How to get better broadband speeds

A few quick tricks to increase your download speeds.

These days most people in the UK are able to purchase broadband Internet services in the home.  The problem is that there’s such a variety of providers and services out there, that it can be very difficult to get the best speeds, and the best value for money.

Luckily, there are a few simple tricks for ensuring that you get the best broadband speeds for the most competitive price.

A good starting point is to understand exactly how fast your current broadband is, and the best way to do that is to use an online broadband speed test.  Tests like this will give you a good idea of how fast your current Internet connection is.

When running these tests it’s important to take note of a couple of things:

Firstly, make sure that no one using your connection is downloading anything (or using the Internet at all).  If other people on your home network are using the Internet connection then you won’t get an accurate readout of your download speeds.

Secondly, try testing your broadband speeds at different times of the day.  Some broadband providers will perform better or worse than others during peak times of the day, namely in the evenings and at weekends, when they’re at their busiest.

Once you have an accurate readout of how fast your broadband connection is, you can start looking at ways to gain better performance, or at the very least save yourself some money.

Always use the master socket.

Chances are that you have more than one phone socket in your home.  If that’s the case, make sure that you plug your Internet router into the original (or master) socket, i.e. the one that your provider installed.

It might seem a bit trivial, but connecting up to the master socket can cut a good few yards off of the cable run, and eliminates at least one physical connection seeing as any other sockets in your home will run off of the original one.

You’ll also be eliminating any problems that occur through bad connections in your home, which is the first thing your provider will blame if you call up complaining about bad connection speeds.

Don’t use extension leads.

Using the master socket is great, but not if it means using an extension lead to get your router in the location you want.

In effect it’s exactly the same as connecting to a secondary socket, in fact it can be a lot worse if you’re using a “reel” type extension lead such as the one shown on the right.

These types of leads will lead to more interference on the line, which can result in slower download speeds or even a complete loss of service.

If your master socket is in a location where you just can’t place your router, consider asking your provider to move it to a better location.  There will be a charge associated with this, but the long term gain is that you could end up with better download speeds.

Use filters correctly.

When you received your router from your provider it would have come with an ADSL splitter, which allows the use of the phone line and broadband simultaneously.  It does this by separating the frequencies used by your phone and your broadband.

For your broadband (and phone) to work properly, you need to install a filter on every single telephone outlet in your home, not just the outlet used by the router.

Failing to install a filter on every phone outlet will result in interference, which will almost certainly impact performance of your broadband connection.

Speak to your Internet provider.

If you suspect that you’re not getting the speeds that you should, and none of the above has helped, then your next step is to speak to your Internet provider.  They’ll probably take you through the same steps as above, and ask you some questions that seem quite pointless and trivial.

Play along with them, and then ask them to run a line test in order to see if there are any issues with the service you’re receiving.

This may not work if you’re using your own router (instead of one they provided).  In fact, once they discover that you’re using your own router they will invariably say that this is the problem.  So, if you still have the router they provided, switch back to it before making the call.

Chances are that you receive your Internet service from a different company to the one that provides your phone line, a fact that most Internet companies rely on.  They’ll almost always tell you that their service is fine and to ring your provider.


Speak to your phone provider

It may be that your phone and Internet services are provided by the same company, but if they’re not then your Internet provider will almost certainly blame your phone line for the lack of performance.

If that’s the case, ring your phone provider and ask them to run a speed test on the line.  They can usually do this remotely, but they may need to come round in order to ascertain if there’s a problem.

This is more likely to be a problem in older houses (or housing estates) where the wiring is likely to be older and of a lower quality.

If the quality of the line is deemed to be insufficient, then you’re within your rights to ask it to be replaced.  However, most providers will still charge a connection fee for this service, which you’re unlikely to be able to talk your way out of.

Move house.

Ok, so this one isn’t really practical.  But, if you’re thinking of moving anyway, make broadband service a consideration when choosing your next home.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking the current owners or tenants of a property what their connection speeds are, and how much they pay.

What’s more, most Internet providers will be able to give you a rough idea of actual speeds if you provide them with a postcode for the place you’re looking at moving to.

What if all this fails?

If you’ve gone through all of the steps above and still can’t get the speeds that you should be getting, then it may just be that the service you’re receiving at the moment is the best you can receive in your area.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done, it’s time to get tough with your service provider.

Call them up and tell them that unless something is done you will switch to another provider.  It will help if you’ve had a look around at what other providers will offer in terms of price, because they’ll usually call your bluff and ask what you’ve been offered.

The chances are that you’ll only see a marginal increase in speed (if any) if you switched providers.  What you’re after here is a price cut on your existing service.  If you’re outside of your initial contract period then your provider would rather cut the price of the service they offer than see you move to a competitor.

As an example, I recently switched providers, but before I did my previous provider offered to cut my monthly bill from £21.50 to £13.00 if I signed on for another 12 months – for the same level of service.  If you can’t gain better speeds, then you might as well save yourself some money.

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