ISP

OK, I’m completely sick of paying far too much to my shitty boutique ISP and BT for crackly steam voice and ADSL2+ that regularly provides between 400 and 600 Kbps downlink and 30-100 up. Right here in London. The SNR margin, attenuation, etc look normal and the modem trains to over 10Mbps, but there is reliably 1-3% packet loss so TCP never actually breaks out of slow-start mode.

I have some options.

Go to another ADSL op – well, the danger is that they’ll just port the hank of copper flapping in the breeze, leaving me no better off, rather than replacing it completely.

Get BT FTTC service whether from BT or someone else – the problem is that our exchange was originally planned for the 31st December 2010 (at the time this was a horses’ birthday, used for all areas where there was a planning permission fuck-up), and has since been sliding right. The last update pushed it from June 2011 to September 2011, although BT is claiming that “Lower Holloway” can have it now. But there is no such exchange.

Also, data bundle sizes for FTTC service are all incredibly stingy.

Bury the hatchet and get Virgin cable service – this eliminates the fritzing, bent-safety-pin mess that is BT’s aerial plant around here, although some of the cable installs are worth seeing, and would probably get us much, much more bandwidth. Also, cable has been installed here before so they might let me off the install fee.

However, reading their tariff, I can’t make any sense of what it actually costs. Everything’s “FREE! for the first six months thereafter suchandsuch”, or “NOW! MORE TELLY for just £5”, or “FREE! with a Virgin Phone line for £12.99 a month”. A Virgin Phone line? Is that a thing? On the principle that people who won’t actually name a price are ipso facto lying, I’m not keen.

Also, no IPv6, daft adverts about “fibre optic broadband” when it’s not, etc.


  1. Chris E

    They aim for almost deliberately opaque pricing – partly, I suspect, to make their various ‘deals’ seem good value.

    In general, as long as you can cope with the extra latency DOCSIS brings, they are fine. Reasonably fat pipe, just don’t try/expect to do anything non-standard with your cable phone line (no CPS etc).

    International calls and TV is where they can make a lot of money off you.

  2. (WordPress seems to have got rid of the OpenID thing I logged in before with my LJ account, have used my Twitter one of the same name)

    Hmm. I am assured by colleagues that Virgin are better than they used to be at customer service / technical support than they were when they were NTL.

    The local box was run over by a builder’s lorry reversing into it. NTL then did the ‘when will you be home?’ bit. ‘I don’t need to be home. It was working. Then someone reversed over it. Then it stopped working’.

    They came, stood it up, and stuck some yellow tape round it, It was distinctly non-closed so would stop working in the wet.

    Between Christmas and the New Year they came and replaced the dented cover. It went down and came up a few time whilst they were doing this. They drove off with it in its ‘down’ state.

    At that point I gave up.

    We are currently with Demon, having had them as an ISP back since the dream-time (back when I had to dial a London (non-local) number). Have got distinctly non-premium support from then for a premium price (‘have you replaced all your equipment with something different?’ being the essential response to everything).

  3. Mark

    Ah yes, this sounds all too familiar “hank of copper flapping in the breeze”. Consistently amazed any ‘broadband’ comes down the wire outside our house.

    Was a Virgin subscriber once; couldn’t stand paying for a service that only seemed to be as quick as I was paying for during off-peak times of day.

  4. I looked at a range of geek-friendly ISPs when my previous (small, informal, geek-friendly, geek-run and geek-owned) ISP got bought out by a roving megacorp. (Demon aren’t Demon any more, come to that.) I was with Zen for a while, considered Andrews & Arnold, but eventually went for XILO (aka Uno). Not as cheap as BT/Virgin/whoever, but good terms, good speeds with no dicking around, good tech support and generally very reliable.




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