Tag Archives: Broadband

Dissatisfaction with Virgin Media’s advertising and complaints management – eventually with a happy ending


My original post…

Not having had a response to the e-mails I have sent to Virgin Media complaining about their misleading advertisements and poor complaints management, I thought I would share the evidence more widely. I have long been frustrated by the poor quality of Virgin’s service, but wonder actually if any other company is better!  So, to summarise my frustration over the most recent incident:

1. The advertisement – or hook
I received an e-mail from Virgin (below) encouraging me to upgrade to 50Mb broadband – definitely desirable!  It mentioned no extra monthly cost, but did specify a P&P cost of £5.99.  It had also mentioned that I would receive 5 free HD channels for the same monthly charge.

Virgin costs

I should have thought about it, because saying “from £5.99” could mean anything – even £599.00!  I did, though, rather foolishly expect the charge to be £5.99, and so was surprised when my order receipt came back showing that postage and packing was £9.99 (as below).

Virgin order

When I later received a new statement of the cost, they had in reality only charged me £5.99!  So why did they say £9.99 on the above?

2. Delivery date
I should have known there would be problems here!  In their original response, they gave me a delivery date of 10th July.  However, on 11th July they sent me advance notice of the delivery date which was to be on 15th July (“between 8AM and 9PM”) but no mechanism for letting them know whether or not I might be in that day.  As it happened, this was not going to be possible, so I sent them an e-mail asking if I could change the date.  Needless to say there was no reply.  Fortunately, a great neighbour received it for me.

3. Installation – two hours
I guess for most people the installation should be simple – rip out the old, and put in the new.  To be fair, the new hub has four ethernet ports and two bands at 2.4 GHz and 5GHz, and the set-up instructions were clear to use.  So, I got it up and running relatively quickly.  The challenge was that I had previously run my Mac Airport Express from my old hub (without any problems), and once plugged in to my new hub it would no longer work.  OK, you could say that I had no need for it, but I wanted the added security, and everyone’s computers were configured to the old network.  Try as I could, I could not reconfigure the Airport Express, and after exploring various threads about this discovered that I needed to upgrade its firmware.  Next problem, I could not do this running Mavericks!  Eventually, I worked out that using one of our old computers running an archaic version of OSX it might be possible to upgrade the firmware.  Success, but only after 2 hours!

4. No HD TV after all that!
One of the reasons for going with the new package was that it had advertised that it came with 5 free HD channels:

Virgin HDI clearly had not thought this through sufficiently, thinking it meant what it said: “5 amazing HD channels for no extra monthly fee”!  What they did not say was that I needed a new TV set-top box, since I did not already have HD.  However, they knew perfectly well that I did not have this, and so should have tailored the original advert to me accordingly!  Indeed, the real factor why I went for the offer in the first place was that I wanted the HD – and it appeared to be at no extra cost!  The 50Mb/s, although useful, was not really that much faster in practice, and it is only the download speed!  The upload speed is less than 4 MB/s.

5. The complaint
Try finding from their website  how to write to Virgin Media to register a minor dissatisfaction, or complaint.  It is almost impossible!  Eventually, I did find a form to fill in from their site – but it may not have been to the correct department!  I also wrote an e-mail responding to one of those they sent to me.  Needless to say, I have not yet had a reply!

I do just wish that their marketing material was more accurate, and that they provided a better level of personal service in terms of the information provided!

Subsequently – towards a happy ending…

My original post was written on 20th July, and now on 4th August I can report a more-or-less happy ending!  Following my complaint to Vodafone, I did receive a ‘phone call, and after some discussion my helpful and polite interlocutor explained that almost everyone now had a HD set top box, and they had assumed therefore that I had one.  To this, I pointed out that they should have known that I did not have one, and their systems could easily be tailored to provide personalised marketing.  He did, though, kindly agree to send me a new free set top box so that I could indeed benefit from the 5 (!) free HD channels.  Brilliant – or so I thought.  So, on a Sunday, I set about connecting the box – only to find that I could only ‘phone them to make the final connection between Monday and Saturday. Why didn’t I think that might be a problem?  Oh well, missed the Commonwealth Games that evening, but not a big miss in the long run, and I could at least do e-mails instead (mad indeed!).  Come Monday, all connected!  However, the remote controller did not work.  I tried everything – new batteries, re-booting, finding different codes to connect to my TV…  Nothing!  So, yet again, I ‘phoned Vodafone.  The polite interlocutor took me through everything I had tried, but again no success.  So, he agreed to send me a new remote  – taking 4-5 days to arrive.  To be sure, I could use the buttons on the set top box to control it in the meanwhile, but scrolling through channels one by one to find the right one is far from easy.  Come Friday, I came home to find that a new remote had arrived.  Lo and behold, insert the batteries and “wow!” it worked.  Why was it not that simple to start with?

Thank you Vodafone for eventually getting me up and running – but what dreadful marketing and service!

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My keynote address at CTO Forum 2013 in Abuja


The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation is convening its Annual Forum and Council meeting in Abuja, kindly hosted by the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology and the Nigeria Communications Commission on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, on the theme of Innovation through Broadband.  This is something I care passionately about, and my team permitted me to give a keynote opening address.  Several people have already asked me for the text – and so provide an abbreviated version below, which omits the diplomatic niceties and my heartfelt thanks to all who have made this event possible.

“Over the next few days we address critically important themes, and I specifically wanted to say a few words to challenge us all now, at the beginning of this event.  Quite simply, we cannot deliver on the title of this Forum, “Innovation through Broadband” unless we actually have broadband.  Many of the CTO’s members have less than 5% of their population connected to the Internet; my own country, the UK, still has 17% of its households not connected. For those of you from the corporate sector, this is indeed a great market opportunity!  However, the case I want to put before you is that, more importantly than merely the economic agenda, is a moral agenda.  These technologies are so important, so powerful, so life-changing, that we fail our brothers and sisters if we do not ensure that they too have access to broadband.

There are three simple things I would like you to take away from what I say this morning:

  1. Boy on streetFirst, the expansion of ICTs over the last decade has made the world a more unequal place.  Put simply, these technologies are hugely powerful.  Those who have access to them, and know how to use them, can benefit immensely.  But those who do not have access, who only have an old style mobile ‘phone, who cannot afford the costs of connectivity, are becoming increasingly disadvantaged.  This is not only a moral agenda, but also a very practical social and political one, because sooner or later, the disadvantaged will – and I have no doubt about this – seek to redress the balance by taking action into their own hands, as we see across so many parts of the world today. We must, and again there has to be no doubt about this, ensure that everyone has access to the Internet.  I am delighted to see that we have a session specifically on women and children at this Forum, and that (for a change) we do indeed have a distinguished woman on the platform here at the start.  But this is not enough.  As most of you know, I champion the use of ICTs by people with disabilities – at least 10% of the world’s population; we have to do more for them, so that they too can benefit from the use of ICTs.  Access for all is therefore my first point.
  2. Wheelchair computer technicianSecond, we need to develop new models through which such access can be provided at an affordable price to those who do not currently have access.  This is an immense challenge.  Put simply, the market will deliver solutions for many of our peoples.  We must therefore ensure that regulatory environments enable the market to deliver for the greatest number possible.  Regulators and companies must work together in an environment of trust to ensure that this happens.  However, the market will not deliver for everyone – for those living in the most peripheral rural areas, for the elderly, for those with severe disabilities.  Here, I believe passionately that we need to craft innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships to ensure such delivery.  These need to involve governments, the private sector, civil society, international organisations and bilateral donors in providing solutions that will serve the needs of everyone in our societies.  This is not easy.  Everyone talks ‘partnerships’ but few ICT4D partnerships have truly been successful.  It is here that the CTO can offer much in terms of partnership brokering, and working with all of our members to deliver such partnerships practically on the ground.  As many of you will know, broadband is one of the CTO’s six priority areas, and it is highly appropriate that we are here in Nigeria shortly after they have published their national broadband plan. … This emphasis on partnerships is also why I am so delighted that the CTO has joined the Alliance for Affordable Internet, and that they have privileged us by launching this very important initiative here in Abuja.My second point, is thus the need for carefully crafted multi-stakeholder partnerships to help deliver affordable broadband for all those for whom the market itself will not deliver solutions.
  3. children 2But third, providing broadband connectivity is only a beginning.  If we do not work with the poorest and most marginalised in our societies, truly to understand their needs, and then develop solutions that will be of explicit benefit to them, as much as to the privileged rich and elites, then the divisions within our societies will only increase yet further.  This is why this Forum focuses on “Innovation through Broadband”.  These innovations must not just be concerned with how to make yet greater profits from the telecommunications sector, or for governments to raise yet more revenue through levies and spectrum auctions – however important these are.  No.  This is only part of the story.  We are simply failing in our duties as responsible citizens, and indeed decent human beings, if we do not enable everyone to benefit from broadband: the young orphaned girl, bringing up her younger brother in the slums; the widow, gleaning an existence in the forests far from the capital city; the child soldier who had his arms lopped off and is now begging on the streets…

 My three messages are, I hope clear:

  • Enabling everyone to have access
  • The importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships to serve the most marginalised, and
  • Working with the poor and marginalised to enable them to develop solutions that are fundamentally in their interests

Distinguished colleagues and friends.  My final thanks are to you for being here.  We have a packed programme of inspirational speakers – I often think our events are far too packed!  Take time to talk with each other.  Use Wednesday morning to hold bilateral meetings and engage in productive discussions.  We are the privileged.  We are the elite – whether we like it or not.  We therefore have immense responsibilities.  The CTO has brought us all together.  But this is not enough.  I want every one of you to make a commitment – here and now in this room – not just to listen, not just to speak, but to act.  The time is almost too late.  The inequalities generated by ICTs have almost become too big for us to overcome.  Now is the time to make a difference.  Now is the time to turn rhetoric into reality.”

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World Bank report on maximising mobiles


The World Bank has just published a useful new report entitled Maximizing Mobile (full report .pdf).  This “report analyzes the growth and evolution of applications for mobile phones, focusing on their use in agriculture, health and financial services, as well as their impact on employment and government. It also explores the consequences for development of the emerging ‘app economy’, summarizing current thinking and seeking to inform the debate on the use of mobile phones for development. It’s no longer about the phone itself, but about how it is used, and the content and applications that mobile phones open”.

Individuals chapters address the use of mobile devices in agriculture, health, finance, entrepreneurship, and government.  A final chapter provides insights on financing mobile broadband.

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Broadband in the Pacific


The Pacific Broadband Forum 2012, convened by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Oganisation and the International Telecommunications Union, together with regional partners PITA, PiRRC and SPC, is currently being hosted by the Fijian Ministry of Communications on Denarau Island, Fiji.  This morning’s session provided a wealth of information about the current status of broadband roll-out across the region.  Sadly, my fingers and brain were insufficiently co-ordinated to record everything that was said, but I hope that the following notes may be useful for those interested in ways through which ICTs are being developed in the region:

Cook Islands

  • No policy and regulations in place for broadband
  • There is a national ICT policy – based on 6 platforms
  • New national sustainable development plan – will have to align with this.
  • Legislation: 1989 Telecom Act; new draft bill in consultation; SPAM act 2008; electronics transactions bill; evidence act (needs to be updated); cyber crime legislation in development. But most need training in implementation.
  • Many challenges – budget, lack of implementation capacity, lack of consultation with stakeholders
  • Need to establish a regulator

Federated States of Micronesia

  • Connected with fibre optics with the Kwajalein to Guam (USA) since 2005 (spurs to Marshalls and elsewhere)
  • President Mori said need to connect all islands, and a regulator
  • 2007 ADB issued report on liberalisation, regulation and community service requirement
  • Hantru cable became operational in Pohnpei – eight 20 Gbps capacity to Guam; other islands are not yet connected.
  • Close links with World Bank who have conducted studies and due diligence
  • Optimising on current investments.
  • Debt servicing of DSDA loans that enabled what was originally done.
  • There will be sector reform to liberalise the market
  • Next challenges – to endorse the policy and the FSM Congres will need to endorse World Bank Assistance and the Telecommunications Sector Reform.

Kiribati

  • 33 atolls over 3.5 million km2; population of only 112,000
  • relies on satellite
  • fixed line 4.14%, mobile 1.04%; internet 2.07%
  • prices of telephony and internet are very high
  • monopolistic market TSKL sole ICT provider
  • World Bank funding for ICT review and advice
    • Policy and legal support
    • Regulatory support
    • Outer islands connectivity support
    • Project management support
  • 9 telecentres funded by government; PACRICS provided internet connectivity in 10 secondary school

Marshall Islands

  • 68,000 pop, 34 islands
  • broadband – 2 urban cities have cable installed; gsm sites in four islands. Telecentres. DAMA sites.  Aim to cove all country by end of 2012.
  • ICT policy should be in place by end of August and will provide for market liberalisation, regulator, cybercrime
  • Only 1% of submarine cable in being used
  • Remote area is getting connected for e-health, e-learning and climate change
  • Difficulties: connecting the unconnected; teamwork; perfect competition; consumer satisfaction; move small
  • Challenges
    • Costs of backbone
    • Geographical challenges for operations
    • Quality and reliability
    • Costs of bandwidth
  • 2008 National ICT Policy
    • NICTA regulator
    • Aims to have efficient ICT infrastructure as backbone
    • Open competition
  • 2012 National Broadband policy
  • LNG Fibre cable project announced – cable is piggy backing on the pipe

Nauru

  • Population less than 10,000
  • Regulator – enabling environment
  • Challenge of ability to provide broadband – only one service provider.  Bandwidth to increase by 30% in next month.  Talking with O3b to increase
  • If you cry hard enough you are bound to be heard.
  • Need to lay the foundations and have regulations in place
  • Major reforms in last decade in telecoms sector.  Telecom Act 2005 established regulator in 2006 which introduced competition
  • Competition has worked even in a small island
  • PM Chairs national IT committee – it is important to have leadership from the top
  • Draft masterplan for broadband supported by ITU
  • Universal access policy
  • Shared infrastructure
  • c. 95% coverage
  • Looking at 2nd submarine cable

Niue

  • Just one island – the Rock (260 sq kms); population 1600.
  • Telcom Niue – sole provider and regulator; two ISPs
  • Fixed line 60%; mobile 30% (only introduced July 2011); broadband 1% (introduced April this year)
  • Bills before Parliament (SPAM, Cybercrime, Draft ICT Policy)
  • Issues for Niue: very small market means lack of service and difficulties of setting prices; satellite bandwidth, but costs are too high for us; capacity building.
  • Free wifi access – arrangement with manager of top level domain nu – to develop access on the island.
  • OLPC has not really worked that well – laptops breakdown very easily and no back-up; and not managed properly. Children took them home and did not bring them to school except when they were broken.
  • Future plans – looking to develop services.

Palau

  • 240 islands; population 20,000
  • mobile coverage 98%; internet subscribers 6%; fixed broadband 2%
  • 113 mile long underground and submarine SONET cable connecting 3 islands.  Using VSAT to reach remote islands.  Radio also used in isolated areas for emergency.
  • PNCC (Palau National Communications Corporation) provides the majority of communications services
  • Palau Mobile Corporation commenced operations in 2006 and offers GSM services (3G hopefully will roll out next year).
  • Palau Telecoms licensed for Digital TV and internet – yet to start mobile service
  • Skyfy yet to offer services, but is licensed
  • Mobile services can reach 98% with mobile density being 80%
  • 2011-2014 Palau National ICT Policy (thanks to ITU)
  • Expanding broadband and international fibre optic cable connectivity

Solomon Islands

  • Cable plan 2013
  • Setting up 50 GSM sites
  • 3G services launched by Telekom and Bemobile
  • establishment of universal access fund policy
  • costs high

Tuvalu

  • No-cable islands dreaming for cable
  • Population 11,000; landlines 1182, mobiles 2525, Internet 4000
  • Monopoly
  • Current activities: e-government, national ICT policy, cyberlegislation, licensing
  • Challenges: funding, human capacity, geography (500,000 sq miles), high costs of ICT, poor energy supply
  • Plans: strengthening outer island connectivity, disaster risk reduction (very vulnerable – one tsunami would take us all across to Fiji), offsite backup

Vanuatu

  • Been challenged in court and politically, but has come through that as an independent regulator
    Minister was ‘in bed with’ one of the telcos and has now been taken off – so ICT responsibility is in the Prime Minister’s office.
  • Technical advisors funded by the World Bank and AusAid.
  • ICT for all (7 goals)
  • Very strong Universal Access policy in draft – has been sitting on Minister’s desk for a year – but will hopefully now go through (only raises funds from operators for specific projects)
  • Zero rate importation tax for all ICTs
  • 2015 access to broadband connectivity for 85% of population
  • Spectrum available 700 MHz LTE and 3G
  • Submarine cable being led by Interchange
  • Employment is growing in the sector – now 2500
  • Telcentres in Rensarie and Melsis high schools; Nebul and South West Bay health centres – need to provide many additional services in the centres.  Quite slow take up; importance of the manager; potential for agriculture.
  • All stakeholders must work carefully together
  • High schools and health centres are a priority
  • Using mapinfo to find the most cost effective way to deliver services

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