Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

I'm only getting speeds of 28.8kbs, why won't it go faster?


How can I get my PC to run faster than 28.8kbps? I use to run at 40.0kbps
but lately I’ve been stuck at 28.8. What should I do?

First let’s be clear about something, it’s not your computer that’s slower
than you expect, it’s your modem.

And while your modem may be rated at up to 56kbps, it’s rare to ever see
that speed. And yes, speeds of 28.8 are not uncommon. But since you were
getting 40, obviously something changed.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

The Plain Old Telephone System (or POTS) was never designed to carry digital
data – heck, it was designed before practical digital data even existed. Phone
lines are designed to carry sound.

Your modem (short for
modulator/demodulator) is the device that
turns the digital 1’s and 0’s that your computer “speaks” into sound that can
then be transmitted over phone lines.

As technology has improved, so have modems. 25 years ago we were stuck with
speeds of 300bps (no ‘k’ … we’re talking 0.3kbps here). That’s about 30
typewritten characters per second. Over time speeds increased … 1200, 2400,
4800, onward up to the current common maximum of 56,000bps, or 56kbps.

As speeds increased, so did their reliance on the quality of the phone line.
In fact, many of the higher speeds simply made assumptions about the quality of
the connection, and if the quality wasn’t there, the speed would drop.

56kbps is almost never actually seen. As I understand it, it requires a
pristine phone connection with no noise and strong signal. The reality of the
telephone system is that noise is simply a fact of life.

“Telephone line noise and/or low volume will cause your
modem to slow down.”

You’ve probably experienced it yourself when making a phone call. Sometimes
the connection is crystal clear (though perhaps with just a little background
noise that modems notice, but you might not). Sometimes it sounds like the
person at the other end is speaking through a wet blanket, or that someone is
popping popcorn while you’re trying to talk.

Telephone line noise and/or low volume will cause your modem to slow

I used to experience this regularly. When traveling to my in-laws, I would
use a dial-up connection from the farm house. Way out in rural farmland, the
phone worked just fine for voice communication, but the signal was weak and
noisy. I was lucky to get 28.8kbps, and frequently got much lower.

So as you can see, what I’m leading up to is to check out your phone line.
If you used to get a reliable 40kbps, and now only get 28.8 without making any
changes to your modem configuration, then there’s likely more noise, or a lower
signal, on your line.

It could be your issue – perhaps you added more phones to your home, perhaps
a power cable got placed too near a phone line and noise is now crossing over,
perhaps a buried cable got wet and static has been introduced. Perhaps the
cable you’re using to connect to the phone line has become frayed, or the
connections have worn.

It could just as easily not be your fault. The phone company, or
even your ISP, could have done something that decreased the signal strength or
inadvertently added noise.

You can check with them, but depending on their level of customer service
commitment, it may be difficult to get them help. My take is that most are more
interested in selling additional services such as DSL that improving the
quality of a phone line as long as that phone line works well for voice.

One last thought: it’s possible that it could be your modem. While most
modem failures are catastrophic (it just stops working), sometimes failures are
more gradual. You might try taking your computer to a different location – a
known good location – and seeing if you get your higher speed connection

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

1 thought on “I'm only getting speeds of 28.8kbs, why won't it go faster?”

  1. I have also recently ran into a problem, with a drop in my dial-up connection speed. The computer I have been using, usually has a connection speed of 45 to 49.2kbps. I have Win XP Home Editon as my OS. Well recently I updated it to the service pack 2 level.

    As soon as this was done I could only connect at 28.8kbps. I’ve checked the line with another computer which isn’t mine and got 49.2kbps.

    I reinstalled Win XP home SP1 and the connection speed went back to 45 to 49.2. It’s only after I update that something weird happens to my modem.

    Is there some protocal Win XP SP2 is usng that is causing the modem to only log on at 28.8kbps? If so how can I change this, so I can again get the old speed back?


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.