Reasons to be cheerful

So when I said that when we moved we wouldn’t be keeping Virgin, I was right: when we moved, we didn’t.

This just proves the point.

Phorm is just censorship by another name: delivering content to a user that they didn’t ask for, obscuring what they did request, while not telling them that changes were made. It might start with advertising but could be trivially re-tooled to mask ‘unapproved’ content.

While the IWF and Wikipedia have had some press recently at least they were relatively upfront about the blockages, the reasons for them and the thinking behind it. There is some discussion over what the viewer should be shown if cleanfeed complains (e.g. 404 is lying, but 403 is that the server is refusing which isn’t strictly true either), but at least it’s reasonably public (although there is an argument for hiding the links because by informing someone of the block, you’re confirming that dubious material might really exist there).

But any company (or country) blocking unilaterally a legal protocol are going to find themselves suffering very quickly, as Comcast found out.

Getting to be almost too many to count

Methods of enumeration, or at least the introduction to enumeration, let me count the ways. So Elizabeth Barrett Browning tried it (and is probably the most oft imitated in the blogosphere). For those of us of a certain age, no-one expects us to be able to do it accurately the first time (and would that be Gen X or Y?). Manfred Mann went down and XTC counted up.

So what am I counting? The number of reasons for leaving Virgin Media. We’re hoping to move house in the next few months so it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to change to someone new; there is no way we’ll be renewing them if or when we relocate.

Why? In no particular order:

Bandwidth: If I pay for xMb/s, then I expect some decent proportion of that. If you can’t deliver me that speed reliably (and you are a cable provider after all, so it’s not like you’re going to be able to blame attenuation, contention ratios and various other ASDL excuses) then don’t ask me to pay for – and certainly don’t taunt me with adverts all around the place claiming things you blatantly aren’t delivering. If I don’t pay your monthly fee, you’ll cut me off, but you’re allowed to not hold up your end of the bargain.

Traffic Shaping: While we’re on the subject of your end of the bargain, I’ve an unlimited data plan. In my dictionary, that doesn’t mean "in the bottom 95% of downloaders". You’re selling me unlimited and if you have no intention of following through on that, then change my T&Cs. If you want to cap my data plan, I have no problem with you having that power, just let me know in advance and I’ll decide whether that’s acceptable to me. Don’t advertise unlimited and then punish me for actually having the cheek to presume that’s what it means.

I’m quite a heavy podcast consumer. I’ve got loads on my queue, many of which arrive daily (Buzz Out Loud, tech5 and the BBC News, for example), a few times a week (Coverville, IT Conversations or Adam Curry), weekly (TWiT, Security Now and Fighting Talk) – and countless others from the Beeb, the Guardian or wherever else.

This usage is all perfectly legal – no question of P2P or filesharing, but they will certainly combine to gigabytes a month. I have no idea whether this puts me in the top 5% – I don’t know of a precise way to tell. I do know that I’ve noticed some traffic shaping when I do try to fire up some torrent clients. (And bittorrent isn’t automatically illegal – UK Nova for example will pull anything listed that isn’t there legally (e.g. popular series which it knows will be quickly available on DVD).

Net Neutrality: oh and isn’t this the biggie. Apparently the idea of a content provider (youtube, the bbc, google, this blog you’re reading) paying for its connection and you paying for your connection isn’t enough. The middle man should just be able to decide who you read and who you’ll get frustrated waiting for. Well Mr Berkett my opinion of you and your company is about the same as your opinion of net neutrality.

Phorm: if you’re in the UK and haven’t heard of Phorm then you really need to do more with your surfing, it has even got as far as the BBC. Basically (with the Carphone Warehouse and BT) what Phorm is about is illegally (and invisibly) intercepting your requests for web content and then changing the adverts that are shown, displaying instead content tailored to what it thinks it knows about you.

I mean, really, just where do you start?

Triple Play: this isn’t really a criticism, but it doesn’t make it any easier to break away. Because Virgin deliver their broadband via cable, that’s also how we get our TV and landline. So by lying about what they’re providing to us, they’re able to subsidise the package price and tie us even more tightly in. If we want broadband from another provider I need either a BT line and then a Phorm-free ISP (I wish I could return to my old provider Eclipse, they were ace) and then also into the arms of Freeview or Murdoch’s Sky for the TV. Not much of a choice, is it?

And I’m not the only one. Charlie Stross wonders if Virgin are nobbling his wireless router – I’ve not seen that, but I’d consider that unequivocally another good reason if I did. Cory is off too.

Virgin Media: just say no.

[tags]virgin media, net neutrality, broadband, rant, cable[/tags]