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Virgin Media flushes pipes clogged by piles of Spotify fans

Capacity to be beefed up after music streams flood tubes

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Exclusive Virgin Media has been forced to reconfigure routing of its network traffic after some of the telco's customers complained that Spotify kept jamming, The Register has learned.

The music-streaming service inked an "exclusive" deal in July last year with Virgin Media to dish up Spotify bundled with various broadband packages to the ISP's punters.

El Reg reader Andrew alerted us to the problem. He said:

A whole bunch of Virgin Media broadband customers are having connectivity issues when using Spotify – basically the service keeps skipping and pausing.

We've all assumed that VM have been throttling Spotify management – despite their Traffic Management policy explicitly stating that Spotify is not traffic managed – however VM are claiming issues with Spotify, and Spotify claim [it's] Virgin Media's error.

The frustrating thing is that these companies have a partnership, with Virgin cross-promoting Spotify to their base.

A forum post running to 20 pages also reveals just how many people have been struggling to adequately use the Spotify service, which is a whitelisted P2P application, over Virgin Media's network.

Spotify users also created their own message thread about the problem. One user wrote last week:

On Virgin Media here in Edinburgh UK and can confirm that Spotify is almost unusable – every song will play for 5 seconds, stop for 10 seconds, play for another 5 secs and so on.

It's been like this for over two weeks now so I'm starting to get a little frustrated. Everything else on Virgin Media broadband is fine, and Spotify is working fine for me on mobile 3G.

The Register asked the two outfits what had gone wrong. A Virgin Media spokesman was at pains to tell us that the issue had nothing whatsoever to do with its traffic management policy. He added that the company has direct peering set up for its customers to access Spotify.

"Virgin Media has been investigating a problem some customers have had with streaming music from Spotify during busier times of the day," he said.

"We have identified a recent issue with congestion between the Virgin Media network and Spotify's data centre which can occur intermittently during peak times.

"Following some routing configuration changes, this congestion should now be alleviated; however further analysis is being conducted and additional routing changes or capacity upgrades will be implemented as needed to avoid re-occurrence of this issue as the popularity of the service grows. We apologise for any inconvenience."

In other words, the two companies are having to beef up capacity to prevent Spotify stuttering on Virgin Media's network.

A Spotify spokeswoman added: "Virgin Media and Spotify have been working together to identify and fix the problem as soon as possible.

"We have identified a problem with the bandwidth between one of Spotify's data centres and the Virgin Media network. Virgin Media are working hard to fix the issue as soon as possible."

Earlier this month, Virgin Media become the first major internet service provider in the UK to implement a court order blocking access to notorious BitTorrent search website The Pirate Bay.

The move followed a demand from London's High Court ordering five UK ISPs – Virgin Media, TalkTalk, BSkyB, Telefonica and Everything Everywhere – to prevent their broadband subscribers from accessing Sweden-based www.thepiratebay.se, which serves up magnet links to music, movies and other file downloads.

At the time of the order, Virgin Media called for "legal alternatives" to help tackle copyright infringement and cited its agreement with Spotify as an example. It's a pity, then, that the legitimate music-streaming app has been running so poorly on the telco's network of late. ®

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