You’ve paid your money for your high-speed internet package. You’ve received your new modem and set everything up, and the ISP company has switched it on. So why is it that you aren’t getting the promised speeds?
Many ISPs advertise incredible download speeds, even if you do have to pay a lot for the privilege. But the speeds that are advertised are often not what you will actually get, and if you don’t know how broadband works then this may come as a disappointment to you.
Over-subscription is a common cause of occasional problems. ISPs sell more packages than their network can handle. This is done on the assumption that not everyone will be online at the same time, and that they can hence safely sell more than they can provide at full speed. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way-instead there are often times when the system gets congested. There are often periods during peak times when there are so many people online at the same time that the speed that each can use is significantly reduced. At these times they have to share available resources, and this means slower download speeds.
There are other possible reasons for a slow down in your speed. Some companies have been known to employ something called throttling. This is the deliberate slowing down of your downloads during peak times, if you have already downloaded more than a certain amount of data. It may not seem fair that they do this, but the justification is that if lots of people were to be downloading large amounts of data during the peak operating hours, then it could cause congestion on the network.
This would lead to a general slow down of not only download speeds but of browsing speeds too, and would negatively affect those who are not downloading as much as it affects you. Hence, they apply throttling techniques in order to limit traffic during the busiest hours. However, outside of those hours you are likely to be able to download normally again.
Other customers may be throttled when they have exceeded their download limit for the month. Some packages only allow a certain amount of data to be used at the maximum speed, beyond which your speed will drop to a default minimum.
Looking at the terms of service for your ISP can help you to determine whether or not you are being subjected to throttling. If you are, then you can work to avoid going over your data allowance, or can avoid downloading during peak times so that you aren’t subjected to a throttle.
Lastly, physical differences can affect your download speed too. Not everyone will have access to a physical infrastructure that is as good as others, and a poor connection can drastically reduce the speed of your connection.
Understanding what broadband actually is can help people to realize that their download speeds don’t actually indicate a problem with their service, but are instead a natural consequence of the normal variations of the service.