Goodbye Virgin Media, hello BT Infinity

Today marked the end of relationship that has lasted almost 16 years.

One January day in 1998, I got online with Virgin Net. I liked the quirky, informal brand. The service was just as likeable. We’ve shared five houses over the years, but the last year or so hasn’t been so good. Virgin’s ADSL service has been painfully slow. I’ve resented paying £20 a month for it. So when BT launched Infinity, I decided that our days with Virgin were over. Today was the day we said goodbye to Virgin, and hello to BT.

It’s been a very easy switch. The man from BT Openreach arrived just before 9am, and by 9.20am we were up and running with BT Infinity.

The best speeds I’ve achieved recently with Virgin? 3.55 Mbps (download) and 0.85 (upload). The best today with BT was 39.6 (download) and 10.45 (upload). The chap who installed it told me to expect fluctuations in speed at first, but this is a really good start.

I was sorry to say goodbye to Virgin, despite the really poor recent service. When things hit rock bottom a few years ago, they admitted they had underestimated demand and were adding capacity – which they did. They’ve been very responsive on social media. But in the past six months I got fed up with paying a premium price for a poor service.

The big lesson is not to have your email address with your internet service provider. This makes switching much more hassle. At least with your own domain name or Gmail you can move without changing email address.

PS: I did have a two year separation from Virgin 10 years ago. When broadband came along, Virgin was slow to offer it. So I went with BT. In June 2004, I complained about Virgin Net’s lack of broadband in a letter in the Guardian’s Technology section. To my amazement, I got an email from Sir Richard Branson early on the morning of publication apologising and offering a return Virgin Atlantic Upper Class ticket. We took up the offer and switched back to Virgin as soon as they offered broadband. No wonder I’m sad to leave now after all these years…

PPS: I should add that I had an ADSL, rather than a cable, service from Virgin. I know from my parents that Virgin’s cable service is excellent.

Virgin Media ADSL broadband: total service failure

We’ve had an incredibly frustrating day today as our Virgin Media ADSL broadband service has disappeared.

At first I thought our Belkin router-modem was to blame. Using my wonderful 3 mifi device, I got onto Virgin’s website, which said everything was working fine. So I reset the modem repeatedly, to no avail. I then spent almost 45 minutes trying to get some kind of help from Virgin’s customer helpline.

This is a summary of the experience:

The automated telephone system asked for letters from a security question. I had no idea what the question was – and the system gave no alternative option of speaking to a human being;

When I managed to pass this groundhog day test (purely by getting onto the website by the mifi – heaven knows what anyone without this option would do), a customer service person told me she couldn’t tell my what my ADSL password was, as she could only help with email passwords. She told me I had to call another number;

I called this second number. It turned out to be a paid for technical advice line. When I got through, the agent said he had no idea why I had been told to call, as they only deal with software such as anti-virus programs. He also said the first person should have been able to confirm my ADSL password. He couldn’t. He said he’d transfer me back;

I was then stuck on hold with music playing for ages, with no indication that I was in a queue. I gave up and called the original number;

More endless music. I was asked to choose the music – not a good sign! When I finally got through to someone, he told me that there was a national ‘outage’, and I should reboot the modem every hour. He also said he would refund the phone charges.

Three hours later, there’s still no broadband connection.

It’s time to consider an alternative broadband supplier, after 14 years. Virgin’s service is becoming very unreliable, and it’s hardly the cheapest. We gave them a second chance after service standards collapsed two years ago, but I can’t face much more of his after two outages in three weeks.

PS: we got back online late this afternoon. But hours later, we’re barely getting 1MB/S.