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UPDATE Virgin Media UK Joins BT to Suffer Website DNS Problems

Wednesday, Jul 2nd, 2014 (11:57 am) - Score 7,311

Customers of Virgin Media’s cable broadband network have become the latest to be hit by an unusual bout of website access problems after the ISPs Domain Name Servers (DNS), which translate Internet (IP) addresses into human readable form and vice versa, seemed to become faulty. Sadly it’s not the first time this has happened.

The Domain Name Servers are a key component of the Internet and most ISPs use them to covert IP addresses (e.g. 123.45.53.89 [IPv4]) into domain names (e.g. example.uk) and back again. But various issues, such as bad peering / routing and administrative errors, have been known to throw the odd spanner into the works. Problems like this can result in websites becoming slow to load, redirecting you to the wrong site or even failing to load the desired website / server (this is sometimes fixable after several refresh attempts).

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On Saturday BT also suffered a similar problem, which lasted for an hour and appeared to sporadically affect their retail broadband subscribers across much of the United Kingdom. BT later apologised for the issue but has still failed to clarify precisely what caused the problem.

Similarly a number of Virgin Media’s customers also reported DNS related issues on Friday 27th June 2014, which appeared to affect some customers but not others. The problems then reoccurred on Monday and Tuesday of this week, although curiously Virgin Media chose not to reference the problem on their status page and some support staff initially denied that the ISP was suffering any such issues.

VM Customer heavensent said:

I had DNS issues on Friday as well. Virgin knew nothing about it apparently. I spoke to a couple of their ‘tech supports’ yesterday. The first one denied there had been a DNS issue. The second confirmed that there had been DNS problems on Friday but they had been resolved. He said it was affecting random customers all over the UK. [I’m in Fife]

This evening I’ve started having the same problems I was having on Friday. I’ve changed to Google DNS … and hey presto … it appears to have solved the intermittent disconnects.

It’s ridiculous that Virgin are in denial about this. One reason I’m taking my business elsewhere.”

VM Customer Mr-Hare said:

I had DNS issues for most of Friday like a lot of others. It started working again later that evening but tonight I’m back to getting the slow loading or none at all. As soon as I change to Google DNS settings it works perfectly so it isn’t something my end.

It’s getting ridiculous now that it can keep happening randomly for this amount of time. “

VM Customer simacca added:

Internet is intermittently slow this evening. Haven’t had this problem before. Power levels are ok and speedtest results are fine when the page decides to load that is.

Same is happening on phone and tablets. Have reset the hub, laptop and gadgets, but still the same.

Sometimes the web page will load straight away, sometimes it hangs for ages or deosn’t load at all??

Can you tell me if there is a fault, as your status page is saying everything is ok in my area.”

As with most DNS related issues, including the fault on BT’s network, the problems can often be temporarily resolved by customers swapping their Primary and Secondary IP DNS settings to those of Google’s Public DNS or OpenDNS etc. But not everybody is comfortable with doing this and the SuperHub router won’t allow it, so you have to make the adjusted on each individual computer/device instead.

The good news is that Virgin Media are now admitting to the fault, via way of the same general statement given to anybody who asks, although just like BT they’re not saying what the cause was. “We are sorry for those customers who experienced only intermittent access to certain websites for approximately an hour last night,” said a spokeswoman for the operator.

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UPDATE 8th July 2014

As noted by The Register and on VM’s own forums, another sporadic DNS problem hit Virgin Media’s network on Monday. Once again the operator is refusing to say what the cause was, which could mean that they’re either not sure how to solve it completely (well it has happened repeatedly over the past few weeks) or they’re afraid to tell customers the truth for fear that it might damage one of their external relationships.

Sadly Virgin Media is by no means alone in being coy with the causes of major network faults.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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