Broadband and the Need for Speed

The speed of a broadband connection is one of the three main points that consumers look at when signing up with a provider.  However, one problem that many consumers face is that their broadband speed decreases once they have signed up with the provider.  There are a number of reasons why your broadband speeds may have decreased. It is important to get to the root cause if you want to improve your connection.

Check the BE Broadband Package Speeds

Before you begin shouting that your speeds are not what they should be you need to check what your package speeds should actually be.  A lot of people think that their speeds should be greater than they are.  The perception of a 16mb per second connection may be a lot faster than it actually is.  Of course, you need to remember that you are unlikely to get the advertised speeds in real life.  If your BE broadband package states that you can get up to 16mb per second you are more likely to get around 10mb per second.

Testing Your Speeds

If you feel that you are getting a much slower speed than you should be then you should do a test.  You can easily test the speed of your broadband connection through the use of an online speed checker.  These checkers are available for free on a number of websites.  Before you run the test you need to do a few things:

  • You need to ensure that you are not downloading anything.  You should check all download applications, include Windows updates and anti-virus software updates.  Running downloads will affect the speed test and stop you getting an accurate result.
  • You also need to ensure that you are the only computer connected to the broadband.  When you have more than one device connected to the broadband connection the speeds are shared.  The other devices may also be running programmes that affect the results of the test. 
  • You should not conduct the speed test during peak times.  There are certain times when providers slow down the speeds across their network.  These peak times are detailed in the small print of your broadband contract and you should not conduct a speed test at these times if you are looking for your maximum speed.

Once you have done all of this you will be ready to run the speed test.  It is recommended that you run the test at least three times to get an average speed, and to see if there are any discrepancies.  If there are large changes between the test results you need to check the steps you went through in the bullet list above.  Once you have found your average speed you should check this against the speeds you should be getting.

If you are getting far below the advertised speed you should contact your provider to find out what the problem may be.  There are some common reasons why consumers get slow speeds. The provider will take you through a basic troubleshooting process. 

Common Slow Speed Causes

There are a number of common causes of slow speeds that you should be aware of:

  • Peak time slow speeds – there are certain peak times during the day when providers slow down the entire network.  During these times the providers cannot cope with the number of people using the network and they have to prioritise certain types of traffic.
  • Fair use policies – if your broadband package is subject to a fair use policy you may have breached the terms.  You should contact your provider to find out if this is the case.  This policy is detailed in the small print of your contract with the provider and you should read this before calling your provider.
  • The distance from the local exchange – if you have an ADSL broadband connection then the distance from the local exchange to your house can affect the connection speed.  There is very little that can be done about this, other than moving closer to the exchange.  This happens because the copper wiring used for ADSL degrades the strength of the connection the further the internet data has to travel. 
  • Your router – the router that you are using could actually be slowing down the broadband speed.  Routers are designed to cope with certain speeds and if you are using an old router then it may not be able to handle the new speeds.  This is one of the reasons why broadband service providers give their customers a new router when they change their broadband packages. 
  • The location of your router – as the router is sending out wireless signals the location plays a big role in the strength of the signal.  Your router should not be surrounded by other electrical items.  The interference can affect the signal and this slows down the speeds you will get.  You can test to see if the wireless signal is the problem by plugging your computer into the router via an Ethernet cable.
  • Your computer, or rather  the wireless receiver in your computer, should also be considered.  If your computer is old then the receiver may not be working correctly.  It is possible to get an external aerial for the computer to improve the reception.  

What You Can Do

If you have slow speeds because of provider policies you should consider what caused you to breach the terms.  You can then try and curb your usage so that you do not breach them again in the future.  You could also upgrade your account to a package that is more liberal.

If you are a long way from the local exchange you cannot do anything about this directly.  You could try changing to fibre optic broadband, because this does not have speeds that degrade with distance.  You should check the capabilities of your router and get a new one if you need to.  The last resort is to find out the best providers in your area and do a switch.