Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Self-Help Measures to Try and Fix Speed and Connection Problems

UPDATE: Links to Jarviser's archived material updated in April 2014

There are several reasons why your broadband speeds can plummet, interference being one of the most likely causes. Look here for the types of thing that can cause such problems.

Phone Faults - Before doing lots of tests, you need to try and establish whether you really do have a broadband problem, or whether you have a phone problem that is affecting your broadband. You may have already noticed noises on your phone line, but to be sure, do the quiet line test.

Dial 170 70 and select option 2 when asked. Hold your hand over the phone mouthpiece, to stop it picking up noises, and listen. If you hear anything at all, you may have a problem. If you did hear anything out of the ordinary, try the test again, but this time disconnect the router and if you still hear noises, you probably have a phone problem - but it might be caused by your phone rather than you having a problem on your line. If you can, repeat the tests again with a different phone and if you still hear noises, you can be reasonably confident that you have a phone fault. You need to report this as such and in doing so, don't mention broadband! In this case, if the phone fault gets fixed, your broadband problems may go away.

Inside or Outside - OK, if it wasn't the phone causing problems, it might be something inside or outside the house. What we need to do is to determine which it is.

The simplest thing to try, if you have the correct sort of BT Master socket, is the Clean Socket Test. As is often the case when it comes to BT Broadband, the marvellous Jarviser has produced an easy step-by-step guide. It's important, as always when it comes to broadband, to follow Jarviser's instructions to the letter. More important in this case because if you get it wrong, it could cost you money! If the Clean Socket Test doesn't improve things, then chances are, the problem lies outside your home.

While we are on the subject of Jarviser, it's always worth spending a couple of hours browsing his website archive - there is a wealth of tried and tested information there - and I'll be referring to it a lot in this section.

If, for any reason, you can't do the Clean Socket Test, or even if you have done it and want to be certain that nothing in your home is causing problems, you can try switching every piece of electrical equipment in the house off, then turning them on one by one to see if that recreates the problem. Pay particular attention to devices connected to the internet like Sky boxes and extension phones. If it does, great, if it doesn't, try it all again with new microfilters on all the devices that need them.

Now work your way through the other tests on Jarviser's Broadband and Bellwire page. Perhaps the most important thing you can ever do to improve your broadband speed and connection stability, if you have extension sockets, is to remove the bellwire. This is so important, I'll say it again - remove the damned bellwire.

Why do this? Well, the now redundant bellwire (it used to be used to ring old-style phones) can act as a brilliant aerial, picking up all sorts of electrical and radio frequency interference from your home and dumping it straight on to your phone line.

If you really can't face pulling out a couple of wires, then, if you have the right sort of NTE5a Master socket, you could buy and fit an iPlate. It does a similar job to removing the bellwire, but isn't half as satisfying.

What else can you do? Well, problems with your telephone line and broadband connection might be caused by faults on your neighbours line, or their electrical equipment. If you are on speaking terms with them, you could ask if they are having similar problems, or if they have a new piece of electrical equipment. You might be surprised how helpful they can be, if you approach them in the right way. Here's one example where a little fault turned out to affect an entire village!

If you have a HomeHub 1.0, HomeHub 1.5, or many other commercial routers, particularly Netgear DG834 series routers, it is very worthwhile using RouterStats or RouterStats Lite, brilliant little freeware programs, to record your router stats continuously. The noise margin and sync speed traces will show any changes in either and you might be able to work out if a particular piece of equipment switching on or off might be causing your problems.

If you've worked your way through this checklist and still haven't found the fault, you are in a good position to call BT and not get charged for an engineer's visit as the problem seems to lie outside your home. Tackling the BT Help Line is not for the faint-hearted, so there is some advice here that might help. You also might also want to raise a question on the BT Beta Forum - and there's some more advice about that here.

The BT Forum can be a good way of getting action on a problem if you are having problems with the BT call centre in India; especially if the forum moderators take an interest. Alternatively, you can now raise your problem on Twitter!


Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the brilliant round up of points etc. I was wondering whether the information previosly available on Jarviser is available anywhere else as the site seems to be down / dead?


General Disquiet said...

All the old Jarviser files can now be found at:

Jarviser moved on to new challenges.

Having had some major problems with my own broadband service, I understand how others struggle to get help from BT.

There is a lot of good information out there, but it can be hard to find. So this blog is an attempt to pull some of it together, in one place.

It's a blog that really shouldn't be needed - if only BT and possibly other ISP's in the UK, provided useful customer support.