Virgin Media calls foul on web speed testers
'We're just too quick for you'
Virgin Media believes it is being shafted by comparison sites offering ISP speed checks, and has called on them to improve their techniques ahead of the launch of its 50Mbit/s upgrade.
Switching sites are becoming an increasingly powerful force in the near-saturated broadband market. uSwitch recently said the tightening of household belts during the ongoing economic turmoil had prompted more internet users to change their ISP.
Virgin Media now says its lab tests show the web-based methods used by the comparison sites are often flawed, and that it will publish the results online. The firm is worried that mismeasurements of as much as 40 per cent will be further amplified once it boosts its top package from the current theoretical 20Mbit/s maximum download speed to 50Mbit/s next month.
Virgin Media has written to the biggest comparison sites to raise the concerns and pledged its own engineers' help on improving methods.
It's made some progress. Michael Phillips, product director of the comparison site Broadbandchoices.co.uk said: "The new 50Mbit/s product Virgin Media is launching is ahead of current testing technology. Consumers come to us for reliable information and we share Virgin Media's desire to improve the accuracy of the speed testing. We will work with Virgin Media to explore ways that we can develop our testing methodology."
Web-based speed testers typically work by timing how long it takes to download and upload a small file. Virgin Media charges that such a test only measures how long it takes for a file to get from one place in the internet to another, rather than actual throughput on a customer's line. The files transmitted are often too small to give an accurate picture too, it alleges. Other factors like processor power and the speed tester site's traffic can also skew results.
The issue has been kicking around in ISP and regulatory circles for a several months. When it launched a new broadband code of practice in June, Ofcom said it would build a new hardware-based speed testing method to provide consumers with reliable, independent performance data. The pilot network deployed by the industry analyst firm Samknows in May was the first stage of that programme.
Virgin Media of course hasn't intervened now for purely altruistic reasons; Ofcom's data won't be ready for public consumption for several months. More accurate speed checking will be in its interest when 50Mbit/s rolls out, as it'll be pushing its speed advantage of DSL rivals hard. ®
Bye, bye Virgin
Last from me on this subject.
Hadn't been using the p2p client for a couple of days. But over the last couple of weeks have noticed:
(a). Increasingly longer and longer periods required to connect to the VPN , Relakks, I've been reduced to using because Virgin is now no longer trustworthy in any respect over anything.
(b). The VPN method for p2p has gotten slower and slower. This again is Virgin at its fraudulent best. I've tested this during 'unlimited' periods. Set up a download (not a torrent) and have it come down the VPN - substantially less than half rate. Disconnect the VPN use the Virgin ISP [sic] connection direct and down it comes at near full rate.
(c). Today I'm back to using the p2p client and Relakks. But, after about ten minutes of Relakks-ing that VPN tunnel grinds to a halt. It VPN doesn't get disconnected - it just stops transferring data in either direction via the p2p client. I disconnect it several times during the day, reconnect (eventually - getting through the delay connection time stunt that Virgin has introduced) and start to torrent transfer. Result, a few minutes later it grinds to halt, again. Virgin at its fraudlent best, again.
(d.) Subscribe to a different VPN to give it a whirl. Pretty different, in the end I decide it looks like Virgin has a definite target on Relakks. That said the download rate is way reduced from previous experience so more of the same from Virgin.
So what now, dragged into playing more merry games the Virgin way?
No. I phone up accounts and say I'm canceling. There is a pause. Next thing I know I'm with sales. I get offered a lower price. I explain some of the stunts that Virgin is up to. I explain that they should be in Court on trading standards charges (at the very least). The woman is clueless. I cancel. In one month I'm out. Thank the Lord.
It boils down to ethics. Do I want to support this level of corruption in a company all under the umbrella of a so called 'fair use' clause? No, not by a single penny.
Telewest, to Virgin, to stunts, to crime. Sad story of Ofcon Approved TM and open fraud. I'm out.
Sadder still is that, as far as I can see, very few Reg readers actually get the plot. They'll argue and argue over co-ax and 'cable' and rarely do they show any sign of seeing the politics that are being played out, the precedents that are being set - financial, privacy, commercial ethics and standards etc. Do yourself a favour guys, and gals; stop arguing over the smoke (-screen), that's really playing the game they've set up for you to play. In the boardroom they'll love you for playing the part so well.
Have a very good look at the fire.
All I know is...
I never have much of a problem with my VM 10MB connection. I know about the throttling between 5-9pm... so i don't do any big downloading until after then. Apart from that my speeds are pleasantly reliable and constant.
My brother, who lives a 5 minute walk away, is on the VM 20MB service and got VM to agree to a discount on his bill because his service is never anywhere near to 20MB... when i visit it is noticeably slower than my connection. Then again he deserves it because he is a gaylord with a big bum and likes crappy rock music and smells of poo.
Getting Dark Now
Friday,17 October 2008, 10:30 p.m.
Same experiment. Different result. Shafting continues. Virgin accuracy being improved.
“I guess someone other than myself must read the Reg. Set up the experiment as before and no throttle steps in at after the '10:00 mark'. Spend most of the rest of the 10:00 – 15:00 'download throttle-penalty period' uploading without being throttled. That said, I’ve been careful I’ve sat and calculated the rates – there is no way I can be throttled, I’m only uploading in an ‘unlimited’ upload period.
Did I have another thing coming:
14:50 and the throttle jumps in, upload rate cut to 50%. How can this be? I’ve a discount of 30MB and, after downloading the 970MB I’ve done nothing but upload for the rest of the 10:00 – 15:00 downloading throttle-penalty session.
I look at the p2p client, it says that my total download (which can only be for comms overhead during the entire ‘unlimited’ *upload* session) is at 2.8MB. Granted the client could be a little inaccurate, but not by anywhere near 27.2MB worth.
Funny how convenient it is to throttle in this way is – just before the 15:00 – 16:00 ‘unlimited’ download (but throttle-penalty upload) session. Five-hours worth of open fraud now at the point of delivery.
Where is the Law? Nowhere.
Where are Trading Standards? Nowhere.
The Politicos? Nowhere.
Virgin? Calculating the results of open fraud. Doctoring them for flaunting in the market-place.
Ofcon? Busing its ‘independent’ little self. Polishing the stamp for another round of Ofcon Approved ™.
I should thank the Reg. Nice try. But fraud seems now a wide-spread policy support matter. Future looks grim. Ofcon and Virgin leading the way. Sun is setting in the UK. Bearded rat can be heard scuttling in the shadows. Lord know what company it keeps.
Getting very dark now. Over and out.”