What's Wrong With My Broadband Connection?

  • Turn it off and turn it on again
  • Don't panic - not too much can go wrong!
  • The problem is at the other end...sometimes

It’s 2013! We have smartphones that are more powerful than computers were 5 years ago! We have tiny chips embedded into our credit cards! We have a rover on another planet doing scientific work for us! So why on Earth (or Mars) do we still have to put up with a failing internet connection?

Looking for the best technical support, 100% Australia based? Call to enquire about Internode on 1300 106 571!

           slow internet

 

Well for starters, those other things don’t work all the time either. We accept that cars - highly engineered machines costing tens of thousands of dollars- need constant maintenance, but the relatively cheap device sitting on the desk  using a $60 a month service? That should work all the time.  Unfortunately, all of these things are built by humans, used by humans and abused by humans, and they all need a fine tune now and then.

But this isn’t really about your computer/tablet/laptop so much as it is about the service we pay for. The expectation is that these (often expensive) services are going to work as a simple matter of plugging something into the side of a computer, and away you go. Certainly this is how it’s advertised. And for a higher proportion of the time than most people will acknowledge, it works just like that. But when it doesn’t, few things can be as frustrating. That’s probably because all the moving bits and pieces are out of sight, and fixing it seems out of reach and hopeless.

Luckily, most broadband technologies are at least at a point where a fix is usually pretty easy to come by, even if you have to apply that fix several times a week.

Rule #1 – Turn it off and turn it on again

            turn it off and turn it on again

You may as well do it, because anyone who actually knows what they’re doing is going to start with that anyway. What frustrates some people is that they don’t quite know where or what they’re resetting. Simple answer to that? Reset everything! Or spend hours trying to determine exactly what’s wrong.

Reset your PC. Unplug and then reconnect your modem (this goes for tiny USB ‘dongle’ modems as well – take it out of the PC, reset the PC, put the dongle back in again). In many tablets, the modem is built into the device, where the SIM card is inserted. So turn the whole thing off. Take the SIM card out. Put the SIM card back in. Turn it back on.

The fact that most problems are fixable with a reset is a plus, not a minus. It means that the technology is good enough that starting from square one, where the hardware can go through all of its little internal processes to get started, can be enough to get over whatever error it has run into.

But why? Why should we need to? Simply put, we demand that our devices get smaller, faster and cheaper. That means they’re also going to get hotter and made from less expensive components. And all that activity going on at a nanoscopic level (most transistors now are being built at the billionth-of-a-meter scale) creates a lot of heat, and that heat causes issues.

Want to avoid needing to reset all the time? Invest in robust equipment. More expensive modems tend to be built from better heat-resistant plastics, and tend to have a lot of Quality-of-Service software tweaks in them to make sure it’s running at peak capacity only when it needs to. It also never hurts to make sure that there’s plenty of clearance around your hardware, allowing for steady heat dispersion.

Rule #2 - Isolate the issue

            

You’ve done your reset, you’ve made sure everything is running nice and cool – and yet still, all you get is ‘Page Cannot be Displayed’. It’s time to locate exactly where something is going wrong.

The most common configuration for a broadband service in a household is an ADSL Wi-Fi connection. That means-

1.       There’s a telephone connection point with a double adaptor going into it.

2.       In one port, there is a line connecting back to a telephone. In the other, a line going into a modem.

3.       The modem connects wirelessly to a number of devices.

For people who don’t use their landline, they may not have that double adaptor. And some people might use an Ethernet cable to go from the modem to their PC. But however you have it set up, isolate the issue by having a direct connection, with nothing in the way. That means phone socket > modem >Ethernet cable to computer. Does it work now? Then the problem is with the Wi-Fi link. Still doesn’t work? Time to call your ISP.

Rule #3 - Sometimes, the problem is at their end


adsl damaged line

After calling your service provider, they’ll probably want to run through steps 1 and 2. Some ISPs won’t bother if you say you’ve done that already, but it never hurts to run through it with them anyway – you may have missed something in your growing frustration and despair.

From there, your ISP will probably run some tests from their end to time and measure a specific signal from the line, to your home and back to their network connection point (usually the telephone exchange). If those tests come up ok, then it’s very likely that the issue is something with your computer. That’s bad.

But if the test comes back badly, then there are a number of possible scenarios:

1.       A global problem across their network. It’s rare to be the first to call this in; most issues start getting reported by hardcore gamers and downloaders who bash their connection 24/7. So if you don’t hear a message while on hold about a network-wide issue, chances are that isn’t it. But the good news if that is the issue – these get fixed on the double. The ISP loses money when the network doesn’t work.

2.       A local problem at your exchange. Actually more rare than a wider issue. Exchange points have a lot of redundancy built in. More common can be something in between – a problem in the state, or in one section of the state.

3.       A line fault. Increasingly common as the telephone network continues to degrade. The most common issue is water seeping into the pit in your home, and shorting out an inadequately waterproofed joint in the line somewhere. This is usually fixed with a visit by a Telstra linesman. They will isolate the wire, re-solder and waterproof accordingly. But the issue can repeat itself – linesman do vary in quality.

Conclusion


There’s not too many things that can go wrong with a broadband connection, but to the uninitiated it seems like an insurmountable problem. The most important thing is to keep calm and patiently go through the troubleshooting – and if you call technical support, have a heart – they can’t see what you’re going through, so they have to get an idea of the issue, what it could be, and talk through your-now-frustrated-self to a solution – all with the clock ticking and their supervisor hoping for calls to last no more than 7 minutes.

If you need help finding a new broadband connection, call us today on 1300 106 571!