back to article Is this possibly the worst broadband in the world?

Four kilometres to the north of here, in semi-rural Kent, the pavements are stuffed with fibre-optic cable and the streets are lined with drab green cabinets, all nicely tooled up for superfast broadband. But here, we rely on plain old ADSL piped in from a small BT exchange, 1.7km to our south (as the crow flies). You can see it …

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  1. Longmeister
    FAIL

    Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

    So you have a problem with your broadband? I don't see how this has any relevance to your readers and is simply a way of you trying to escalate a personal problem with BT.

    1. Drewc Gold badge

      Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

      I am not complaining.

      BTW, arse end of nowhere = 70km from London, 4Km from a town of 60,000 and 10Km from a town of 80,000.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

        Checking your exchange there is Orbital/Vfast wireless service available in your area. I've never used them so they could be absolute crap for all I know.

        1. chrisevans1001
          Thumb Up

          Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

          I'm with vFast on their 15Mbps package. Regularly get between 11 and 15Mbps. This morning:

          http://www.speedtest.net/result/2434958954.png

          Service is reliable. In the two years I have had the connection, I have had 3 occasions where I have had no connection to the internet yet could ping their gateway. In itself, a few hours lost over 2 years not a big deal. My only gripe: Support was quick to deny there being any fault with their systems claiming an engineer would need to come out to fix something my end yet they mysteriously resolved without an engineer visit on each occasion.

      2. heyrick Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

        "BTW, arse end of nowhere = 70km from London, 4Km from a town of 60,000 and 10Km from a town of 80,000."

        No, no, no... Arse end of nowhere is 1km from a "town" of 250, 7km from a town of 1000 and about 20km from a town coming close to 10k; with 4.7km of ancient overhead (1960s) line between you and the exchange, surrounded by nothing but muddy fields.

        Orange France used to offer me 2mbit down and 256kbit up. A couple of months ago this was (artificially?) limited to 1.8mbit down, but the upload now runs closer to 700kbit.

        So, considering this, it sounds like BT should be ashamed of themselves...is the UK a third-world country or something?

        1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

          Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

          "Orange France used to offer me 2mbit down and 256kbit up. A couple of months ago this was (artificially?) limited to 1.8mbit down, but the upload now runs closer to 700kbit.

          "So, considering this, it sounds like BT should be ashamed of themselves...is the UK a third-world country or something?"

          Orange gives me nominally 20Mbits/sec, in practice something between 12 and 15Mbits/sec, enough that I can routinely get Windows to report 12.5% usage on my 100meg Ethernet to the Livebox when downloading from a suitably positioned site. That is, I get more megaBYTEs per second than our reporter gets megaBITs per second.

          Of course, I live in one of the inner burbs of Lille, about three quarters of a mile from the Eurostar station.

    2. mhoneywell

      Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

      You miserable ass.

      It's clearly not attempting to escalate anything, it's relaying a story. That, in case you were unaware, is what the media does for its audiences. Try some TV later, you might spot some.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

      When dealing with BT, you generally need every weapon you can muster. There are some very good and helpful people at BT, but corporate policy sees to be to keep them hidden behind an impermeable barrier of off-shore fail.

      As an aside, have you checked your connection speed in the test socket? When I did this, speeds doubled, and the Openreach folks came and replaced the entire master socket to give another little speed jump.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

        If you're using a BT home hub 3 for wi-fi then you'll get a useful speed and reliability increase by either using another router or use another device (eg a time capsule) to provide the wi-fi part of your network, leaving the home hub just allocate addresses and be a modem.

        The BT home hub 3 is a pretty lousy piece of kit.

        1. Da Weezil

          Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

          I helped out a friend with marginal connectivity by swapping out the home hobbled doorstop for an ex BT business 2-wire HGV2700. almost doubled his sync and now his line holds the connection for much longer. Very Cheap router on Fleabay.. but poison the update provisioning server.. the 6.3.x.x firmware was buggy the last I looked.

          So if you have checked all your wiring (and made sure that the ring wire isn't connected on any extensions - the 2 wire would be a good (and cheap) next step - it works here in the wilds of Wales where the men are men and the BT based adsl is all 8 meg,

          1. Tim Jenkins

            Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

            With a little digging online, you can find a Qwest (American ISP) firmware for the HGV2700 that runs more stable than the BT-stock and gives you US-strength wireless too. Be aware, though, that these 2-Wire units have a known issue (which I can confirm from personal experience) of failing to download single files of 2GB+ in size.

      2. Matthew 3

        Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

        I'd echo this and add that you may want to consider also disconnecting the 'bell wire' on any extension socket wiring that run from that master socket. It's unlikely that you have any phones elderly enough to have an issue with doing that. It can reduce interference enough to boost speeds a bit further (I believe that it it provided a little extra boost for ringing back when it was a real bell inside the phones).

        The bell wire is normally the slot numbered 3 (orange with white trace); slots 2 (white with blue trace) and 5 (blue with white trace) are the ones that must be there to make a phone work.

        If you're not happy with pulling bits of wire out plenty of places sell an adapter faceplate for the phone socket that has the same effect as disconnecting that one wire from your extensions.

        Using the master socket for my ADSL router and disconnecting the bellwire tripled my speed to the heady heights of 3 meg!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

      True, plus I'm sure I've seen more moans about Virgin media on this site than BT.

      Of course BT are everywhere and Virgin aren't, so it's obvious more people in small communities will have problems. What is highly amusing is that it is the poshos in their big rural houses who suffer for a change instead of those in their terraced houses.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

        I live in a similarly remote are in Belgium and I get close to the max advertised speed at any time of the day. I've lived in several different places around the country and always found it the same, from the days of 2Mbs to 30Mbs.

        I find it hard to understand why UK broadband seems to be such a mess with such varying results even in big cities. Believe me the Belgian equivalent of BT is far from competent yet somehow still manages decent broadband in all the areas I've lived or had friends in.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

          "I live in a similarly remote are in Belgium and.."

          Roger that highground, you may TAKE THE SHOT..

          http://zapatopi.net/belgium/

    5. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

      Hmm we had a similar issue, turned out to be wiring for one of the telephones was poor and meant huge numbers of errors would occur if the cable was sitting a certain way, BT's management thing detected it and slowed it down until no errors were detected. Took over 2 weeks for it to return to normal speed, happened 3 times until I realised a phone had a dodgey cable after it didn't work.

      Best thing to do is check from the master socket (With the front panel off so no other devices are connected) and see if you get any improvements on line signal/noise rates within the router.

      1. 142
        Thumb Up

        Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

        I'm going to second this. I was encountering similar intermittent .1Mbps performance on ADSL, roughly the same distance from a population centre as the author, with zero help from the ISP, In the end, I picked up one of the phones, and what do you know, I could hear light crackle when I moved the cable. So I threw the phone in the bin, and retested, and I ended up at a very stable 3meg. A quick call to the ISP demanding that they give me something closer to the 8 meg plan I'm supposedly on, and rather than getting the "that's the best the line can take" response, I was told - "your line can take 7.2meg"! Upgraded on the spot. .1 to 7.2 in a single day. It can be done. Just make absolutely bloody sure your internal wiring and router are flawless.

        Btw, if there is any noise on the phone line and it's not to do with your phone, but instead is bt's cables. THIS is what's screwing the connection. Report the noise with their phone department. NOT the broadband department. Say you need crystal clear phone calls. They take any noise on phone calls seriously. But mention broadband, and you get thrown into offshore hell.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Linux

      Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

      I disagree, it's relevant to a lot of people, the claimed download speeds are aspirational. Remember, the claimed "up to 3Mbps" is for everyone connected to the same switch.

      1. Mike Dimmick

        @dgharmon

        "Remember, the claimed "up to 3Mbps" is for everyone connected to the same switch."

        No. The advertised rates are the ATM line rate negotiated for your link to the hardware in your phone exchange (Multi-Service Access Node, MSAN).

        Upstream from the MSAN, ISPs rent backhaul capacity from BT on a VPN link to their internal network, handing over at a Core Node. Physically, BT have to install enough backhaul capacity to handle the total rented capacity from all ISPs from that exchange, up to its parent exchange, and so on aggregating up to the Core Nodes.

        Your download speeds from any given website depend thereafter on your ISPs peering capacity at Internet Exchange nodes, the capacity of those nodes, the website's ISP's peering capacity, and the amount of capacity that the website is renting from their ISP.

        The article author's problem is that there is too much noise on his line, or devices multiplexing the line to multiple properties, meaning that the higher frequencies needed by ADSL are filtered off. Assuming that the problem is reproducible when all extension wiring is disconnected, he needs a new fully independent cable installed. However, I think BT's Universal Service Obligation only requires that a speed of 28.8 kbit/s is achievable for the Fundamental Internet Access requirement (last reviewed by Ofcom in 2006).

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reg hack uses site to raise beef with BT?

      Longmeister - you are the worst kind of pathetic dribbling IT twerp. The author is quite entitled to have a moan by any means available.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's the price you pay...

    ...for living in the arse-end of nowhere.

    1. Kay Burley ate my hamster

      Re: That's the price you pay...

      Totally agree. You'll be moaning about the cost of travelling to London by train next!

      If you want better speeds try BE internet, they let you change the speed profile yourself.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But...

    If your line can't support a higher speed, it can't support it. Resetting a profile won't help because the higher speed simply won't work. There might be a problem with the line, equally it's likely that the line distance to your house from the exchange, combined with the number of joints in that cable (each cable joint costs you maybe 0.5dB) mean that DSL just won't work very well.

    Have you spoken to your neighbours to see what speeds they get? If theirs are higher, there might be a problem.

    Also - disconnect all your extension wiring and see if that makes a difference. Poor internal wiring can cost you 0.5Mbps.

    And a pedantic point, because I'm a pedant. Your analogue modem could not have run at 0.1Mbps as the fastest line speed possible on a phone line is 56kbps - 0.0056Mbps. Compression can increase throughput (depending on the data being sent) but line speed can never be faster than that.

    1. tony72
      Happy

      Re: But...

      If you're going to be a pedant, you should check your maths. 56kbps = 0.056Mbps, not 0.0056Mbps, you added a zero. Admittedly 0.056Mbps is still not 0.1Mbps, but only off by a factor of less than two, rather than a factor of almost 20.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: But...

        So nobody else remember the "Shotgun" modems that Diamond used to do? Channel-bonding over PSTN - 100kb/sec.

        (Although that said, he did say he had ISDN. If it was (almost certainly) ISDN2e, it would be 2x64kb, and channel-bonding was easy. Technically it wouldn't have been a modem though.)

    2. John Deeb
      Boffin

      Re: But...

      If you want to be pedant, you better be right about the pedantics!

      56 x .001 Mbps = .056 Mbps and not .0056!

      But it's true that this is still half of claimed 0.1 Mbps speeds. Since compression was part of the transport protocol, the actual analog speed might have averaged (1:3) on around 0.15 Mbps. Therefore it seemed to have been a correct statement after all from the author.

      1. InsaneGeek
        Trollface

        Re: But...

        What the two of you both failed to do is properly convert kb to mb. 56kb = .055mb (technically .0546875mb), you divide kb by 1024 to get to mb. That is unless you are a disk drive manufacturer doing bad math.

        1. Dom 3

          Re: But...

          Same old bollocks. In clock speeds, networking, and storage, K, M, G etc mean what they mean in every other context - SI powers of ten. Only in RAM / ROM chippery are K, M, and G used to mean Ki, Mi, Gi.

      2. irrelevant

        Re: But...

        The other issue is that 56K modems only ever managed to reach speed that if you were within spitting distance of the exchange. Line lengths and db losses made just as much difference to them, too. I was our resident modem guy, so got to meet lots at various clients, and never saw one hit over 48K - most of the time they would train at 33.6, or less, and that was in an urban environment. I would imagine the OP would get a lot less.

        (Here in inner-city Salford, ADSL wise, I got 5-6 Mbps a mile or so from the exchange. FTTC now gives me a slightly rocky 30Mbps... 100 yards or so from the cabinet as the crow flies, but apparently the 100 pair cable takes a meandering route around the estate before it gets as far as us.. )

    3. Simple Si
      Meh

      Re: But...

      "Your analogue modem could not have run at 0.1Mbps "

      I may be wrong but I took that as 0.1Mbps being slower than his last ISDN modem (128Kbps?) in which case I think he is right.

      1. Dazed & Confused
        Headmaster

        Ultra-pedant mode activated!

        He quoted his broadband speed to 1 decimal place: 0.1Mbps.

        A dail up modem is 0.056Mbps, which rounded to 1 decimal place is also 0.1Mbps.

        His current broadband speed could be, to 3 decimal places, 0.050Mbps, which would round to 0.1Mbps, and would indeed be slower than his dial-up's 0.056Mbps.

        If he had quoted his broadband speed to 3 decimal places (0.100Mbps), then you might be correct about it not actually being slower, but he didn't, so you simply cannot tell.

        1. Rufus McDufus
          Devil

          Re: Ultra-pedant mode activated!

          But he doesn't claim he had a (narrow band/phone-line) dial-up modem!

        2. Ian Johnston Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Ultra-pedant mode activated!

          Decimal places are mere artefacts of writing. It's significant figures that count: comparing numbers rounded to decimal places is sloppy and ignorant.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But...

        ISDN doesn't use modems, it uses Terminal Adaptors.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: But...

          Tell that to US Robotics. Anyone want the Courier I-Modem gathering dust in a box here?

    4. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: But...

      "If your line^H^H^H^H shoddy national management culture of fail can't support a higher speed, it can't support it."

      Fixed that for you.

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Stop

    @ Longmeister

    Perhaps the "news" element of this story is that the reporter has twice escalated performance/service problems to BT, and on both times has had (a) a speedy response, and (b) clear steps explained as to how they might be able to resolve the problem for him.

    I think you will agree that as far as BT are concerned... for both of these to happen (twice) is newsworthy indeed?

  5. Lamont Cranston

    Are the signs in/around Wormshill still subjected

    to the witty vandalism that I so fondly remember from my youth?

  6. Bob Dunlop

    Monopoly what monopoly

    Ofcom Classification

    Market 1

    This exchange has BT Wholesale as the sole provider of broadband services.

    Hence no reason for BT to imporve the service. Welcome to the club.

  7. David Webb

    Dude, not enough information! What stats does your router show, SNR and Attenuation? Just because the exchange is 2.5km away from you doesn't mean your line is 2.5km long, it could go the long way around so without attenuation you can't tell what your line *should* be reaching. If it was 2.5km I'd expect your attenuation to be ~35 which would give you 7Mb on ADSL and 11Mb on ADSL2+

    As for profile, there are two. One is the BT one you get from the speed tester (which is how fast you're connected to the exchange), removing that one usually means resetting your line which puts it back into training mode. The other your ISP has (which should mirror the BT one) which is used for traffic management (if that says 10Mb and you're only connected at 2Mb it'll screw up priority).

    Go switch to Plusnet (tell them I sent you) and use their forums to get the best from your connection!

    1. Annihilator
      Unhappy

      Well you know that at 2.5km away from an exchange, it's probably closer to 5km line length. And you can see from the exchange details that it's an ADSL Max exchange (and tiny, so next to no chance of ever expanding to FTTC, certainly even on the early planning stages). So it's a situation that's never likely to improve.

      http://www.samknows.com/broadband/exchange/NDWOR

      It's a good example of the fast/slow broadband divide that's only ever going to get wider sadly. Plusnet are unlikely to be able to perform miracles either.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        I concur, need line stats to see why. Is router plugged into master socket, have you considered installing a replacement NTE5 faceplate with integrated filter, is internal wiring correct, yadda yadda.

        My old man lives in the real middle of nowhere, 6km as crow flies from the exchange, initially he got 512k download synch, I replaced the faceplate and he now gets 3.5Mb, plenty enough for iplayer.

        1. David Webb

          There are lots of reasons for getting slow broadband, but without the basic details you can't start to figure out why it's so slow. If he's 5km away by copper then he's at the very far reaches of DSL but the "up to 3Mb" quoted is important, the BT estimate for ADSL is conservative so he should be looking at maybe 4-5Mb which seems to suggest there is an issue somewhere along the line.

          The only way to be sure of that is to know the attenuation and the SNR margin, it's basic troubleshooting stuff and is usually the first question asked when you're having speed problems. Then you need to go through a checklist.

          First (obviously) place the modem into the test socket (behind the master socket) and check speeds, if speeds increase it's a problem on your side, if speeds don't increase, try a different filter, check speeds, try a different modem, check speeds. If the speeds don't change after that then the issue is with BT.

          Do a quiet line test, dial 17070 and then press Option 2, if you hear anything on the line (snap, crackle or pop) then there is a line fault which is causing slow downs.

          Or you can phone up BT who will just reset your line and hope for the best.

          1. Steven Jones

            I'd concur that you need stats, especially downstream attenuation and SNR margin (sometimes called nois margin). Ideally logged over a period of time.

            Personally I would suspect either a line fault or a local source of noise. I recently suffered from a problem due to ingress of water into an underground joint (when my estate was built in the 1970s, they just buried the joints). It started out as intermittent issues and gradually got worse (audible as crackling on the line). During the final death throws, it caused so many disconnections the profile got fixed onto a 256kbps profile which did not automatically reset when the fault was cleared (involving diffing up the pavement. It required quite a lot of persistence to get through to a second level support team - generally call centre staff are just following scripts. It's the service providers job to chase this sort of stuff through (it's unclear if the service provider here is actually BT Retail or not, but all SPs should have the ability to get through to basic ADSL quality stats and reset DS profiles.

            I'm about 3km from my local exchange (and the cable length is more like 3.5-4km) and get 6.5mbps on ADSL2+ with a 49db attenuation and 6db SNR margin. However, I've been very careful with internal wiring filtering at the faceplate and using twisted pair cable to get to the router/modem. Many people will get a lot worse at 49db attenuation.

            Another place to look is the service providers users forums (assuming they have such a thing). Often there are SP reps and you tend to get more immediate attention from other users, who are often quite experienced. In an ideal world, SPs would have such skilled staff on the call centre. Unfortunately, with the pressure of getting costs down, this is rarely the case.

          2. lexein
            Meh

            Extra loop length and interfererers

            Somebody needs to put a real time-domain reflectometer on the line to detect needless extra wire that might have been added at some time in the past (say, to reach a then-new location without running a new pair from the exchange). Also, line multiplexers (allows two subscriber circuits to function over a single pair) wreak havoc with DSL signals. Other interference sources like noisy lamp ballasts should be checked. Finally, any available alternate pair should be tested for better performance, and swapped in.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          For anyone on BT Broadband who doesn't know, this costs 1.30, it's marketed as 'BT Broadband Accelerator', you can order it off their website, and the cost is added to your next bill.

          If you're with another ISP over BT it's marketed as an iPlate and costs more.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            > f you're with another ISP over BT it's marketed as an iPlate and costs more

            Or you could just do unscrew your faceplate and disconnect the ring wire.

        3. AndrueC Silver badge
          Stop

          Our office is over 4km from the nearest exchange. Both lines are over 50dB - 54dB I think. One syncs at 2Mb/s, the other at 3Mb/s. Bonded together we manage about 4Mb/s on a good day.

          But without stats we just don't know. Cables are almost never laid in a straight line and usually they travel in bundles until the last possible metre. 2.5k from an exchange could be double that in actual cable length. Given the large area of open ground behind the exchange some cables might be diverting a long way to follow the pavement (which is usually where they go).

      2. Drewc Gold badge

        Straight line distance is 1.7km

        I quoted road distance before... have updated the article.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Straight line distance is 1.7km

          Hmm. In that case the cables are poor. Trouble is there's no legislation on cable quality. Or rather there is but it's currently 'Most support voice and data rates of at least 9600bps'. A couple of attempts have been move it beyond the analogue modem era but they've stalled.

          But still - 2.5km should be around 34dB and maybe 13Mb/s during the summer.

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