The UK is the most frustrating place to live sometimes. The English speaking world has a shining example of how to not fuck this up in NZ, yet they keep doing the opposite. Against all sorts of lobbying, the NZ govt. forcibly separated our telecom monopoly provider into a retail and a wholesale company, then they put a whole bunch of money up for competitive tender to build a national fibre network. And it works, it honestly fucking works.
I've got Virgin in London and it's a piece of shit compared to what I had in NZ. In theory, I have 200mb down, but the uplink is bullshit because they convert to cable for some unknown reason. I also rarely see the performance that a 200mb connection should have. In NZ I had, in the first days of fibre, 30 down 10 up. It was always this speed, the fibre terminated at my house and was more responsive and reliable than what I have now in the UK.
Here, the govt keeps kicking around, getting conned by the industry as they promsie to upgade things, to be better. It's such a joke.
For reference these are real plans, with reliable speeds, with FTTH: https://imgur.com/a/8JeV7 (divide amount by 2 for £, take off 30%ish for USD)
I have to be honest, I think the experience that BT were clear and communicative would not be a typical experience, and EE themselves admitted their customer service just completely fell apart last year.
The split between Openreach and ISPs in the UK has been very helpful for increasing competition in the UK and avoiding the malaise of regional monopolies the US found itself in, but the one time it presents clear issues is when something goes wrong with the line. The ISP has very limited diagnostic options, and a customer cannot speak to Openreach directly despite the fact it's their cabling that's usually at fault. So you're stuck playing Chinese Whispers with the engineers looking at the problem and offshore support, normally with the consequences you'd expect. And the perverse situation where ISPs have to tell customers they will be charged several hundred quid for a visit if the Openreach engineer decides that the ISP supplied router is at fault rather than the line (O2 quoted that line at me once when I was looking out of the window while a bunch of roadworkers looked on at the steamshovel they had just wrecked putting it through a main power line and all our fibre. I was fairly confident the router was fine...).
I had a terrible experience with Sky recently, when my line started to fail and drop intermittently, something that has happened multiple times before to me in this property, likely due to weather damage to the poll. Sky tried to charge me £50 for an Openreach engineer visit despite them not being charged by Openreach for this. Meanwhile they're trying to charge me for an ISP service they're not providing. I told them to sod off in no uncertain terms.
Installs that involve new constuction are always tricky to be honest - there are a lot of moving parts and getting access can be tricky.
The real problem with VM is their massive overselling problem. It is on a UBR by UBR basis, some UBRs are totally fine and have enough capacity but some are chronically overloaded. I am luckily enough to be on Hyperoptic now but before it was a complete cointoss whether at peak times the 150meg or whatever would go to 1-2mbit/sec with massive ping and jitter making anything interactive (even SSH) impossible.
At one point they had 300mbit/sec of downstream capacity and 50mbit/sec of upstream capacity for 100s if not 1000s of users (who could be provisioned at 150mbit/sec). So two users could knock out the entire UBR.
I believe DOCSIS 3.1 will resolve this somewhat as it will allow far more capacity, but really VM needs to look at much more aggressive UBR segmentation which is expensive. Or switch entirely to FTTx (which they are doing for some new builds using GPON), but again, very expensive and many users won't notice/pay more for the additional quality.
OTOH BT FTTx is super reliable in my experience, with no contention issues at all (they have at most 288 users on 10gigE backhaul). I would much prefer a 80/20 BT line vs 300/10 on VM simply for the reliability of speeds.
I've been with VM for a few years as well. In many areas they have far and away the best speeds , but the service seems to randomly drop every now and then, and the support is hit and miss at best.
In fact, you can tell whether a customer support call is going to be "hit" or "miss" almost instantly. Half the time you get a helpful, competent agent who will confirm that you can take your contract with you as you move home and even looks up whether they can give you a better deal; the other half you get an outsourced agent who tells you that moving house requires signing up to a completely new year-long contract.
The billing also leaves a lot to be desired. At one point I got so angry with them billing me way above the agreed amount that I guessed the CEO's work email and sent him a personal message outlining my frustrations. The issue got solved within a week of doing that!
 See for yourself - https://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/broadband_speed_in_m...
I've got sympathy – there's nothing worse than this sort of terrible customer service and lack of communication. It's a shame, because the network itself is pretty good.
Why do large companies have such trouble scaling customer support? It's exactly the same whenever I have to interact with any organisation like this – no callbacks that they promised, missed appointments, work not done on schedule, that kind of thing. It's got to the point where I will actively avoid interacting with any service provider unless it's totally unavoidable.
(There are some exceptions – like my energy company Ecotricity have a phone line with a person on it when you call. It's pretty boss.)
I wrote a blog post about the situation in the UK a while ago.
The British broadband system is quite crappy in general, especially so if you're on ADSL, but at least it's not the same as America or Canada which is significantly worse.
Although if you have the money for it I'd recommend springing for Andrews and Arnold (aaisp.net.uk).. or if you're near Stratford I'd recommend Hyperoptic, they were able to sell a very, very, stable symmetric 1G connection using the fibers left behind after the Olympics.
EDIT: Reading my blog post with fresh eyes has shown me that I did not provide my raw data, and I did not elude to the fact that I had been in constant contact with BT trying to get the line fixed. I should have mentioned this as it mirrors TFA's experience with virgin insofar as they were non-responsive and when on-site looked around and did very little with small excuses about access to equipment/cabs.
So I'm not the only poor sod who got shafted by Virgin Media... my example is probably even worse...
VM send their surveyor to assess my flat. "It's quite high, but if you manage to drill the holes yourself and get an RG59 coax cable down to the ground level then our team will be able to connect you". (The cabinet is 20 yards from the said touchdown point). I spend money getting contractors to do the walls/roof and buying a long cable.
Long story short, they simply cancel my request. Despite telling me what to do, and what to buy. And their drone just kept repeating on the phone "it was canceled. You can't complain to anyone, there is no other department".
Suffice to say, I'm getting angry even as I write this. Absolutely appalling company. Never buying anything from them, although that 200MBit service had its appeal... they could offer me 2Gbit for free now, I would refuse.
Internet situation in the UK is a very, very sad story... I am thinking of getting a microwave internet for my neighbourhood, but all the info so far points to it being a Sisyphean task
The absolutely worst thing about Virgin, in my opinion is that the passwords on their e-mail accounts are limited to no more than 8 characters. No special characters, no spaces etc.
Form many people control of e-mail represents the final key to their digital kingdom. I'm awaiting the inevitable news story.
Other than that, the service has had about 2 sub-30 minute outages in the last 10 years.
I have Zen Internet. It is a little bit more expensive than competitors such as BT and TalkTalk, but the customer service is so much better! It’s all in-house, run from their office in the U.K.
The Fritzbox! router is fast, reliable, has great WiFi and looks like a spaceship!
I recently left Virgin Media because their pricing was going up and up and just not competitive. I later found out they were charging me for a set top box that I never asked for but installed anyway and I didn't know it was de-bundled when I downgraded to freeview only services. They deliberately obfuscate the bill so you don't notice and had the cheek to put it up even more when the phone number was taken over by the new provider without telling or informing me.
And the Tivo box they give you is the most infuriating piece of rubbish I've ever used. Such a depressing state of TV experience.
For me, it's VM or nothing. The maximum speed I can get for broadband in my area (South Birmingham) is about 4mbps. But I get 200mbps with Virgin for not much more than the ADSL equivilent.
I _always_ get the advertised speed, and sometimes more.
I've not had any issues with them in 10 years, but it'd be nice to have a bit of competition!
For me, when the service works, it works well, but there are 3 things that really bug me about VM:-
1. No IPv6 support. Still. In 2018.
2. Upgrading is harder than it needs to be. They seem to show different customers different things on the self service site so they make you call up.
3. It is cheaper to get a bundle with a phone line than one without. Why?
This sounds like an immensely better experience than anything in the U.S.A. that doesn't just work. I'm still jealous that you can just switch to another ISP.
This has to be the most microcosmic post I've started reading on HN in a while. I just read a blog from 2004 or something. What market does Virgin even serve?