Telecoms > Guides

Get Yourself Connected: DIY hacks for faster broadband

Richard Bayston

Richard Bayston
Aug 1, 2016

Most people aren’t getting the broadband speeds they’re paying for.

It’s a problem that affects a lot of people: More than half of us have suffered from broadband being slower than we were promised. 24% of Brits complain that broadband is slow or unreliable in the evenings.

It’s also a problem that causes more than frustration. As more and more people depend on the internet not just for entertainment and socializing but for work too, poor connections can have a financial cost. In one survey, a quarter of those questioned said they had lost money (an average £159) because of slow broadband hampering access to online shopping deals or working time.

If this sounds familiar, the next question is: what can I do about it?

Here are seven ways you can get better broadband.

 

Speed Test your Broadband!

There are dozens of speed test sites online. If your broadband is working, just slowly, start here: Google ‘broadband speed test,’ pick one (they all work the same way) and run a test. If you’re paying for 17Mbps you may be surprised to see what speed your data is really moving at.

When you sign up with a broadband provider, they’ll boast of ‘up to’ speeds. You could get ‘broadband up to 17Mb’ with TalkTalk, for instance. But what speed will you actually get?

Average download speeds across the UK come out at 28.9Mbps (Megabytes per second) across the country (up from 22.8 in February last year); but there’s a sharp split depending on where in the country you live. Urban areas average 50+Mbps; suburbs get an average 30.7; rural areas crawl along at 13.7Mbps download speeds.

 

Turn Everything Off and Speed Test Again

Disconnect every device from the network except the one you’re doing the speed test on. Pause all downloads and streaming, close every app you’re not using, then run the test again.

If there’s a big difference between the first and second test speeds, one problem might be having too many devices connected. Devices that are set to connect automatically will be receiving and sending updates, messages and location and usage reports for apps almost constantly, dragging other traffic. Turn those options off on your devices or deselect automatic connection on them to help increase broadband speed.

 

Check Your Router

Most routers come set up to broadcast on default wavelengths that they share with lots of other routers and other devices like baby monitors. If you live in a modern block of flats there could be hundreds of devices nearby vying for the same wavelength as your router.

They can be in the wrong place too - routers use radio waves and solid brick walls will bounce the signal rather than letting it through. Moving your router to a different physical location can accelerate your broadband without changing anything else!

Routers get old and physically deteriorate. Consider asking your ISP for a new router -if you haven’t had one recently they’re usually happy to oblige and it can make a big difference, especially if you’ve had the same router for several years.

 

Check Your Security

Have you changed your router password and admin name, and is your network password protected? Unprotected wifi networks are a huge security risk - people passing by can steal your data with their mobile phone if they can log on to your network - but it’s more likely that a cheeky neighbour is getting a freebie off you by logging onto your network and soaking up your bandwidth, slowing Game of Thrones to a crawl.

To find out if your network is password protected, go to your network connections and find your network.

If you see a padlock symbol next to its name, you’re protected. If not, go into your router’s control panel and change the settings so you are. While you’re in there, change the default administrator name and password: these are usually either ‘admin’ and ‘password,’ or ‘admin’ and ‘blank.’ (Not that hard to hack, right?)


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Check Your Software

Are you running the latest version of your browser?

What about your browser firmware? Updating these can make a massive difference to how well your broadband performs.

Downloading the latest version of your browser might just involve going to the browser’s home website - mozilla.org/firefox, for instance. Downloading new router firmware can be done by going to your router manufacturer’s homepage, where it’s normally available for free with instructions.

 

Check Your ISP

Your Inbternet Service Provider may be willing to help you.

If you contact them with your problem, lots of technical support is often available, which can range from an engineer coming round to having someone take control of your screen remotely and set up your computer and wifi configurations to get the best out of the wifi you already have.

 

Check Your Contract

‘Up to’ speeds aren’t very reliable. But your ISP should have given you an estimate of the kind of speeds you can expect. If your ISP is signed up to Ofcom’s voluntary code of conduct it should have told you what kind of speed you can expect, and if that differs from the average speed they supply it should have explained the technical reasons for this.

ISPs don’t usually try too hard to announce this, so you might have to go looking in your small print to find it. You’ll usually find it under ‘Level of Service’ or ‘Service Level Agreement.’

You should also check your ISP’s MGLAS. Minimum Guaranteed Line Access Speeds are figured out by identifying the slowest 10% of customers’ speeds, then finding the fastest among those. It’s a measure of the ‘fastest of the slow’ - the least you should be able to expect.

If you’re not getting these, you might qualify to leave your contract without paying any fees.

There was a three month cut off after which leaving without fees was at the company’s discretion; thanks to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 they’re now required to let you leave if they don’t live up to their obligations. This isn’t something the company has any say in: it’s the law!

Don't forget, you can use A Spokesman Said to publicize your complaint at any time and push your Internet Service Provider to take action and do the right thing.

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