Five easy ways to speed up your broadband

John Fitzsimons
by Lovemoney Staff John Fitzsimons on 12 October 2009  |  Comments 21 comments

John Fitzsimons reveals the broadband gripes that get us hot under the collar, and looks the top five ways to improve your download speeds.

When it comes to broadband, I do not exactly have a brilliant track record. In the past I've been guilty of failing to shop around properly for the best value deal for me, and of making daft, impetuous decisions.

This was characterised when, on a whim, I opted to go with the Post Office for my broadband supplier. It hasn't gone entirely smoothly, and there have been a fair few times when I've been left pulling my hair out (what's left of it anyway).

I'm not alone - thousands of us are driven to distraction by failures by our broadband providers. But the shocking fact is that, for many of us, nothing comes of our complaints.

Our unresolved gripes

New research from lovemoney.com partner, Broadbandchoices.co.uk, has found that more than half of our complaints - 54% in fact - are not successfully resolved.

Even worse, more than a third of dissatisfied broadband users don't even bother registering their complaint, sceptical that it will do them any good. Indeed, the vast majority had no idea of how to even go about registering their dissatisfaction.

Here are the top three issues that have grated with you:

1. Download speeds

2. Customer service

3. Reliability issues

How to complain

The fact that there is uncertainty about your complaining options is a touch worrying though, so I'm going to try to shed some light on the process. Here's how you should go about complaining with an Internet Service Provider.

  • Go direct to your Internet Service Provider with any issues. Insist they explain fully their complaints procedure before you officially register a complaint.
  • It helps to document all correspondence with your Internet Service Provider, with times and dates of all discussions, as well as recording the names of any staff you speak to.
  • If, after eight weeks, there has been no resolution, then you should contact an alternative dispute resolution organisation and get their advice on how to proceed. Your best bets are the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS) and the Office of the Telecommunications Ombudsman (OTELO).

Get the most from your broadband package!

While complaining is one route to getting a better broadband experience, there are plenty of things you can do at home to improve your internet connection.

I'm going to focus on that biggest gripe - download speeds.

1. Change your browser settings

The majority of us are still using version 6 of Internet Explorer, which downloads all files on a web page in a sequential order. As a result, if you are going onto a page with a lot of pictures, chances are it will take longer to load.

However, if you upgrade to version 7, or use a different browser (Mozilla Firefox is a popular choice among my techy friends), then you might be able to get those pages up quicker.

2. Tweak your router settings

Have a read of your router's manual. It should detail ways to maximise performance.

3. Don't let your neighbours nick it!

This is one I definitely need to do! If you have a wireless router, then people in your street might be able to access it, and ride on your internet coat-tails, and this, sadly, can slow your own ride down.

Your wireless network will have a name - that's how you know which network to select when attempting to go online - and the vast majority of the time it will be something the manufacturers have given it. Mine is Linksys, followed by some numbers, for example.

Keeping this as the name acts as a beacon to hackers or naughty neighbours that you have not changed your security settings, so they are likely to have a go at nicking your net connection. Change the name to something more obscure, and they might be put off.

However, different routers have different methods for changing the name. I'd recommend reading the router's manual, or having a search on the net for how to do it for yours.

The second step is to set a scrambling code - this prevents anyone that doesn't know the code from connecting. It's known as a WEP key.

Again, your router manual should be able to tell you how to do this. Once you have changed the name of your connection, and set up a key, make sure you write them down or else it won't only be your neighbours that can't use your broadband!

4. Scrap going wireless

Simple but true - if your internet connection is a bit slow when you connect wirelessly, try connecting your PC or laptop directly. In fact, even the type of cable you use makes an impact; ethernet cables tend to be more efficient than USB ones.

5. Get a better aerial!

Most aerials are 2dBi (this represents the length of the aerial) so getting a longer aerial will improve your connection strength and speed. Experts reckon a 9dBi aerial will up your signal strength by up to 50%!

Those are my five top tips, but I'm certain there are loads more out there on how to get great value for money from your broadband package - be sure to share them via the comment box below!   

More: Get super-fast broadband for £3 a month | Watch out for this phone scam!

Compare broadband at lovemoney.com partner Broadbandchoices.co.uk

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Comments (21)

  • nosbort
    Love rating 160
    nosbort said

    For wireless security THE most important thing to do is to turn SSID broadcast off, without the SSID it is not possible to hack anything as you don't know what you are hacking. Set up your wireless network with WPA/PSK set MAC address filtering and turn off SSID broadcast once you are connected.

    Report on 13 October 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Lol
    Love rating 10
    Lol said

    Actually, it is also still possible to hack a wireless connection with SSID broadcast turned off by using a sniffer application which can uncover the SSID as soon as the client associates with the router.

    Although the difference can often be marginal, a wired connection is technically faster than a wireless one. Of course the above posters are correct that if you have (for eg) a one Meg broadband connection then this is the choke point for raw throughput and so whether 100/1000 Meg wired or 54 Meg wireless, you are never going to get a download speed of more than one Meg. However, the wired connection can often appear faster due to the fact there is less latency in the connection. This usually isn't a big problem and potentially really only affects hardcore online gamers where latency value can mean the difference between frag and be fragged.

    With regards to aerials, it's worth noting that the transmit power of your router is fixed, and a new aerial won't increase this. A hi-gain aerial essentially works by making the signal more directional. This means that rather than spreading the signal around in all directions, it focuses it in one direction. The higher the gain the more focused the signal and so you need to think about where you most often use the wireless connection; a hi-gain aerial may or may br appropriate to your situation, and re-siting the router may be a better option. You can also make your own hi-gain aerial using an empty pringles tube - google it ;)

    One final thing to check that can often improve performance of your ADSL connection is the MTU (maximum transmission unit) setting on your router. Often this is set at the default setting of 1500, whereas ADSL lines connecting using the PPPoE or PPPoA protocols benefit from a slightly smaller value, and this can also vary slightly from ISP to ISP anything from 1400 to around 1492. It's important to note that the MTU setting must be changed on your PC also, and that the MTU setting on your router should never be smaller than that set on your PC, otherwise packets get dropped and this degrades the performance. You can get some more detailed info about this from here http://www.kitz.co.uk/adsl/tweak2.htm

    Obviously this article was intended to be about performance not security, however there are a lot of security related comments added here so I'll make comment; As advised above with regards to wireless I agree you should definitely switch from WEP encryption as this can be cracked in under one minute depending on key length. When I helped set up my friends BT HomeHub for them I was appalled to see that the default settings provided by BT were set to WEP even though it supported WPA2-PSK.

    I think the thing to take away from this with regards to the security is to use all available options to cumulatively improve your position and protect yourself from opportunism. So all of the above, SSID broadcast off, MAC address filtering on, strongest encryption your router allows, (preferably WPA2-PSK at time of writing), with a really long and random key. And, ensure you use strong passwords and have a decent firewall (more often than not built into the router). And remember, one of the greatest weapons in your security arsenal is your own paranoia :)

    Regards,

    Lol (a member of the lovemony.com tech team).

    Report on 16 October 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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