Broadband Speeds and Why You Do Not Get What You Pay For

This article was inspired by Donna of Donna’s Crafts and Supplies

As many of you may know most if not all ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) advertise their products with phrases including “up to” ,”the fastest speed available on your line” “superfast connection” and many more. However what they all fail to tell you is what your line can actually handle.

There are many reasons why you may be unable to achieve the advertised speeds. These include things which you may be unable to change:

The distance your home is from your British Telecom exchange (ADSL only). The speed of the website you are getting the information from. How many other people are using your exchange. The length and quality of the phone wiring in your home and whether you use extensions. Some things you may be able to change include:

The quality of the micro filters and using then on each extension that you have a phone or the modem or router plugged into. Reduce the length of cable from your main Telephone socket to where you plug in your modem or router. The specification of your computer Both BT and Virgin Media recommend a 2 GHz processor and 1 or 2 GB or RAM depending on your Operating System for their High Speed Fibre Optic connections. One thing to bear in mind is that although the modem or router may connect at a given speed for example in the image below you can see that I am connected to the internet at 13,421kbps (kilo bits per second) or approx 13Mbps. However the actual speed which I can download a file can vary.

connection info
Broadband connection info

In the two images below you can see the different results that I get from different servers using url: http://www.speedtest.net to test my connection.

Speed test from a server in Lancaster Speed test from a server in Aberdeen
Speedtest results from two servers

This lowered figure for the download speed is caused by overhead and other factors affecting the connection as I download and upload a file to the respective server.

Ping is shown in each image and is the length of time that it takes for a request to be sent to the server and the acknowledgement to come back.

The speed at which I can download a file is mostly dependant on the server I am downloading from. If I were to download a large file from Microsoft then I am likely to get that file as quickly as my router or modem can manage as shown in the image below. If I were to get a file from other sites I am not guaranteed to get such a fast speed.

Download from Microsoft
Download from Microsoft showing download speed of 1,326KB/s.

Notice how my maximum download speed is approx one tenth of my connection speed. This appears to be the rough formula and is the one I use in my head to guess the download speed of a connection.

As I stated earlier to improve this you could do many things from replacing your micro filters and extension cables to rewiring your house or moving house altogether. However much of the causes of a slow connection are rarely fixable unless it is a problem with you ISP.

When you call to complain it is best to follow their instruction as unfortunately to actually get to speak to the people who can resolve your issue the first line support staff do have to tick of various boxes by asking standard questions. Even if you have already carried out the tasks be patient but insistent. Do not let them give you the brush off. If you are not receiving close to your advertised speed always speak with your ISP until you are happy with the outcome.

I have a contract with Be broadband for up to 24Mbit however due to the distance from the exchange, the old wiring which I think was installed around the time that it was still the General Post Office Telecommunications not British Telecom. I joke but the wiring is very old. I also am unable to plug my router directly into the main BT socket and therefore have to sacrifice some speed (just over 10Mbit) to all these factors however I am still above half of the advertised speed and faster than the connection I have had with both BT and Sky over the same wires.

If you do not achieve half of what you are paying for then my recommendation is to call up your ISP until they resolve the issue in a manner you are satisfied with.

If you are having issues with your connection that your ISP assures you is not their fault get in touch I may be able to help get you back online.

Some useful links:

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