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Tens of Thousands Flee From BT and Virgin 258

Posted by timothy
from the they're-swimming-to-iceland dept.
twoheadedboy writes "The two biggest ISPs in the UK are losing thousands of customers. Earlier this week Virgin reported it had lost 36,000 cable broadband customers. BT, meanwhile, has seen around 125,000 active consumer line customers flee this quarter. With that many customers leaving, where are they going?"
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Tens of Thousands Flee From BT and Virgin

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  • Virgin is basically the only cable ISP in the UK. Whereas leaving BT just involves changing your DSL provider, which is a matter of a few phone calls, leaving Virgin involves setting up DSL at all, possibly including the installation of a new phone line - it's quite a bit more complicated and expensive.

    The important thing to remember here is that Virgin are (a) relatively cheap (b) very fast (c) unbelievably shit. They're actually more incompetent now, both technically and in customer service, than they were as NTL. They are so shit that people give up cable to go back to DSL, even with the expensive faff involved.

    • by sjwest (948274)

      Not everyone can get 'cable' to describe virgin cable as nationwide would be a mistake.

      • That's why Virgin also sell DSL.

        Are there any other cable Internet providers in the UK? I thought NTL consolidated all of them.

        • Correct - just the one provider.

          As far as I recall Virgin/NTL/Telewest individually subsumed the smaller providers, and then merged (mainly to avoid going broke)

          • Yeah, they all consolidated under NTL. Which then went broke anyway. Twice. But now, with Branson on the board (which was the main benefit of selling him a small chunk and rebranding), they appear to actually be making a profit. Being shit seems to pay well.

      • by vakuona (788200)

        It is nationwide, as opposed to being only available in Scotland, or South East England. it is not universally available though.

    • by Tx (96709)

      "They're actually more incompetent now, both technically and in customer service, than they were as NTL."

      Sorry, but as a former NTL and current Virgin customer (few years gap in-between), I just don't believe that is possible, although Virgin are pretty bad. But with NTL, every single time I changed anything about my account, they fucked something up, from day one. It took 2 months to get my cable modem out of them when I first signed up; I would phone up and say I hadn't received it, they'd say "sorry, it

      • I was working in television when NTL changed to Virgin, and we were dealing with their technical side. Things got worse for the workers and several of the remaining technically-competent people on the TV side left. I therefore surmise that technical people left on the ISP side too.

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      Whereas leaving BT just involves changing your DSL provider, which is a matter of a few phone calls, leaving Virgin involves setting up DSL at all, possibly including the installation of a new phone line - it's quite a bit more complicated and expensive.

      I might be misreading, but to me TFA implies that isn't actually the case here; it seems to be talking about removing the underlying line from BT wholesale's control, not just changing from BT as an ISP. The wording is as follows: "BT’s results from today showed the company had lost around 125,000 active consumer line customers this quarter, compared to the previous three months. To run BT services, users need to have an active consumer line.". A few of the other companies (TalkTalk, possibly Sky) off

      • Ooh, well spotted, you're quite correct. (And I did read TFA.)

        Wow, that does suck for BT. I still have BT for our phone line (which we pretty much never use - but I hate phones anyway, and don't talk on my mobile either - it's basically a voicemail service, which is why I've had my phone number publicly on the internet for the last five years with almost no crank calls) but yeah, that would take severe pissed-off.

    • Ironically, just before I clicked to read this article, Virgin dropped my broadband connection, so I had to bounce power on the modem before I could come here to find out why *other* people are leaving Virgin.

      I'm leaving because they are just not good value for money any more. New customers get a reasonable deal for TV, broadband and phone. Existing customers get the shaft. And if you want to reduce what you're paying by taking a lower TV package, you actually would pay *more* because of the way they str

  • Cant say much about virgin but BT are far too expensive. Their unlimited broadband is £20-30 a month. What's worse is the fact that they wont even sell that expensive broadband unless you also get phone service which costs an extra £10 a month regardless of if you use it.
    • by sjwest (948274)

      Our business left bt for dsl stuff many years ago when there dns server got stolen, unfortunately bt decided not to replace it and we noticed since we had dns records that where then gone. Paying by direct debit [cheques cost to much money to process at bt] also annoyed accounts and the owner.

      We pay line rental via our phone providers to bt via openreach and have found life without British Telecom to be very pleasant and we talk to local staff who know things not that we ring them up very often.

      I also see

    • What speeds do you get for 20-30 pounds a month?

  • Britain is (going to be) in a pretty bad recession (soon), which is going to hit the lower/middle classes pretty hard.. That seems to me to be a pretty good (if, of course, always only a partial) explanation for this phenomenon.
  • by Casandro (751346) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @05:44AM (#36931430)

    I mean I'm in Germany and how have a quite decent small local ISP. The only thing that sucks is their e-mail server. (Its DNS resolver is heavily broken and it still doesn't support IPv6!)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes there are small ISPs in the UK. I run one of them - UK Free Software Network. The UK ISP market, while dominated by the large ISPs, is fairly open to smaller operators but it's a little challenging to compete with the larger operators who cross subsidise to offer services at less than cost.

      The most likely route for those leaving NTL and BT however is not smaller ISPs but rather Sky and TalkTalk, both of whom offer DSL services for much less than cost of the DSL itself.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        Yes there are small ISPs in the UK. I run one of them - UK Free Software Network. The UK ISP market, while dominated by the large ISPs, is fairly open to smaller operators but it's a little challenging to compete with the larger operators who cross subsidise to offer services at less than cost.

        The most likely route for those leaving NTL and BT however is not smaller ISPs but rather Sky and TalkTalk, both of whom offer DSL services for much less than cost of the DSL itself.

        that doesn't sound like they're selling at less than cost. that sounds like they are moving money around, so that small isp's become less competitive(sure they charge their isp business the same as they charge the smalltime isp's business, but then moving that money back behind the scenes).

    • by alfredos (1694270)
      We are not getting much in the way of IPv6 here in Spain, either. The biggest telco is deploying that contraption dubbed Carrier Grade NAT. The only way to have IPv6 here behind an ADSL is to get the service from one of the smaller providers... Who pay dearly for the right to use the cable, which belongs to the big telco, who from time to time makes a mistake that breaks things badly, but only for cables rented to other companies. I'm talking from (long, sad, enraging) experience here.
      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        It was like that in France when they opened up the local loop to competition. France Telecom would just break local loops that were running on other telcos. Then there was a bunch of lawsuits and FT lost them all. In the end the government told them that if they didn't want to play fair, they also would rent the local loop from the govt which would take over.

        Now, they play fair. It's still a bit messy when something goes awry with your copper wire because there are two companies involved, but all in all, it

    • by hughbar (579555)
      i use the Phone Coop http://www.thephone.coop/ [thephone.coop] for my phone and internet. So now my banking is a coop, my ISP is a coop and I shop at the Coop [mainly]. This is my way of dealing with hyper-capitalism. They're not the cheapest but they're not a bad ISP either and if you're a coop member, you'll get a little money back.
  • BT is a bit overpriced, but I found their service ok. I'll never go back to them after I unwittingly signed up to a self-renewing contract (I didn't even know such a thing was possible), and when it came to ending my 12 month contract with them, they told me that I hadn't given them 1 month notice prior to the end of the 12 months, and therefore they had contracted me into another 12 months. If I wanted to leave I would have to pay the entirety of the line rental for that year (nearly £200).

    I'm curr

    • by ubercam (1025540)

      Depends where you are..

      If you can get TalkTalk Plus, go for it. It's their FTTC offering. Our exchange isn't being updated for quite some time by the looks of things. Check out http://www.samknows.com/broadband/broadband_availability [samknows.com] for anything you wanted to know about your exchange.

      We've been with Tiscali/TalkTalk for a few years. The best part is the unlimited international calls package (we make good use of it). The DSL speeds have dropped over the past year though. We used to get a solid 3.5mbps down

      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        The DSL speeds have dropped over the past year though. We used to get a solid 3.5mbps down and 800kbps up, which is fine, but it's dropped to 2.5mbps down and 700kbps up... it's tough to stream video on two machines at once.

        I can confirm this- the connection I'm using from what used to be Nildram (then Opal Internet, now TalkTalk Business) was upgraded at some point from 512Kbps to 2Mbps (during the the Tiscali era IIRC) I assume to remain competitive.

        At some point during the past year, after the TalkTalk takeover of Tiscali, it dropped to 1Mbps, and the problems with timeouts and dropped connections if you try doing too much at once are way worse than they were back in the 512Kbps days.

    • by larien (5608)
      BT are pretty notorious about their self-renewing contract. Sometimes if you shout at them loudly enough you can get out of it, though. I think Oftel had raised some concerns about it with a view to stopping them doing it...
    • by u38cg (607297)
      They can tell you you have a magical self-renewing contract, but it is not enforceable. Contract law requires consent, and written terms in a contract which do not reflect what a reasonable person would have expected to find there, if you were unaware of their content, do not hold.

      They tried a similar thing with me, and I invited them repeatedly to take me to court. They sent me rude letters for about a year, but they stopped and I haven't heard from them since.

      • I didn't know that - but I was so outraged that I told them I was cancelling my direct debit, and moving house, and they could ring me if they had a problem with that.

        (I didn't move house because of it - that just happened to coincide).

  • Both talktalk and Sky have been doing some aggressive marketing lately. I wonder if that's where people are going.

    I don't have any personal experience but I've heard that they're not much better. In particular, I've not heard a good word about talktalk.

    • SKY also has a lock on many channels and HD channels.

      So You have to get SKY TV and with SKY TV you get deals to get SKY HSI.

    • I've been looking at Sky recently (I currently have Virgin for phone, TV and internet - I have no complaints, other than I prefer Sky TV over Virgin)...

      I currently pay around £43/month (inc taxes) for the medium Virgin package, with a free upgrade to 20MBit internet (I called about nuisance phone calls, which they couldnt do anything about as it was a foreign number, and they bumped me up to 20MBit internet just because they could).

      To switch to Sky, it would cost me in the region of £55 minimum

  • Those customers are buying smart phones and tablets.

    • Once people who drop wired Internet in favor of 3G get hit with huge overages for watching video all evening, they'll switch back and set up Wi-Fi. Or do British carriers not have the 5 GB/mo cap?
  • by neokushan (932374) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @06:01AM (#36931490)

    Quite a few people have commented saying that it's no surprise that people are leaving BT - they're more expensive, utterly useless and switching DSL providers isn't as much hassle, whereas Virgin is a different case since their technology is actually better - why would people want to leave? The reasons are numerous, let me just give a few examples:

    *Call centre staff are outsourced.
    80% (if not more) of the call centre staff are outsourced to Indian call centres. This immediately creates a language barrier, particularly with anyone from Scotland as the outsourced staff can't understand the accent.

    *ALL Call centre staff are severely undertrained
    The offshore agents are barely trained at all, as they're trained by people who have been trained by people who have been trained by someone from IBM (whom Virgin contracts to do all their support) who hasn't actually done the job. The net result is that it takes agents months to get even remotely familliar with the tools and equipment Virgin uses and that's assuming they last that long.
    Onshore isn't a great deal better. They have a dedicated training team, however the training period is 4 weeks. That's for EVERYTHING the job entails, from fixing modems, to wireless, to email and Virgin security. Years ago before wireless and the value added services were a factor, the training period was 6 weeks.
    Additionally, the training material is GROSSLY out of date. It dictates that 2 days are spent learning how to adjust the frequency of a modem that is no longer used by Virgin. If a customer still has one of these modems, it is meant to be replaced immediately because it's well over 3 years old (more like 6). However, the training material is controlled by Virgin, who refuse to let the training team touch it. This means trainers are forced to train out old, outdated material and try to squeeze in the "real" material when and where they can.
    The hiring process is even worse. No consideration is given to how technically minded you are, or how much you know about computers. I've seen people show up for customer services roles and been told they're going to do Technical support - despite barely knowing how to use a computer themselves.

    *The VM Hub and Superhub
    BT have a "home hub", whereas Virgin have relied on dedicated modems and separate routers for years. This meant that customers had to have 2 separate devices to get wireless and the wireless routers weren't Virgin specific (unlike the modems), meaning that customers could say they were broke, get new ones and sell them on ebay. So Virgin decided to do an all-in-one soultion, much like BT's home hub. There were two models - the VM hub and the "superhub". The VM Hub is a DOCSIS 2 device, the super hub is DOCSIS 3. The problem? Both hubs have issues, serious issues. The wireless range on the regular hub is ABYSMAL, you can literally lose the signal from being in the same room. The Superhub is SLIGHTLY better, but still nothing on a dedicated router. But can you still plug in your own router? Nope, VM deliberately disabled the DHCP options within the HUB, meaning you have to rely on it (although a patch is coming that will enable "gateway" mode). Other issues include the firewall causing connections to drop randomly, the hub would occasionally and for no reason decide to stop leasing IPs from the network, forcing the customer offline and so on. The list goes on and on and it still isn't fixed - most customers that went from a dedicated modem to a SHUB or HUB have regretted it and wanted their old modems back, but Virgin won't let support staff issue modems any more, so you're screwed.

    *Sheer incompetence
    The hubs are just one example of how useless Virgin are at implementing ANYTHING - they recently changed their website to "make it better" and give customers more control of their accounts, but instead it locked many customers out of their accounts entirely. It caused emails to get orphaned from accounts, meaning support staff wouldn't even attempt to reset a password or fix it because they

    • by blop (71154)

      The Superhub is SLIGHTLY better, but still nothing on a dedicated router. But can you still plug in your own router? Nope, VM deliberately disabled the DHCP options within the HUB, meaning you have to rely on it (although a patch is coming that will enable "gateway" mode).

      I have a SuperHub with VirginMedia and I use my own router: you need to set "DMZ Host" in the "SuperHub" advanced settings to the IP of your own router's WAN port. That means that your router's external IP looks like a private IP (in a different subnet from the LAN obviously) but that's not a problem in practice.

      • by neokushan (932374)

        Indeed, I may have glanced over that point a bit too much - where there's a will, there's a way, but Virgin doesn't in any way endorse or support what you've done there. If average joe calls in and says "this new hub is shit, can I use my old router?" they get told no and IF the agent tells them yes, the agent will be reprimanded for it because the next time average joe calls in and gets someone who doesn't know how it, he'll get pissed off and say "Last time I was told I can do it, now you're saying I can'

    • You forgot that after using the service at full speed for more than 45 minutes (I was on the M package), you go over your download quota and are throttled to 25% speed for five hours. I've just moved and instead of Virgin 10Mbit cable I'm on Sky DSL. I get 9Mbit max down, but my average speed is much higher than 2.5Mbit. I'd get fibre if it were available, but my money will not go into VM's pockets again - this older, "inferior" DSL technology gives me a better experience because of the lack of VM's shitty

    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      Sounds like Qwest. Now I know where they learned customer service from.
    • by jez9999 (618189)

      I've been saying for a long time that Virgin's cable network should be regulated by OFCOM and forcibly opened up to competition, like BT's was. I don't give a shit if it hits Virgin's bottom line; it's in the public interest. Seems Virgin are doing their utmost to prove me right.

  • After some people I know in the UK on Virgin Media seemed to have latency issues, I did some digging and it seems every few months their traffic shaping appliance incorrectly starts classifying WoW traffic as peer to peer and consequently lag in WoW is in the 1000s of milliseconds.

    See this ongoing thread:
    http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/Fibre-optic-broadband-cable/World-of-Warcraft-Latency-Issues/td-p/167089/page/39 [virginmedia.com]

    Any time it breaks, they take days to acknowledge the issue, when they eventually do, it t

    • Thousands of milliseconds, eh? Round my way we be calling them seconds...

      • by xonen (774419)

        Ping (roundtrip) is usually measured in milliseconds, on consumer lines varying from anything in between 25 and 200 ms as considered reasonable and acceptable. Rounding to seconds would make no sense, as 500 ms would be acceptable for an australian player on european servers, but nowhere near acceptable for a european citizen, let alone 700 ms or more. Using the 'millisecond' unit makes perfect sense here.

        Apart that, i can confirm british players, typically on BT, are complaining about their ping on a regul

  • The reasons are a lot to do with combined internet/telephony packages, which are wrapped up with significant monthly savings, an inability to be flexible in what must be one of the most fast-changing industries in all history, and an inability to meet the specific needs of individuals.

    I have been with BT since before it was privatised, but now I doubt I shall stay with them. The reason is because they cannot (will not?) offer a static IP as a part of their package. With IPv6 available, and with many years

  • by GuldKalle (1065310) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @06:53AM (#36931670)

    With that many customers leaving, where are they going?

    Outside?

    • by Teun (17872)
      Yep, and just wait till the end of summer for them to come back in :)
  • I still have a BT phone line, but my ISP is with BE There, a LLU provider who have their own equipment in my exchange.

    It's cheaper and much faster. With BT I was limited to 8/1 mb/s, whereas on BE I get 24/2 mb/s. In practice I sync at 16/2. So it's twice as fast for half the cost. The support is much better, I can use the "Live Chat" feature to make changes to my broadband profile, ask technical and billing questions, without being stuck on the phone. I find writing technical questions much easier than try

  • Here in Sweden we see a substantial move from wired (Cable and DSL) broadband to wireless (HSPA and LTE). There are great savings (logistically and money) to be made if you skip traditional (copper) telephony and go all cell phone. Many (most?) have smartphones with tethering and generous data plans, and the carriers are happy to sell you a companion dongle for your computer for just a little additional charge to the data plan.
  • Mobile broadband, the third millennium (fake) dream.
  • On BT I got just around 2Mbps down and 448kbps up - which frequently dropped to less than 512kbps down and 64kbps up, and dropped out altogether when I used my HF transmitter.

    Now I get around 3.7Mbps down and 1Mbps up on Orange, with far greater reliability although I do notice that sometimes the latency is a bit higher. I'm not playing online games that often so that doesn't bother me particularly, and it only seems to be DNS that's particularly affected.

    They even manage to be cheaper.

  • I think the key to this is that BT and Virgin are "the two biggest ISPs" in the UK. While the equipment may be the same for most ISPs, the really big ones like BT and Virgin have the worst customer service and the most uncaring attitude. Huge, soulless profit machines.

    As a long-term ADSL user living about 4 km (about 2.5 miles) from the nearest telephone exchange, I get a little over 3 Mbps download on a good day. The copper wires and the exchange belong to BT, so no matter what ISP you go with you will alw

  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @10:26AM (#36932588) Journal
    The article states:

    Virgin, despite seeing sales rise two per cent, saw 36,000 cable broadband customers leaving over the last quarter. In more positive news for the ISP, it saw revenue rise 2.2 per cent.

    So revenue rose but number of customers declined by 36,000. That means Virgin raised their rates and 36000 more people than not responded by saying "That's too expensive for me." Add the losses together and that means cable/dsl has gotten too expensive for 191,000 people in Britain. Given the state of the economy, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

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