A BBC Watchdog report, which will air tonight, is due to show that Virgin is selling 200mbps broadband products to homes in areas that have high levels of network congestion. That basically means some people are getting much lower speeds than they're paying for.
The BBC allegedly posed as new customers and asked about peak-time speed decreases. The area they called from is apparently known to have issues, but Virgin salespeople simply suggested peak times would see a slight decline in speed. The BBC found that some users were getting 3% of what they were paying for.
This is likely to affect any ISP to some extent, but Virgin's system is slightly different to the BT model. With BT each customer is connected directly to an exchange, or in fibre areas a local green street cabinet. Virgin has similar cabinets, but the coaxial cable it uses run past many houses with feeds taken from them. This can add an extra point of congestion in extreme cases where there's too much traffic on one street.
But ultimately ISPs can't service everyone trying to max-out their line at the same time. To expect them to is silly. But what customers should expect is that when they need to download something that they have a reasonable expectation of coming close to the speed they were sold.
Virgin is, according to CEO Tom Mockridge, investing £200 million in network upgrades and new regions. Mockridge said he was "disappointed" and that he has told the sales teams to be more careful.
Watchdog is on BBC One at 8pm tonight. [via PC Mag]