A Little Moan About… Internet Speeds & Quality

I have been an Internet / Broadband customer with Virgin Media for a very long time going back well before the days of Virgin Media in fact. I’m talking Diamond Cable days when they started moving over from 56K Dial up to the first “Always on” Broadband modems with a whopping 128K then on to 256K then 500MB and so on – right up to present.

The only time I’ve not been a Virgin Media customer was during a period where they oversold in my area and the quality of the Broadband dropped massively. At that point I ended up having a BT line installed and became a TalkTalk customer on their 10MB package.

Prior to leaving VM (Virgin Media) I made every effort to remain a customer but despite my masses of evidence that there was an issue of overselling, they constantly denied a problem existing which meant it wasn’t going to get better any time soon. During that time I managed to prove through the use of tools such as the Think Broadband Monitor, Speedtest.net and a series of Trace Routes that between the hours of approx 3pm to around midnight the quality of the broadband would become totally unusable. High pings, hideous latency and jitter making gaming a complete no no. Packet loses were rife and some traceroutes wouldn’t even complete.

The data I got from the Think Broadband Monitor was the final nail in the coffin which showed exactly what I had known all along. During the hours of 3pm to midnight the connection was totally unusable. My theory as to what was happening was that at 3pm all the kids pile home from school and hit facebook, youtube, xbox like PSN etc like a tone of bricks. Everyone fighting everyone else for bandwidth on a buckling network.

Now the reason I bring the above up is because I’m starting to get these problems again having returned to Virgin Media. After leaving VM I stayed with TalkTalk on their 10MB package for 18 months as per the length of the contract. In that time I never had any real issues with jitter, ping etc. Their 10MB ADSL connection was smoother and faster than my 50MB VM connection had been for almost a year at that point. I could play games online again and the family could use the internet at peak time without lagging, stuttering and buffering etc all night long.


So what made me go back to Virgin Media 18 Months later?

Well about 10 months into my Talk Talk contract we had quite a violent thunder storm one night which I happened to be photographing through an open window. All was going well until a large bolt of lightning struck the roof of a house about 200 Meters away. So powerful was this bolt that I got a residual shock from the EM the thing generated. I saw the bolt hit and then I felt like someone had kicked me in the arm I was holding the Camera with. I thought I had been struck full on for a start. Shock quickly turned into headless chicken panic. This storm was getting serious. I literally woke everyone up and herded them downstairs – still shaking from what had just happened. Needless to say I wont be doing that again.


But what’s that got to do with anything?

Well, the blast from that bolt of lightning was enough to fry my TalkTalk router completely killing it dead. When I rang tech support the next day I was informed of the cost of an engineer visit plus the router replacement. It was at this point I decided after my 18 months was up with TalkTalk to go back to VM and see if the issues had improved and indeed they had.

Up until recently everything has been great. No speed issues, no bad connections, no buffering or lagging. But for the past 4 – 5 months our 150MB broadband (free upgrade from 100MB followed by a price increase shortly thereafter) has slowly dwindled down to 90MB or less on some days. Trying to watch anything online has become a frustration due to constant buffering. Online gaming has progressively worsened to a lag fest. So I feel we’re slowly heading back down that road once again.

This time I don’t think our problems are related to overselling because the quality is bad all day long. Instead I think our issues stem from the fact that the green cabinet which houses all the junctions / connections etc which supplies my connection has had it’s door ripped off some months back and it wasn’t long after that I started noticing my smooth connection deteriorate. At one point the door was completely missing and exposed to the elements (wind, rain, ice etc) which likely hasn’t done much good. At the moment the door is now propped up against the cabinet in an effort to block the weather from getting in.

I have reported this damage of the green cabinet to Virgin Media however (though at the time my connection issues were not as bad as they are now) and VM have two possible routes to repairing the cabinet. Either it goes through the normal route of reporting it where it will likely be several months before it’s addressed or I have to log it down as an engineer visit / call at the expense of my time waiting in for engineers just to put a door back on.

It seems to me that the length of time the door has been missing may be the reason the connection is now degrading.


So, What to do about it???

As of now, I’m going to keep a record of monitoring my connection through the tools mentioned above earlier. I must stress that I’ve not written this post to name and shame or anything of that nature. It’s just me having a moan while trying to get to the route of the problem.

So I’ve just set up a Think Broadband monitor which will continuously monitor my broadband connection and will graph out the results in this handy little Graph Widget shared below.
My Broadband Ping - VirginMediaHome


Next I’ll post periodic Speedtest.net results from various times of the day.


And finally, I’ll run TraceRoutes and additional tests and post the results below. One way or another I’ll find out what’s responsible for my crappy internet LOL 😉

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