Virgin Media have enforced a Traffic Management policy on all of their users. This page on their site explains what Traffic Management is, and details the thresholds which, if met, will trigger a temporary reduction in your connection speed.
Virgin Media claims that, unlike most other consumer ISPs, they don’t limit how much you can download, just the speed at which you can download it. This is to ensure that all users get a fair share of access.
A frequent argument against Traffic Management is that it reduces the amount that can be downloaded from the theoretical maximum offered by a certain connection speed simply because that speed is not available all the time; in other words it does limit how much you can download. The counter-argument to that is that using a Cable Modem connection to download 24/7 is exceptional behaviour, and falls outside the “Fair Usage” clause that almost all ISPs now include in their Terms and Conditions. There is no doubt that some people find Traffic Management annoying and dislike it intensely. This FAQ makes no attempt to justify Virgin Media’s decision. It merely shows one way to help avoid the worst of its affects.
They suggest using DU Meter to monitor your own bandwidth. However, this monitors usage only on the PC on which it’s installed and running. With many of us having routers (wireless or otherwise) to share our connections with other devices around the home, not all of them PCs, we need something that will monitor everything, not just a single computer. How can you monitor the bandwidth usage of a Wii, for example? Certainly not by installing software on it!
Perhaps one day Virgin Media will create an online facility for us to check our connection’s total bandwidth usage ourselves, but until then we need something that we can run at home which will monitor the connection as a whole.
We have recently come across a program called PRTG. This is software that runs under MS Windows (2000 or higher, including XP and Vista) that can monitor up to 3 of what it calls “sensors” (which includes most Cable Modems). For this to work it needs to access your cable-modem, as opposed to any router. If you install the software and have difficulty configuring it, please ask for help on our forums.
If you manage to set things up you’ll see something like this, taken from a connection to a SB5101 modem:
This may look complicated, but you only need to monitor #3 (the Downstream) and #4 (the Upstream).
Obviously, the PC with this installed will only be able to monitor the bandwidth when it is turned on. But monitoring the bandwidth just got a lot easier. You’ll need to play about with things to set it up, but feel free to ask for help on our forums.
Feedback on which cable-modems this works and doesn’t work with would also be appreciated. Usually the make and model is clearly visible on the cable-modem casing (e.g., Motorola SB4100). We are especially interested to hear from people who get their broadband through their Set Top Box rather than a dedicated Cable Modem, people in ex-C&W regions of NTL, and anyone using a non-DOCSIS Cable Modem (although there almost certainly aren’t any on Virgin Media’s service) such as one from the Terayon TeraPro series or the Motorola CyberSURFR series.
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