Monitoring my modem/router, the connect speed that it displays varies: 640/640, 1024/640, 1596/800. In addressing my slow speeds, my ISP insists that my three-year old modem/router needs replacement. I’m willing to do it if that will correct the problem, but my thinking is there’s nothing wrong with my existing modem/router. Aren’t the connection speeds that it displays a result of the line configuration settings originating with my ISP? Am I going to the expense of buying a newer modem/router they recommend only to end up with the situation unchanged?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to confirm what is happening. It could be the router, the line configuration, or other things like wire deterioration (which actually happened to me).
Let’s begin by looking at a few things.
Minimize your connections
When running a speed test, try to connect to only one computer. For instance, if you have a home network of multiple computers, disconnect all of them except the computer that you’re testing.
That can be frustrating. In my case, I have many devices connect to my line. But if you contact your ISP about the problem, the first thing that they’ll ask you to do is disconnect everything and only connect a single computer. That’s a pain, but it can be an important step in diagnosing the problem.
You should also shut down as much software on that computer as you can. Software can use resources on the computer, possibly including the internet, during your test which can adversely impact the test results.
Connect directly to the modem
For anyone whose modems are separate devices from routers (and my guess is that’s not your scenario, but just in case), turn on the firewall and connect your computer directly to the modem.
In other words, take the router out of the equation. That way, whatever speed you get on this test is completely about your computer’s ability to connect only through the modem and on to the line upstream. (Note that you need to reboot the computer to connect to this reconfiguration.)
Could it be line configuration?
It is possible that it is a line configuration issue, but that’s unlikely in my opinion. They don’t change line configurations for the fun of it. They usually have reasons and they only set up the configuration of your line when your device is initially connected.
DSL is a signal that accompanies your telephone line. In other words, it’s actually placed on the same copper wires that come into your house to deliver your land-line phone. If you’ve ever picked up the phone, dialed a single digit, and just listened to the background noise, the sounds (like the static and pops that you hear) can actually impact the DSL signal if they’re loud enough.
I had this experience myself some years ago. Somewhere along the line, the underground wiring casing that leads to my house cracked and some moisture got into it. That was enough to cause electrical interference and the DSL speeds plummeted.
The telephone company came out. They diagnosed the lines and switched to a different pair of copper wires that were not cracked and the DSL speeds picked up instantly.
Try the new modem
If you can’t determine what’s wrong with your computer after running some of these basic diagnoses on your problem, try a new modem. See if you can work out a deal with the ISP. If the results are better, you’ll take the modem. If they aren’t, ask your ISP if they’ll refund it. I don’t know if they’ll go for it, but it’s worth a try.
The realities of line speed
Let me close with one last clarification on this concept of line speed. When you run something like say a 1.5 megabits per second line, your speed test takes overhead into account.
Nobody gets a full 1.5 megabits out of a 1.5 megabit line. If you’re getting 1.2 or 1.3, I wouldn’t be looking for problems at that point.
On the other hand, if you’re getting 640 kilobits (i.e. 0.640 megabits) at times, then you need to diagnose the problem.
Just know that the maximum speeds are usually either theoretical maximums (that are never encountered) or actual maximums released by the ISP that don’t take into account overhead on the line.
Practical speeds are usually somewhat less than the published speed.