Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 3 April 2009


I saw Watchdog on the sign zone last night and there was a piece about Tiscali's customer service (or lack of it) that reminded me of something that happened last year.

Since 2003 I had been with Pipex as my broadband provider. They had come highly recommended and I was very pleased with the service I had received having stayed with them through a house move and having gone from 512kb/s to 1Mb/s and finally to 2Mb/s. I never quite got the headline speed but it was usually not far off.

However, early in 2008 I started to notice that the speed had dropped off. At first I assumed that it was a temporary thing and because I do not keep a constant eye on download speeds at first I did not properly notice and it actually felt like my PC was running slowly. After a while though I realised that it was indeed the web connection and when I started running some tests I discovered that I was getting at best about 25kb/s. To put this into perspective that is less than half the speed of dial-up and about 1% of the speed that Pipex should have been providing me according to their headline figures. Completely unacceptable.

Once I had satisfied myself that this was not a temporary thing (I waited a good few days) I contacted Pipex. Their response was to suggest that there must be a problem with the phone line and they asked me to install some low-level engineering type software on my machine and sent me a list of fairly complex tests that they said I needed to perform. Once they got the results they would then decide what the problem was and take it from there.

At this point I got slightly suspicious. I am technially proficient being a software engineer by background and the tests they were asking me to run seemed very complicated. I was sure I could do it, but I bet the majority of people could not, without assistance. It smelt a bit like they were trying to fob me off.

I started doing a trawl of web forums to fsee what I could find out about Pipex and to see if anyone else had had similar problems. What I discovered was that lots of Pipex customers had started experiencing similar speed problems to myself at around the same time. Coincidentally, Tiscali had recently taken over Pipex. Although they had apparently not admitted publicly to throttling bandwidth, there was a widespread suspicion amongst affected customers that that is exactly what had happened.

At this point I was very angry. It seemed that Pipex had deliberately throttled my internet connection by a factor of nearly 100 and then had the gall to suggest it was a technical problem and try to get me to do a load of work from my end under the guise of trying to help me.

I started investigating other ISPs very quickly settled on Be There as a provider who were offerring up to 24Mb/s for a similar price to what I was paying with Pipex for about 1000th of that speed. I switched very soon afterwards. With Be I now get about 6 or 7Mb/s which is plenty fast enough for me at the moment.

The fact that as soon as I switched to Be, the speed problems disappeared absolutely convinced me that there had been no problem at all with the line and that the issue must have been with Pipex but they didn't even have the decency to tell me that they had throttled my line.

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