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Virgin Broadband users rail against updated traffic management rules

Traffic management rules updated after Virgin was rapped by advertising watchdogs have raised the hackles of broadband users including geek culture website Gizmodo UK.

Virgin Media relaxed its peak-time throttling policy for heavy users after the Advertising Standards Authority said a 50 per cent speed cut was ‘more than moderate’.

In a post titled “Virgin’s Insanely Complicated New Traffic Management Shows What’s Wrong With ISPs”, Gizmodo’s Chris Mills lays into Virgin’s claims of being ‘to all intents and purposes, completely unlimited’.

Virgin Broadband users rail against updated traffic management rules
5GB at 120Mbps? That’s about five minutes of downloading

Read the Recombu Digital guide to ISP Traffic Management“An absurd statement when you’ve got hourly caps on the amount of data that can be downloaded,” Mills writes. “His [Virgin’s Joe Lathan] solution to the problem of downloading single, large files (like games)? “Schedule them up at ‘midnight’, or before you go off to work.”

“That completely misses the point of forking out for expensive fibre-optic broadband. Queuing up downloads, or staying up late at night to set them in action, is a legacy of the copper-cabled ADSL days; the beauty of high-speed internet is the ability to plonk down on the sofa, choose a game, and start playing it 20 minutes later.”

If comments are anything to go by, Gizmodo UK’s post has certainly struck a chord with web users.

Virgin speed cuts: how deep are they?

New traffic management rules posted on Virgin’s customer portal reveal the improved 40 per cent speed reduction is also only incurred on users who have already been given a 30 per cent speed cut.

The speed brakes are put for an hour on if you hit a download threshold during peak times (4pm-11pm weekdays or 11am-11pm weekends), which can range from 2.75GB on 30Mbps tariffs to 5GB on the 120Mbps top tier. 

At that point you’ll get a 30 per cent cut to your download speeds, but if you keep going hard – from 3.5GB to 6.25GB on different tariffs – you’ll be reduced to 60 per cent of your headline speed until you stop demanding top speeds. The old regime imposed a blanket five-hour slowdown.

There are similar penalties for heavy uploaders, but these are a 60 per cent cut in the first hour and 75 per cent after the second hour.

Virgin hasn’t done itself any favours by showing percentages instead of the actual traffic managed Virgin Media speeds, which are still decent: 18Mbps for a basic L-tier customer on double-punishment, or 72Mbps for a bad-boy downloader on XXL120.

Downloading and uploading allowances have also been increased, and weekday peak-times have been reduced from the 10am-11pm which users previously faced.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “Our traffic management policy helps deliver superfast broadband speeds for everyone and today’s update makes it more flexible and responsive to how people are using our services.

“We remain committed to bringing greater honesty to the industry and urge every provider to step up and advertise the information people need to make an informed choice.”

When Virgin updated its throttling rules, it told us they affect only 2.5 per cent of users, but with next-generation games consoles such as the Xbox 720 threatening to be download-only, and Ultra HD TV streaming on the horizon, that can’t hold true for long.

Ultimately, ISPs – and Virgin is just attracting flak which could be equally aimed at many other broadband providers – will have to improve not just their headline speeds, but their overall capacity for many users to enjoy those speeds when they need them.

BT has dropped all trafic shaping on its Unlimited ADSL and fibre broadband services, while Sky imposes no restrictions on its Unlimited users, but most ISPs do. 

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