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Virgin Media Routing Fault - A New Traffic Management System?

# 29 May 2012, 06:29 by cfteam

There is speculation over the real causes behind a broadband Major Service Outage over the weekend which prevented many Virgin Media customers from using some websites, seemingly at random.

The outage commenced on the morning of Friday 25th May and did not appear to have been cleared until the 28th. Even then some customers are claiming they have increased jitter and packet loss problems.

At the time a temporary fix was suggested by Virgin Media to configure a proxy for your browser. That didn’t always work.

There are unsubstantiated claims by some users that the faults have been caused by introduction or testing of new equipment for future traffic shaping. We know from Virgin Media’s March press release when their speed doubling programme commenced that there would be a sting in the tail with the statement that “Virgin Media will be trialling a variety of different approaches to traffic management over the coming months to make the system more intelligent and flexible”.

One concern is that functions like P2P, which Virgin Media already seek to restrict, will be further limited. We know Virgin Media have been very willing to comply with court orders to block websites like Pirate Bay. A more general restriction on P2P could affect legitimate use, for example some game providers deliver updates using torrent systems.

There is suspicion are that equipment has been installed which undertakes some form of Deep Packet Inspection. Milambar posted on Cable Forum

some interesting comments on the official VM forums suggesting that its not actually a routing issue, but a content delivery issue caused by a failure of DPI.
1) The websites are pingable.
2) The websites are traceable.
3) Apparently the websites are able to send the initial http headers before it gets choked off.
Over on ISPreview the user Zyga has commented
Our tests shows that ICMP traffic as well as all NSLookup queries being resolved but but the packets monitor on our firewalls showing that the traffic being trapped by Virgin after successful handshake with web address.
DPI, if it is to be implemented, would be seen as intrusive of privacy by many web users.

Virgin Media have not provided any explanation for the problem despite requests for comment by The Register and others. Sources to Cable Forum suggest that those in the know have been told to keep their heads down. If we do hear anything we will update this article.

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