with it?

    Constantly mixing up bottom estimate and handback threshold (2 different things entirely) inc lying that they were the same thing and they could assure me I was wrong and just didn't understand and they were technical experts (no, no your not, especially when my BS-o-meter near explodes from some of the pseudotechnical waffle at least 2 resorted to aka trying to blind with BS....they finally stopped when I quoted from the Openreach technical explanation notes....and even then they tried to argue we were both right.....)

    Line still isn't great even after openreach came out and swapped pairs in the pit down the street as my neighbour boxed in their junction box (preventing that being checked and connections remade) and the openreach engineer "didn't want to get into an argument about it" neither did his manager, nor their customer support team "We would get access if it was necessary" - well given my line is just hitting bottom end of estimate, I would imagine that connections in said junction box needs looked at (engineer admitted no one had done any maintenance on that junction box in decades as it hadn't been locatable)

    Oh but its all ok according to openreach "when we install the full fibre network we will bypass that issue" - Yeah so maybe just before I die of old age around 2060 you might just possibly have gotten around to it....totally pathetic

    Waterboard when said same neighbour paved over their sewer innspection hatches and was denied entry, went and fetched a pickaxe to resolve the paving issue,

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