After promising to increase upload speeds earlier this year, UK based Virgin Media has started rolling out the upgrade with Enfield, Huddersfield, Sutton Coldfield and Warwick being the first to see improvements. Upload speeds now start at “Up to 1Mb/s” for the 10Mb service, “Up to 2Mb/2″ with the 20Mb service, and 50Mb customers receive “Up to 5Mb/s”. All speeds are subject to the usual fair use restrictions, with 50Mb customers throttled to 1.75Mb/s for five hours if they hit 6000MB of uploads between 3-8pm. Even at the throttled speed this is a small improvement over the old upload limit of 1.5Mb/s.
A very nice upgrade for it’s customers, I still wish Virgin would set themselves apart from the market standard of “unlimited” broadband that really isn’t.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the UK and Sweden have little in common when it comes to the right to privacy. While the UK government continues to push for greater logging of its citizens every action and move, some Swedish ISP’s are deleting traffic data to ensure customers safety.
An article at Cnet makes the point that filesharing is driving the demand for higher bandwidth internet access, and while short term revenues increase due to less bandwidth consumed for the same flat monthly fee it is unclear what effect a large reduction in filesharing would have. I’m betting that my ISP’s pushing of 50Mbit broadband would fail if filesharing stopped today. Maybe that’s why Virgin Media still operates Usenet servers that contain large amounts of pirated content. Isn’t it great when ISP’s say one thing and do the opposite?
Details of the trials have been leaking out for a while, and today Virgin Media has launched their 50Mb Cable broadband service. Priced at £35 a month with a Virgin phone line or £51 a month without it’s not cheap, and I haven’t been able to find any mention of speed caps on the web site. It’s hard to believe there aren’t any speed limits during peak hours when the 20Mb service was capped so heavily (down to 5Mb after 3 Gb) but maybe that’s what you pay for. The new service comes with a rather nice wireless N router, although you have to pay a £50 service activation fee so it’s not exactly free.
The most interesting part of this service is the 1.5Mb upload speed. I’ve written about backups on Mac’s and Hackintosh’s several times and the one thing that stops me using online backup services is the pathetic 768kb upload speed of my 20Mb broadband service. Not really an issue at the moment though as I’m not interested in paying more to Virgin Media, and their web site says the 50Mb service isn’t available at my address.
This one’s getting more convoluted than any soap opera. News broke recently that Virgin Media has done a deal with the BPI and will send warning letter to any of its customers that the BPI accuse of illegal file sharing. It appears that Virgin Media are now trying to backtrack on this, and have told the BBC that there is ‘absolutely no possibility’ of banning internet users or taking legal action. This is despite 800 users receiving letters from Virgin Media in the past month that are in envelopes labelled ‘Important. If you don’t read this, your broadband could be disconnected’. So no chance of sending conflicting messages. Read more…
Looks like that pillar of integrity and customer care, Virgin Media, is determined to screw its cusomers for everything it can. I’ve previously written about Virgin Media’s plans to send warning letters to its customers whom the BPI accuse of illegal file sharing. It now looks like Virgin Media have agreed to the BPI’s plans with some hints that there’s more at stake than complying with the law. Arstechnica have the full story, suggesting co-operative ISP’s can become ‘significant distributors of digital media’ . Which basically means can make lots of money.
Bill Thompson at the BBC has an interesting comment on this, agreeing with many other analysts that clinging to old business models and prosecuting anyone who doesn’t play ball will eventually fail. Bittorrent rose from the ashes of other content sharing systems that were thwarted, so when Bittorrent becomes demonised and unusable something else will take its place. And the next system will be anonymous, encrypted and untracable.
In associated news, Arstechnica has the news that young P2P users are willing to pay for music, if it’s on their terms. Which means unlimited legal downloads for a set monthly fee. This idea has been around for a while and while it seems to be gaining popularity, is no closer to realisation. My thought is that it’s far too radical for an industry desperately clinging to its outdated business models. It would be nice to be proved wrong though.
A few days can make a big difference in the news. I was away from home for several days this week on a work training course (hence the lack of updates). Before leaving I wrote a piece about The BPI working with ISP’s to implement the ‘three strikes’ rule to ban sharers of copyrighted material. Since returning home I have read several news pieces that show the situation to be getting a lot more interesting. Read more…
The Register and Ars Technica have news today that Virgin Media are in talks with the British Phonographic Industry to implement a three strikes system to remove copyright infringing file sharers from Virgin Broadband. From The Register,
‘BPI enforcement agents will detect IP numbers participating in copyright-infringing peer to peer networks. They will alert the ISP, which will voluntarily send out warnings to stop or face disconnection from the net.’
So who do you challenge if (when?) the BPI get it wrong? And the bigger question is how far will this go? Music and Movies will be targeted, but what about computer software? Pirated software will no doubt meet the same response, but what about a kalyway or iatkos install image when you own a genuine install disk. Or EFI emulation software used to install Leopard on a non-Apple computer in breach of the EULA. While we would all hope for a fair and reasonable system, how much sympathy will the system have for the computer naive parent who’s children have broken the rules?
At a time when TV networks are making their content available for free from their web sites, will a warning letter be the result after downloading the latest episodes from a bittorrent site?
And perhaps the biggest question, who is paying for this.
I struggled to decide what title to use for this article, since it covers several aspects of a company that doesn’t seem to know its arse from its elbow. The important bit first is some advice for any existing customer of Virgin media, especially those with the £37 a month ‘Broadband XL’ package and a Virgin Media phone line.
Have a look at this page, then call Virgin Media’s customer services on 150 from your Virgin Media phone line, or 0845 454 1111 from any other phone line. Select option 2 to change your package, and tell the customer services person you want the same deal as new customers. They will say they can’t offer you that deal as it’s only for new customers (I was offered a package for £55), so tell them you want to cancel all your Virgin Media services. You will be transferred to the ‘retentions’ department, who should agree to move you to the new prices if you take a new 12 month contract. Read more…
Things are a bit quiet at the moment so I thought I would update a couple of my recent posts concerning Aria and Virgin Media. First, I returned a graphics card to Aria on Friday 15th February after it was found to be dead on arrival. The parcel was signed for at Aria on 18th February, and on 21st February I received an email notifying me that the item had been passed to the technical department for testing. The email advised that I should receive testing details within three days but please allow up to 28 days. That was the last I heard concerning the matter. On 22nd February £32.25 was refunded to my credit card by Aria. That’s pretty quick testing so thumbs up for that, but a short email confirming that the card was faulty and the money would be refunded would have been nice. One week from sending the faulty part to having the money refunded is good service compared to several other companies I no longer use, so I have no problem continuing to recommend Aria.
More good news on the Virgin Media cable modem front as well. Since the replacement arrived I have had no further lock-ups and the new model appears to be handling the 20Mbit connection better. Last week I replaced my Belkin router (manageable by internet explorer only) and benq 802.11b wireless access point with a Netgear wireless router. On Sunday morning I started a large bittorrent download and was amazed to see the download speed hitting 2.4 MB a second, way faster than the previous high of 1.9MB/s. I still think Virgin Media are being unclear about their ‘unlimited’ broadband and the customer service is poor, but at least I have a connection that can hit peak download speeds for 20 minutes before the cap kicks in.
The EU have invested $22 million in the development of an open-source bitTorrent client. The BBC are one of the largest groups involved in the effort, planning to use the new client to stream TV programs. According to the article on Torrent Freak more than half of all bittorrent users are downloading TV episodes and the broadcast companies are waking up to the this.
There’s just one problem with this. A large amount of ISP’s are currently limiting the bandwidth available for bittorrent on their network. Virgin media have had a download cap in place for a while, and also appear to be limiting bittorrent in other ways. If I use bittorrent all the other internet traffic slows down, even if the torrent is only using 500Kb/s out of my theoretical 2,500Kb/s maximum download speed. So much for unlimited internet.
At a time when software like Tribler is appearing to make it easier to find and download bittorrent content, we may end up not being able to use it at all. Just remember that bittorrent users are selfish and inconsiderate (I know that’s crazy, but it’s Virgin Media’s view). Bear in mind that this is an unlimited service they’re talking about.
The problem here is that bittorrent is become a standard for sharing content. If ISP’s don’t get on board and give their customers what they want they risk losing out. ISP’s who plan ahead and invest in equipment that can handle the demand will take the customers. Instead of demonising the ‘greedy users’, why not stop spouting marketing crap and give us what we pay for?