Q: Hello Kim, I'm noticing that my home internet connection slows down sometimes. Could my service provider be limiting my speed?
- Jerome A. from San Ramon, California listens to Kim Komando on 810 AM KGO
A: Not necessarily.
Internet slowdowns on home networks could mean a variety of things, not just throttling.
First, run a speed test. Make sure no one in your home network is doing bandwidth hogging tasks like file downloads, file sharing, video streaming, video chats, etc. You don't want any activity within your control to be skewing the results.
With a wired router connection, go to a reliable internet speed testing site like Speedtest.net or Netflix's Fast.com and compare the results with your internet provider's advertised speed for your plan. (Rates are usually in Mbps.)
Do multiple tests and if the average of the results is only about 5-10 Mbps off, then that should be tolerable. Factors like congestion during peak times and your distance from the relay hardware will contribute to slight variations on your speed. (For more accuracy, you could turn your Wi-Fi radios off during the wired tests.)
If your wired results are way lower than advertised, a consistent 20 to 30 Mbps difference, perhaps, then there might be something else going on.
Check your hardware first and see if it's compatible with your provider's recommendations. For example, older DOCSIS 2.0 modems can't go beyond 38 Mbps. If you have a rate plan of 50 Mbps and above, better upgrade your modem to DOCSIS 3.0.
What if you already have newer hardware and you're still seeing less-than-advertised speeds? Then check your network for unauthorized devices that may be stealing your bandwidth.
If you do find Wi-Fi thieves, better kick them off then change your network password quick! Click here to make sure that no one's stealing your Wi-Fi.
No bandwidth hogging activities, optimum hardware, no bandwidth thieves. If you've already done these steps and you're still getting slower than advertised speeds, there's one more test we recommend before you start complaining to your ISP.
Check if your internet provider is practicing traffic shaping with an online tool called Glasnost.
Traffic shaping is when certain applications or tasks, like file sharing through BitTorrent or video streaming, are being rate-limited, throttled or blocked on purpose.
Glasnost could detect throttling on Peer-to-Peer sharing applications, Flash video, email, and file transfer services. It's a great testing tool for exposing your provider's net neutrality.
However, it requires Java to run and it won't work with browsers like Chrome that are blocking their Java app. Due to the Java requirement, file Glasnost under "use at your own risk."
If you've done all these recommendations and you're still not satisfied, then it's time to inform your ISP about the disparity. The problem may be strictly on their side that they will need to investigate.
Also, keep in mind that some internet providers may throttle speeds if you've exceeded your data caps. If this is the case, you may want to upgrade your plan to one with a higher data cap.
Finally, if your ISP can't consistently deliver on the internet speed they're advertising, and you have another option of coverage in your area and you're not under contract, consider canceling your current service and switching to another, hopefully better, service provider.