Virgin on the ridiculous: Broadband problems caused by "oversubscription"
By The Bristol Post | Friday, October 19, 2012, 08:15
FRUSTRATED customers of an internet provider say their broadband service is unusable at evenings and weekends – because too many people have been signed up to it.
Frustrated Virgin customer Claire Bush at her St Andrews home with her laptop
They say the Virgin Media internet service is particularly slow at these times and claim that when they complained, staff told them it was "oversubscribed".
Those most affected live in the BS6 and BS7 postcode areas, which include Redland, Cotham, Lockleaze and Bishopston.
Many are angry that they are still being charged full price for their broadband, and a particular bandwidth, such as 30Mb or 60Mb, but are not receiving these speeds.
The company admits that part of its network is "underperforming" but says it is working to fix the problem.
The bandwidth figure relates to the maximum amount of digital data that can be transferred along an internet connection as people use it to watch films or download music, send e-mails or visit websites.
Usually the faster your broadband, the higher the bandwidth figure and the more you can do online.
Virgin Media offers speeds of up to 60Mb or 100Mb, which it claims is "super fast".
One of the unhappy customers is Claire Bush, 49, who lives in Leopold Road, St Andrews.
She says she and her husband have found that on many evenings only one of them can use their laptop and sometimes they cannot load web pages or stream radio.
Ms Bush, who works in publishing, told the Post: "We both use our laptops all the time for work and it is frustrating when at evenings and weekends we both cannot use our laptops at the same time.
"Sometimes we cannot stream radio, let alone YouTube, and web pages will take ages to load.
"We've been customers for quite a few years and recently paid to have our internet speed upgraded from 10Mb to 30Mb.
"But in the last three to four months the problem has got even worse. We have been complaining nearly every day, and after technician after technician checked the problem wasn't our fault we were finally told by someone in customer services that the service was oversubscribed.
"We think this is ridiculous – obviously Virgin being oversubscribed is nothing to do with us and we should not be charged for something the company cannot deliver."
Toby Morse, 47, a translator, lives in Maurice Road, St Andrews.
He said: "I recently upgraded our internet to a faster service, but it just got slower.
"I've been a Virgin customer, and before that a Telewest customer, for years and years. But over the last few months the service has become so slow that it is infuriating.
"I've wasted lots of time speaking to customer services, and Virgin even sent a technician out to have a look at my computer to see if it was my fault. But now I've heard that the service is oversubscribed. It annoys me that I've wasted so much time on a problem that wasn't my fault in the first place and that no one at Virgin told me the real reason for what was happening."
Frustrated customers from Bristol and some from Yate have vented their anger in a forum on Virgin Media's website.
Forum user Geoff Leonard, of Ashley Down, said: "The forum is full of frustrated Bristol residents, especially in the BS6 and BS7 areas, complaining about the broadband service in the evenings and at weekends, which is often unusable. I'm just one of them.
"Virgin is saying that the problem could be fixed by January but it could take even longer. However, in the meantime they are happy to keep taking our money and signing up even more customers."
Mr Leonard said he believed the company must have known it would not have been able to cope with the extra demand as it signed up new customers.
Virgin Media told the Post that customers in certain areas share a bandwidth, which is delivered through hardware known as 'nodes'.
A spokeswoman said each node had enough bandwidth to cope with the customers connecting to it.
For example, each node could have 1Gb bandwidth of capacity, which would then be shared between customers on a range of different packages such as 30Mb or 100Mb.
The spokeswoman confirmed that "a small number of customers have been experiencing slow broadband connections, specifically in the BS6, BS7 and Yate (BS37) areas".
She denied this was due to overselling and said there had recently been "large scale capacity upgrades and network optimisation" in Bristol.
"The issue has instead been caused by the need to make some network upgrades to some hardware known as nodes and we are working to rectify this," she said.
"To give some context, our network in Bristol has approximately 230 nodes overall, but four of these are in need of an upgrade.
"As part of our Double Your Speeds programme, we have been installing additional capacity and upgrading customers in the Bristol area for faster speeds at no extra cost.
"While the vast majority of customers in the area are now benefiting from an improved service, we have discovered a small localised area that is underperforming, intermittently impacting the broadband speeds for a small group of customers.
"Remedial works are underway and are expected to be completed by December at the latest.
"We apologise for any inconvenience in the meantime."