Why is your connection slow?
You can check your actual connection speed through an online service such as speedtest.net. Before visiting the site, you’ll need to pause or close any programs which are using the internet, such as peer-to-peer services, file downloads, iTunes and the like. You’ll likely find the speed you get is slightly slower than that quoted by your internet provider, but if it’s significantly lower you may have a problem. It’s worth running these checks every so often just to check what your ‘normal’ speed is.
Your speed may well drop at busy times. This is because most broadband connections are actually shared by a large number of customers and internet providers don’t allocate enough capacity for everyone to be downloading or uploading files at the same time (because that would mean a lot of wasted capacity at other times).
If your speed suddenly drops and stays that level continuously, it may be that you’re internet provider has ‘shaped’, ‘managed’ or ‘throttled’ your connection. This can be done if you breach the firm’s fair use policies which limit you to downloading a certain amount of data during particular hours of the day, impose a maximum monthly limit, or restrict certain types of internet use. You’ll have to check your firm’s specific policy; it’s worth using software such as that at www.dumeter.com to check how much you are downloading. Bear in mind that some firm’s restrict how much data you upload, which can be an issue if you use peer-to-peer software such as BitTorrent or uTorrent, or if you play on-line games.
If you normally have a good signal but it becomes unreliable or slower at particular times, you’ve probably got interference from a wireless connection in a nearby home. Fortunately there are a range of ‘channels’ on which you can broadcast your wireless signal. Your router’s instruction manual will tell you how to alter the settings: experiment with different channels until you find one that doesn’t suffer from interference.
In some cases, you may get interference from cordless phones or even microwave ovens. In these cases, you’ll probably have to experiment with moving either your router or your computer. Try to get the router as high up as possible and site the computer so that there’s a straight line (albeit with walls or ceilings) to the router without any devices in the way.
>» Wireless Network Security: Is your Wi-Fi Connection Secured?
This post is part of the series: Solving broadband connection problems
In a two part series we examine what to do if you can’t get a broadband connection at all, if you have a slow connection, or if you’re wireless connection is unreliable.