back to article Working from home on Virgin Media's broadband? Too bad. Outage hits English capital

Just days after the ISP boasted about its network resilience in the face of spiking post-lockdown broadband usage, Virgin Media's customers across the UK capital are reporting being unable to get online as they attempt to work from home, do their schoolwork and watch Netflix. The outage began around 8am UK time this morning …

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    1. Steve 53

      While the outage is obviously badly timed, heavy penalties for service outages will have unexpected outcome.

      The expected outcome, of course, is that they're willing to pay more to put more resilience into the system in order to avoid the fines. This will sort of work, although it's likely that you'll see such costs passed onto the consumer.

      The unexpected outcome is that the management team will start of have an unhealthy relationship with risk, suddenly upgrades are too risky to do, they end up on old software upgrades. Capacity upgrades are also risky, so they hold off on the capacity upgrades because they don't have financial penalties for capacity problems, but they do for outages.

      The other problem is expectation of uninterrupted service on a consumer line. It's just not realistic that consumer services have 100% uptime; get a backup (4G router is cheap enough)

      It's a free market, and IMHO the best thing you can do is jump ship if you don't like it. Virgin have had poor reliability with opaque service status messages (Our engineers are working to fix the problem as soon as possible...) since before they were virgin...

      We moved to AAISP and are happier for it. Yes, some outages, normally very quick to advise of issues and generally pretty transparent with what went wrong and what they're doing to fix it. (Except DDOS attacks, for obvious reasons)

      1. john.jones.name
        Mushroom

        actually you pay for it

        yes the upgrade might be risky but the reward is you can sell a higher bandwidth package... thats how it works... people vote with their wallets

        personally I would prefer if ISP's would charge the contract owner if they got notified of bad traffic just like they do with corporate contracts.

        that would force people to actually put some effort into not have infected virus laden machines lingering on their home wifi and incentivize people

        having a network that supports things like DNSSEC and IPv6 would be useful not only for scalability but for network admins helping the end user track down which machine was the problem & billing, much like mobile networks do now (most mobile networks are IPv6 )

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes. But purely giving people a required discount for failure to provide the service (service outages are obviously, failure to provide service) is more reasonable both parties.

        Currently it seems to only be a contract to protect the ISP, as if it goes down for days/weeks, what you gonna do?

        Me? I'm about to cancel my ISP, as it's gone down just as I need to do a zoom conference. Phone calls tomorrows I think, or just cancelling and sending a letter to them, financial ombudsman (the ISP will no doubt bill me for the cancellation for their inability to provide service) and trading standards/consumer protection authorities.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          >Me? I'm about to cancel my ISP, as it's gone down just as I need to do a zoom conference. Phone calls tomorrows I think, or just cancelling and sending a letter to them

          Why?

          Got a mobile phone with +2GB data then more than enough for a couple of hours of Zoom.

          I appreciate that currently things are a little difficult (ie. getting hold of SIMs and gismos is not just a quick trip to the high st.) , but if you are going to be working from home in the future and also have kids having online lessons, I suggest you need to be thinking a lot more seriously about Internet connection backup. A MiFi and a PAYG SIM with a decent ad-hoc data topup might be a good starting point.

          Personally, having just had the engineer out to repair a failing FTTC connection, I'm now playing around with a spare Draytek 286xx router with the view to replace my ISP provided router with something that provides automatic load balancing and failover and so rest of family aren't waiting for dad to fix the Internet... Obviously, the current router (like its 3G predecessor) goes on the shelf, just in case its replacement fails...

          Yes it costs money, but that is less hassle than having to deal with wife (who can't Zoom/receive email) and teenagers who can't do their schoolwork or chat/game with their friends...

          1. G Olson

            Why not a service instead of home sysadmin

            Great plan for you, me, and the rest of sysadmin world for whom this is just another exercise. This just beckons for a home ISP provider who provides redundant failover solutions thru partnerships or a bundle provider. Sounds like a glimmer of a business plan.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Because it was the phone with infinite data that lost service. ;)

            I also have a backup, made the error of putting both on the same backhaul provider (different consumer facing ISPs). Was waiting to switch one or the other to a different provider, and see it's not worth waiting till the contract ends, and don't want to leave the one that has been reliable (the system going down for them also is more a one off and I want to keep the number, so will wait to transfer that one).

    2. PermissionToSpeakPlease

      With ISPs you roughly get what you pay for though.

      If you want a service with SLAs and pentalties, you can probably get it, but you'll be paying more than what you're paying for your Virgin connection.

      As another VM customer, I would rather keep it as-is. If you force them (and others) into financial penalties for outages, then all prices would go up. I'd rather go with my existing and cheap backup plan (tethering over 4g phone connection)

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        As another VM customer, I would rather keep it as-is.

        Me too. Yes, it's bloody annoying when it goes down and I am forced to realise how unhealthily important always available access has become in my life, but one has to accept that bad things sometimes happen.

        For when those bad things do happen, take too long to fix, there's always free to call customer services and polite requests for a little compensation. At one time I was saving a fortune through that but it now only serves to remind me how much better VM have become since that rough patch.

        They aren't perfect, but no one is, and they aren't the worse.

        1. Not also known as SC

          "there's always free to call customer services and polite requests for a little compensation"

          You don't even need to do that. Just visit your account page and click the service link to register that you have a loss of service (assuming you have mobile data) and if the outage last more than a certain amount of time you will be automatically credited.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Yes, I like it the way it is. Outages are rare for me (1 in 2 years) and I have a reciprocal deal with my neighbour - if he loses his ADSL or I my cable we can use each other's WiFi. He's been on mine way more times than I his.

          I would prefer an excuse to sit in my garden, but last resort 4G hotspot will mean I never get that good fortune.

      2. Dippywood

        Virgin Media Business offer SLAs etc. When I switched from consumer to business it actually cost just slightly less, and there's no in-contract price increases. Of course, if you want an email service, you are out of luck, but you can have a static address with a PTR record to run your own.

        Having said that, it can still take an age to get something fixed, but at least you have a proper customer service person to complain to - on the consumer side the customer service is truly appalling.

        If I had a decent alternative (my phone line under the ground is aluminium and noisy as hell, so I am stuck with cable) I'd move. The first company to make me a good FFTP offer will probably win.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          >The first company to make me a good FFTP offer will probably win.

          Need to keep an eye on the BT website. They are now providing FTTP in my area, but currently only via BT, no one else including EE are offering it.

          I was hoping that the engineer would be unable to fix my failing FTTC line, as the published BT FTTP prices were only a couple of £pm more expensive and that would probably be waviered for the remainder of my current contract...

    3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      " ... tripled for every hour of outage ... "

      Never done the sum about grains of rice and a chess board have we?

  2. wyatt

    We've lost our customer service team who are working from home in the London area, fortunately we can re-route calls to different users. However, if this had been wider then we'd have lost our office connectivity and PBX access which would make it more interesting. We have some redundancy but if it'd be enough I'm not sure.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      A business shouldn't be relying on domestic retail broadband service.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Coat

        Try telling that to some people who run these companies, I remember my time from ISP Helldesk of one customer having some crappy 5 port switch fail. The staff member was yelled at by the boss, but we didn't provide it. Their boss didn't like it when I said we didn't support the switch and refused my recommendation to run longer cables to the provided 5 port ADSL router (Our routers were pretty basic Conexant devices with no customisation at all and no wifi) or simply replace the failed switch as for some very odd reason only 1 person was connected directly to it.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          *1 person was connected directly to the router with a second used by the failed switch

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I get how us techie types LIKE to know what the problem is, but to be quite honest, who gives a damn? It's not going to get it fixed any quicker.

    All we need to know is that it's not a problem on our end so we can stop rebooting routers and wait until it's all back online or make alternate arrangements. Seriously, it's a home service. You want redundancy? Go sign up for 2 ISPs and use one as a backup.

    But then, VM where I live has been highly reliable with only a couple of short outages in the past 4 years that I can recall. Certainly I've been with worse ISPs over the past 20 years.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Seriously, it's a home service. You want redundancy? Go sign up for 2 ISPs and use one as a backup.

      ^ This. Some companies I know provide business-level SLA-backed and resilient backup services for their home workers by default, have temporarily provided that for those working at home during the current pandemic. Others just relied on residential services seeing them through.

      Ultimately one has to accept the consequences of one's choices.

    2. Quando

      Got an EE 80/20 as my backup. First I knew about the Virgin part of my setup being down was the email from UptimeRobot about it.

      The EE has been reliable, but Virgin is very fast (when it works).

    3. cb7

      "You want redundancy? Go sign up for 2 ISPs and use one as a backup."

      How many ISPs have their own core network? Heck, how many actually have their own edge network? Most of them simply rent the equipment off the incumbent and push the bill out to the customer.

      And let's not forget, most of the access network is owned by only eg 2 companies here in the UK.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        I think they mean have 2 consumer connections with 2 seperate routes, which would be Virgin Media and a second on BT Infrastructure (Only way I know of a consumer being able to get 2 different routes). However there are lots of places where both are not available and for a consumer may end up costing to much.

        I myself can get a 4G Router to get myself online if the worst comes to the worst (Just slap in my sim from my personal phone, unfortunatley the signal isnt great but better than nothing).

        1. donk1

          I did exactly this, when I bought my house I checks and now have BT and VM Broadband.

          Still waiting for BT FTTP though, apparently some argument with the local council has delayed it :-<<

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        >How many ISPs have their own core network?

        Well back in April, I found that both Three and 4GEE don't use the BT fibre trunk out of our area: fibre trunk got severed - took 3 weeks to repair, no fixed-line internet connections: residential or business; Three and 4GEE backup services continued...

        1. donk1

          Interesting I had only heard of BT and VM as having seperate paths to the door!

          I use both and my phone as backup.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            I also found it interesting as you don't have any real indication (other than with BT and VM) as to who is providing the backhaul and trunk infrastructures, until there is a fault (JCB or fire) that takes out a local POP or trunk. I previously thought EE would be using the BT trunk infrastructure.

  4. cheekybuddha

    Yay!

    Seems to have just come back online (13:50).

    Let's hope it stays up for a few hours at least!

  5. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    We have customers on Vermin (not in London) and they get an email from Virgin every few weeks about a planned outage for 'maintenance' and inevitably it runs past the 0600 end estimate, and they don't have internet service till 1100 or 1200. This shower of shit needs to be kicked into touch.

    1. james_smith Silver badge

      We're a Virgin business customer in central London, and we get those messages almost weekly. As well as overrunning the outage also causes the Virgin supplied router to stop trying to reconnect, resulting in a need to reboot the f*cker manually.

  6. cheekybuddha

    Oh FFS!

    Barely 15 minutes before it's gone down again!

    Grrr....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same shitty excuses

    Why is it that whenever there is an outage, ISPs have the same stock answers.

    "We are aware that SOME of our customers...........blah blah blah"

    Why is it always SOME ? there are thousands.

    Distinctly remember Talktalk when 3 hacks occured during one year, they isisted it was "SOME custoemrs " have been affected, when reality was hundreds of thousands were.

    ISPs should also be fined for using the term "SOME" !

    Corporate lies never get investigated or frowned upon.

    1. Oh Matron! Silver badge

      Re: Same shitty excuses

      I must have misheard my English lessons.

      I thought it went:

      None, some, many, most, all.

      Perhaps you need a piece of cake and a cup of tea.... That will make it alright.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Same shitty excuses

        Parts of London went down, so that IS everyone.

        Keep up.

        1. ChrisC

          Re: Same shitty excuses

          And parts of London didn't go down, so that's ALSO everyone. The problem must therefore have had a Schroedinger-esque quality to it, whereby it both did and didn't affect everyone at the same time.

          Keeping up is so hard to do when dealing with logic like this...

  8. Julian 8

    Its been a little flakey over the last couple of weeks with no service status messages and the helpdesk saying it is all fine. One script reader even offered me wireless extenders even though I said I am wired. hey ho

    I did a 30-30-30 reset on my hub which has reset me back to normal speeds, but I have had to do this twice in a year which is odd.

    Problem with moving for me is that because Virgin have cabled the area, BT are leaving just the old copper in and the speeds are worse, far worse as my SiL and family will testify (they have BT due to her husbands work) Means we are kind of tied in if we want fast broadband

  9. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Trollface

    Let's play Blockbusters!

    into a mega entity in a "blockbuster merger".

    So they can take the P please, Bob?

  10. MatthewSt Bronze badge
    Trollface

    No SLA?

    Don't know what you're talking about! OFCom have introduced automatic compensation of £8 per day if your connection remains offline for 2 consecutive days... Surely you can't want more than that?

    https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/costs-and-billing/automatic-compensation-need-know

  11. IGotOut Silver badge

    SLA's

    , account managers, hourly up dates, direct access to senior engineers, compensation, fault resolutions, preventive action details, redundant routes.

    Yup my last place had it and so can you.

    Just for £1.5m / year.

    Oh you want that for £20 a month?

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