Your internet speed : What can you do?

A recent report from The West has labelled Perth as a broadband wasteland with some pretty damning results.

Sure, the internet could be faster. Much faster and the NBN is going to help solve a big chunk of that as it is rolled out and tweaked but the thing that concerns me about this story is that the data has come from “one of the most popular download speed test sites” testmy.net.

Until today I had never heard of testmy.net so I checked it out and I found that the results from testmy.net were often well below what other respected test sites reported. Here are the results from a consecutive set of tests from testmy.net, fast.com, speedtest.net and dslreports.com.

  • testmy.net 3.3Mbps
  • Fast.com 23Mbps
  • Speedtest.net 28Mbps
  • DSLreports.com 35Mbps

So why were the results so different?

The thing about the internet is that is only as fast as it’s slowest link. I could have a fast connection coming into my premises but if the site I am trying to access has a really slow connection (shared between many simultaneous visitors) then my speed will be limited to the slowest speed between myself and my target site.

old modem
That old router is probably holding you back.

This is where I think we might be seeing really slow speeds when testing with testmy.net. Somewhere between your computer and testmy.net there is a slow or congested connection. My first point being, if you are going to test your connection make sure that you test across multiple tools and throw out the unusually high and low results to get a more accurate picture.

ethernet_cable
Wires when you can, wireless when you must.

Next we can take a look at the causes for consistently slow internet connections.
Your router : As routers age, they actually deteriorate and performance suffers. If your router is older than 2 years, you should consider replacing it.
Wifi or ethernet : Wifi is very convenient but it is not as fast or stable as the good old ethernet cable. If you want to test your internet connection instead of your wifi performance, use an ethernet cable to attach a computer directly to your router.
Time of day : This is a big factor that can impact performance and we get into something known as contention and is the number of customers that are assigned to a big connection going out of an exchange or node. During peak times (3PM to 10PM for residential connections) you are going to have more people trying to access the same connection feeding your exchange.

1296-13176-1-PB
Hey you kids, get off my LAN!

This of course will impact your speed if your ISP assigns more customers per exchange link than others. This becomes evident when you compare premium ISPs with budget ISPs. To save money, budget ISPs will put more customers onto a link that a premium ISP would.

What can you do about slow internet speeds?

  1. Make sure your router is no older than 12 months old.
  2. Connect to your router with an ethernet cable.
  3. Perform multiple tests across the day and use recognised test services.
  4. Keep track of poor performance and drop outs. A spreadsheet or even a handwritten record goes a long way to providing your ISP with solid data to help resolve the cause.
  5. Communicate with your ISP. If they do not resolve the issue follow up with a formal complaint to the ISP and then if that does not work, go to the TIO.

Below are a few links you might find useful.

  • Fast.com a speed test service from Netflix.
  • Speedtest.net a long-serving benchmark used by professionals.
  • dslreports.com/speedtest a comprehensive speed testing tool also respected in the business.
  • TIO the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman is the peak industry body used to ensure that everyone plays by the rules.

Just to be clear, I think that internet speeds could be (and should be) much faster but we have a range of factors to address before we can work with our ISPs to ensure that we get the service we are paying for. Working with your ISP and maintaining communication will go a long way to finding a fix quickly.