A return to civilisation...
My one (If I am being optimistic.) reader may have noticed I have been away. Though, in all probability this fictional being did not, given that I update this website so infrequently that no updates for two months is not just normal - it is to be expected. But the crux of it is that since just before Christmas my house in London lost internet, due to some cable being broken. Virgin media then lied to us, constantly for about two months, by which time we had given up and changed provider. I've detailed in the extended version of this story the scale of this screw up, but now I am back I will start updating my website again. At my usual ponderous pace:-)

To hammer home just how much I now want to slap Richard Branson in the face, repeatedly, with a moist trout, here is a time line (I think I have the dates right, but most of this is from memory, so it might not be spot on.):

  • Sunday 19th December: Internet dies, Virgin are phoned up, technician to come and fix it on Tuesday.
  • Tuesday 21st December: Me and a house mate juggle our days to make sure people are in all day. Technician never shows. When phoned Virgin say its an area fault, so a technician was never sent - shame they never thought to tell us.
  • Next 3 weeks and a bit: We phone up most days, repair dates are given - it always starts a few days into the future, remains constant and then gets shifted again to be a few days into the future the moment the date passes.
  • At some point during the above period we went and knocked on the doors of neighbours, and found a household that was suffering as we were. The interesting thing that we learnt was that they were getting the same 'repair' dates as us (They often came with precise times as well - so we are talking about matching date and hour.).
  • Friday 14th January: Someone at Virgin finally realises they have screwed up (This is the same day that someone in their forum (finally!) responds to me asking when it is going to be fixed, so I suspect that is what set the ball rolling - I get the impression the forum people might be vaguely competent, if overworked.). Some guy phones up and gives us a new phone number that we can call to get 'real' information. Of course, he leaves a message on our answer machine, just before 4, on a Friday... and gives his office hours as 11-4, Monday to Friday.
  • Monday 10th January: Said guy is now in the office - we learn that 54 houses have no internet, and that the broken cable is on TFL (Transport for London) land, and that it takes 6 weeks to get permission to dig. They claim they sought permission to dig on the Monday after the break, 20th December, and repair is scheduled for the 31st January. Note what this means - they had not only been lying to us, but someone sat down and decided what the lies were, as it was consistent between us and the neighbours house.
  • Wednesday 26th January: An incredibly vague letter arrives stating they are working on the problem, and that they need to liaise with the council to interrupt a red route. Its never explicitly stated, but the interpretation is clear - its not getting fixed on the 31st. By this point we had already ordered a replacement provider anyway (Long delay however, partially because BT fucked up payment handling, but mostly due to a backlog of installations in the area. Wonder what could be causing that...).
  • Monday 31st January: Nope, its not fixed.
  • At this point we have given up - my house mate whose name is on the bill will no longer phone up due to the stress of dealing with a bunch of liars who evidently do not care about the harm they cause people in the name of profit. I however do post one last question to their forum - last date I heard was 28th February, but I don't actually believe it.
  • Monday 21st February: BT installs a real phone line.
  • Wednesday 23rd February: Our replacement provider, BE, comes on line in double quick time (I was kinda impressed.) - its been fine ever since.

  • The key point here is very simple - if they had been honest with us from the start we could of jumped ship immediately, and been back online mid January, but because they lied, right until the end, they delayed us regaining internet access. I am a computer scientist - a house without internet is to me not much better than a house without electricity, and having no water less of a problem (Actually, our shower broke during that period, so there was also a week when baths were the only option...). I missed social engagements, it prevented me from working from home, forcing me to stay in the office late and go in at the weekends (At least I had full internet access at work - not all of my house mates were so lucky.), and slowed down my experiments for ICCV - in the end only one successful run got put into that paper, so I doubt it will now be accepted. I partially blame Virgin media for that, and that can have future consequences when it comes to getting grants etc, or even just staying in science given how the conservative government is currently squeezing us. With all those late nights and working at the weekend I basically lost two months of my life.

    So, a plea - if you have read this for whatever reason please, for the love of cute furry animals (They are the second reason for the Internet\'s existence...), do not interact with this company - they have neither the morals nor the customer service required for you to risk such an essential part of your life on. And, if my one example of the kinds of dicks these people are is not enough go and investigate Virgin media's forums - just note how many times you have to click the next button before you have seen an entire days worth of complaints. Or how many of the complaints affect large areas of the land - this is not a company that has any kind of backup systems, or properly maintains their kit. In other words its the oldest con in the book - pretend to be a premium company with big flashy adverts, whilst running the absolute minimum service you can get away with, and raking in the profit.

    Whilst I opened stating that I wanted to do bad things to Branson with a fish the reality is I can't see him associating with these people - I like to think that he is blind to what they are doing. But I have principals, and from here on in I will not be using any of the Virgin branded services - its not much of a sacrifice as none of them are particularly unique, or good (I will make one exception for Virgin galactic, but its hardly a realistic one, as I'll never have the cash.).