Broadband speed myths debunked
This August, the Which? mystery callers made 180 phone calls to 15 major internet service providers (ISPs), posing as potential customers.
According to Ofcom guidelines, ISPs are obliged to provide broadband speed estimates to any potential customer when speaking over the phone, and while our callers received estimates, these were often explained away with a baffling range of excuses and conditions.
The reasons for unpredictable line speed are numerous, but which are truly the most important in determining internet speed?
Distance from the exchange
Quite simply, this is the most significant factor when it comes to the most common broadband wiring across the country (ADSL).
The signal degrades over distance and the further you are from your exchange, the slower the speed.
When you’re speaking to a broadband provider as a potential customer, make sure they give you an estimate of your likely broadband speed before you agree to any contract.
This estimate ought to be based on your home’s location, and ISPs are obliged by Ofcom to provide such estimates to potential customers.
Internal house wiring
This can create significant interference within the home, particularly with wiring around phone extension sockets.
If you’re experiencing slow broadband speeds, your home wiring may play a part, but this shouldn’t be used as an excuse by an ISP when they give you a likely speed quote.
Distance from the exchange is more important, and no ISP can give an estimate based on your home’s likely wiring, only its location.
Noise from traffic or electrical equipment
This is less likely to be the root cause of slow speeds, but it can make a difference if electrical goods around your house are faulty.
If your broadband performance is erratic, consider what’s being used in the house when it slows down.
Short of attempting to connect to the internet on the banks of the M1, it’s unlikely that passing motorway traffic is likely to be a key reason for your slow broadband slow speeds.
Rain and wind
IMPACT: VERY LOW
Only in extreme cases should the elements have an effect on your internet speeds, and even then it’s likely to be minimal.
Adverse weather may increase the problems on an existing line fault, but short of a monsoon, it’s unlikely that the elements can entirely account for a slow service.
If an ISP tells you over the phone that they can’t give you a speed estimate since the weather can play its part, explain to them that you would like your speed estimate based on your home’s location.
It’s true that when there are an unusually high number
of visitors to any one website, it can cause the website to run slowly.
Similarly, websites with busy flash tools and video content can easily slow down your internet browser.
Still, this shouldn’t be used by an ISP as a general reason for why your overall internet access speeds seem slow.
Multiple users in the house
When several people are sharing a broadband connection and are all using the internet at once, it can certainly slow down internet speeds.
If a laptop, a tablet and a smart TV are all accessing the web at once, that’s potentially a lot of information being downloaded.
But this can’t always account for slow speeds, so if you feel your service is suffering, test your speeds with only one device connected at a time.
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