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Ask Slashdot: Holding ISPs Accountable For Contracted DSL Bandwidth 345

mcleland writes "I'm not getting the bandwidth I paid for from my DSL connection. My '3mbps' fluctuates between about 2.7 during the day down to 0.1 or 0.2 in the evening according to Let's assume DSL is the only viable option for broadband at my house and I can't really move right now (rural area, on north face of the mountain, no cable service, very poor cell coverage). This was discussed 6 years ago, but I'd like to see if there are any current thoughts on whether I'm just stuck or if there is some way to make the ISP hold up its end."
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Ask Slashdot: Holding ISPs Accountable For Contracted DSL Bandwidth

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  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:19PM (#40023565)
    Get a lawyer. But, of course, the lawyer will be prohibitively expensive.

    So realistically, no, there's nothing you can do short of terminating service.
    • by jhoegl ( 638955 )
      The answer six years ago was []
      now it is []
      • You mean it wasn't answered here? []
    • by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:11PM (#40023937) Homepage

      This is why I'm happy to live in Australia.

      We have an independent body called the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman, which investigates matters such as this & refers them on to ACMA if need be.

      I'd say, stop letting your politicians crow on about "small government" & push them to set up consumer/business protection systems like the rest of the civilised world.

      • by ThurstonMoore ( 605470 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:35PM (#40024101)

        It works in the US too, file a complaint with the FCC I got great results when I did it.

        • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:05PM (#40024247) Journal

          Also check for local agencies.

          Where I live, companies have been granted a monopoly by the city to provide telephone and cable service. Years ago, I was having some problems with my cable and was getting nowhere dealing with the cable company. That's when I discovered that the city actually paid someone to keep track of these sorts of issues and try to get them resolved. I contacted him and let him know the issues I was having with the cable company. He said he'd look into it. The next day, I had the folks at the cable company calling and saying how they'd like to get to the bottom of this problem. A couple days later, everything was hunky-dory.

          Now, I live in a denser area, but there may be an equivalent person in your town/city government.

      • by Trepidity ( 597 )

        We also have an ombudsman in the USA, the Federal Communications Commission. It helps protect the little guy in a similar way, looking out for the consumer who doesn't want big business trying to push [] Janet Jackson's nipple at him.

      • by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:26PM (#40024355) Journal
        You do realise that here in Australia, the only guarantee provided under legislation is a line that is fax capable of 14400 baud? Data lines aren't covered beyond that.
      • by turkeyfish ( 950384 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:38PM (#40024417)

        You guys down under are lucky. You just have venomous snakes. We have republicans and Tea Partiers.

        • Why not say explain why you disagree with their policies rather than just make a childish and divisive remark? And no, I'm not a conservative or a Republican, I'm just sick of hearing this sort of nonsense -- from all sides.

        • You guys down under are lucky. You just have venomous snakes.

          And poisonous spiders.

          And poisonous octopii, plants, insects, jellyfish, regular fish with spines or blades on their fins, which again are poisoned.

          And crocodiles, alligators, sharks.

          Oh! And scorpions! Mustn't forget scorpions.

          Seriously. We put our criminals there for a reason. It's like nature's version of Battle Royale.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is why I'm happy to live in Australia.

        No, the reason for that is a deep abiding affection for sheep. Either that or mental insanity.

      • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

        This is why I'm happy to live in Australia.

        Really? Because yours is the only industrialized nation that I know of that has data caps on landlines. My Aussie friends constantly complain about it. Mobile might be the norm, but a connection to your home having a data cap?

        I don't think having 100mBps speed or something matters very much when you have a data cap of something like 25 gigs. For your average user that's fine, but for gamers or power users (read: young people, professionals, etc.), consumer-level Internet is unusable in Australia and commerc

        • UK has datacaps on landlines too. I'm a young, download-happy, HD video watching, gaming young professional, and yet I've only ever hit my cap once. All that happened is they added an extra £1 to my bill and 10GB to my cap. It certainly beats "fair usage" throttling.

    • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @11:14PM (#40024603)

      That probably wouldnt work: When you pay for a 20mbps or whatever cable, dsl, satellite, whatever connection, you are generally paying for last-mile bandwidth. Unless you have a contract saying otherwise, theyre not promising you upstream bandwidth, including if their own core routers are overloaded.

      Check your bandwidth to the first hop (if you can figure out how to do that)-- if its what they promised, then theyre holding up their end of the bargain. If thats not acceptable, find a less overprovisioned ISP.

    • by tobiah ( 308208 )

      In dealing with my foreclosure I was unable to find a lawyer I was happy with, so I filed my own motions. The county clerks were helpful, the motions were easy to write, and I won. It's like working on your car: unpleasant, but doable.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:22PM (#40023587)
    Does what you signed guarantee you a certain bandwidth, or is is an "up to x" sort of thing? I strongly suspect the latter. It's unlikely they're going to put another DSLAM (or increased backhaul) in because you complain, it's cheaper for them to lose you as a customer.
    • by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:36PM (#40023687) Homepage Journal

      If you think about it, "up to" means "not more than". it's actually a negative feature, not a positive.

      • by gd2shoe ( 747932 )
        Most DSL have a range. The advertised number is the "up to" limit, but most of them do have a lower bound in the fine print.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darinbob ( 1142669 )

      DSL is very hard to guarantee any numbers. You won't know the speed you'll get until after installation. It depends upon the quality of the lines (including in your own home), distance to the telephone company's DSLAM, etc. I had ADSL with two companies and neither one ever gave a guaranteed speed. However I did call one once to report low speed and it did improve quality after that.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:06PM (#40024257)

        Yes that is true, but the quality of your lines do not tend to change based on time of day (although, I have seen them change based on the weather before :). This is clearly a grossly oversubscribed uplink from the DSLAM to their backbone (or their backbone to their upstream provider / peering point).

        • The bandwidth you get from ADSL is going to depend on the quality of the lines between your home and your DSLAM, but those aren't going to vary radically by time of day - either you'll get full speed, or lousy speed, or medium speed, or whatever, but it doesn't depend on what your neighbors are doing.

          If your bandwidth's dropping at night like that, it's almost certainly because there's not enough bandwidth from the DSLAM back to the ISP's main routers. It's possible that your neighbor's kid has discovered

  • If you did, then "up to" means anything in between. You'd be getting exactly what you're paying for as part of the "up to" modifier.

    • Well, can I pay "up to" the price they want to charge? It's only fair- I get "up to" a certain speed, they get "up to" a certain amount of money.

    • by jhoegl ( 638955 )
      You really think that?
      I mean, disregard the fact that he can achieve the full 1.5 during the day, meaning it can get the full bandwidth.
      Disregard the fact that even though DSL is advertised as not "shared bandwidth", it is still shared.
      And disregard the fact that DSL is susceptible to EMI like no other...
      I mean sure.. then a schmuck who buys a jar of white paste that they thought was mayo is screwed when the label says "up to and including mayo!"
      • You really think that?

        I don't think that, I know that. It's what every DSL ISP has ever said - it's "up to" the advertised speed and unless it's dropping sync the first words out are "well sir, it's 'up to' the speed". If you're pushy you can get a tech to look at or "recondition" the line so you'll stop calling for a while but you're never guaranteed the full speed. Ultimately gave up on DSL even though I liked having my own CPE router, but my only options were U-verse or cable. I ended up with U-verse bec

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          I don't think that, I know that. It's what every DSL ISP has ever said

          Incorrect. I have a CIR for my DSL line. I also pay far more than average.

          In short, read before you buy, and realize that "up to" is an empty phrase. "Save up to 15% or more on car insurance" only means that you can't save exactly 15% - you can save 3% or lose 20% and it's still satisfied. With "up to 6 Mbps", all you're guaranteed is that you can complain[*] if you get more.
          Caveat emptor.

          [*]: Weird as it sounds, there are situations where you don't want more than a certain bandwidth. High latency lin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Your DSL provider probably delivers on a "best effort" basis. See if you can get service from an alternate DSL provider. Other than that, there's really nothing you can do other than complain or cancel.

  • You would have alot better response to your complaints. But of course, that 3 Mebibits will cost you somewhere around 100 dollars a month.
  • Call the ISP (Score:5, Informative)

    by Prosthetic_Lips ( 971097 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:30PM (#40023641) Homepage

    You are only "guaranteed" what you are getting. However, I have been in that boat, and there was a physical problem. Just call your provider, explaining what is happening. If they have 24/7 support, wait until it starts happening, then call them -- so when they test it, they will see the problem.

    Unfortunately, for me it took three different calls. The first call the technician came out and just swapped out some hardware. Elapsed time for him: Maybe half an hour. The second time they checked the wires from the house to the modem, and gave me different hardware ("that other one has problems with some old wiring").

    Finally, with the third guy to come out, he traced it to some intermittent problem with wires. He swapped pairs from the house to the box (or the box to the DSLAM, can't remember exactly), and from then on my downloads quickly went up near the maximum and stayed there.

    If you have already called the ISP and you got one of the responses above, you can always call back and complain again. They do seem to track that you called before, and will try something different. I was with BellSouth / ATT, so your mileage may vary. (I keep using past tense; I upgraded to U-Verse when it became available, and the speeds are great).

    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:53PM (#40023813)

      Not obnoxious, but keep calling each time you have the problem. Eventually they'll be able to track it down. If there's no problem and that is just "works as expected" they'll eventually tell you that too. In that case, maybe look at a new provider.

      I had intermittent droupouts with my cable, which they always seemed to have trouble seeing on their end. Finally after a number of calls a technician was dispatched who found errors on the line. He put in the appropriate ticket and said "Call me directly in a week if it isn't fixed." It wasn't, I called he came back, tested and found errors again, and went back to the ticket. It got fixed.

      It is possible that your DSLAM just has a tiny line to it and lots of people and is getting overloaded, but I find it at least equally likely there is a problem. However you have to make them aware of it, and you have to keep calling when there is a problem. Remember two things:

      1) You are dealing with low level call center people who don't know what the fuck is happening. Their troubleshooting ability is limited, and who are discouraged from escalating things if there isn't a problem. Hence the need to get multiple data points with multiple calls.

      2) Most people are morons and the problem is firmly on their end, so the ISP is inclined to disbelieve you from the beginning, hence the need to work at convincing them through multiple calls and documentation.

      • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:42AM (#40025039)

        Too many people complain about their service in public, and change providers, telling everyone how awful the first one is, without ever giving the first one a chance to fix it. If you don't tell them it's broken, how do you expect them to know?

        Call, every time you have a problem. It's the only way they will know and fix it.

        (well... almost the only way. I work for an ISP, and we've actually just started to do proactive line monitoring where we call people and tell them that they are having trouble and arrange to send a tech out before they even call in. The frustrating thing is most of them know they have a problem, they just never bothered to call in about it (though you can bet they called all their friends to complain about the lousy service))

    • Re:Call the ISP (Score:4, Informative)

      by CaptainNerdCave ( 982411 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:54PM (#40024197)

      I agree with this. As the employee of a small ISP, we don't know about problems if someone doesn't tell us. Almost all of our point-to-point links are wireless, and we don't know about something getting out of proper alignment without customer feedback to help us find the issue.

      Granted, ISPs oversell, it's the nature of the industry, but there's a rough formula they use so that 90+% of the customers don't notice. We always tell our customers that peak use times will result in lower speeds for many sites, and we can't help that (because we can't). When they're seeing dismal bandwidth at random times, it's worth investigating.

      • Re:Call the ISP (Score:4, Informative)

        by StayFrosty ( 1521445 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:49PM (#40024465)

        There are lots of free and open source monitoring tools that can help determine if something is out of alignment. SmokePing [] would probably be incredibly helpful you your situation. Nagios is another popular monitoring tool. Netdisco could help with inventory and topology mapping. It's worth spending a little time getting a good monitoring solution set up so you can be fixing the problem before the phone starts ringing.

      • All wireless backhaul equipment I've ever used supports SNMP. Set up MRTG and nagios. Configure to MRTG to monitor. See what the normal signal levels are. Configure Nagios to monitor and page accordingly. Get a tower guy on call or on staff. Align the antennas to the best signal you can get. Crank them down on the tower legs. Recalibrate Nagios to page at lower levels. The increased signal strength will increase bandwidth by providing a better modulation rate, or at least losing less packets. This
        • Also, redundant links and routers that support OSPF, like the Mikrotik RB493G will increase the reliability and functionality of your network by an order of magnitude.
    • With AT&T in my area, the "up to" 3mbps service was attractive a few years ago but the actual speed always fluctuated a great deal. I made several calls, they assured me that there was nothing wrong and there was nothing they could do, even though it seemed to get worse over time. The wiring on my end was not a problem, and I ran a new line from outside straight to the modem, just to be sure, which did not help. I had already had issues with the only alternative in town (Time Warner Cable), so before sw
  • Have an SLA? ...I didn't think so. You're SOL.

  • I have yet to see a DSL provider that does not state in very small print that the connection is "burst" or "variable" or "up to".

    • I have yet to see a DSL provider that does not state in very small print that the connection is "burst" or "variable" or "up to".

      Burst is actually kind of silly. It really screws with data rate prediction required to get smooth performance in multi-player games. So, you start playing, the game figures out the rates, everything's smooth, then the burst is over, you lag all to hell, as the game has to renegotiate the data rate. For downloads, no big deal, but for real time stuff like games or voice/video chat this is a problem... It's not that you connection is too slow after the throttle either, after a while you'll get smoother connection -- It's that initial period of "increased" performance that's screwing up the rate guesstimation.

      OK, so here's the silly thing: If you have "bursting", start a D/L of a largeish file. Then, watch the data rate drop after a little while. Now, hit the pause button on the download. Wait a sec, then resume it. Tada! You can burst the whole D/L by re-establishing the HTTP connection -- Not that the pipes have changed at all, just that they throttle on a per connection basis. (How else would you do "bursting"?)

      So, two things:
      0. Use a Download Accelerator. I use the Firefox plugin: DownThemAll []. Acceleration works by opening multiple connections to the source at different parts of the file -- per connection throttle? Increase connections until max bandwith is reached, heh. If one part of the file gets done before the onthers, it splits a remaining segment and starts a new connection; That actually boosts DL speed even more. It's too bad DTA doesn't have an option to open N connections each only S size chunks, and roll across the file... Guys? There's a viable plugin idea if you need one.

      1. My new game client / server code has a "rolling" connection system to bypass time based throttling (bursting). It's all about the port numbers -- that's how they identify the connection. In my games I use UDP, but it falls back to TCP; Point is: this also works on TCP. What I do is open a new connection every once in a while, and send some data across it while the current connection is open (It's just port number changing in UDP). I track the speeds and latency of each connection (port number), and detect the timer duration at which the throttling happens by tracking data rates, then I set the connection roll over rate to be less than that. So, on non bursting lines, rolling rarely happens. I can also have more than just two ports open -- I can max my neighbor's 10Mbps bursting DSL line with just 6 concurrent rolling connections. Note: The server port doesn't have to change, seems that most per connection throttling is based on client port number.

      It's weird, but shorter connections seem to cope with buffer bloat a bit too; Not sure why...You'd think the buffers were connection independent? Tuning the data rates helps combat BB lag even more though.

      I'd write a RFC for this maximal bandwidth optimization technique, but let's just keep it between us geeks, OK?

      P.S. My game server defaults to port 80, and displays a simple TCP / HTTP / HTML page about the current game in progress and where to D/L the game if you hit it with a browser. If you hit it with the game client, then the client's HTTP header tells the server to go into game protocol mode. Note: it's not a full HTTP 1.1 stack, just canned response with inserted real time stats, to reduce attack surface while giving the server a bit of info for HTML browsers & apps. Yeah, that's kind of weird eh? Except when you consider that to a deep packet inspection my game protocol initially looks like a "high priority" TCP/HTML query... heh.

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:38PM (#40023699)

    If your provider actually made any specific and guaranteed speed claims, they are the stupidest ISP on the planet. Providers always use weasel words, just enough to lure you in, not enough to bind them to anything. This is an old, old game, and they're masters at playing it.

    The only thing they listen to is market pressure, and if you've got no cable service to compete with them... good luck.

    • Good luck with that, read your agreement - here, check out satellite internet provider Hughesnet's disclaimer:


      This article provides you a brief summary of our Speed Disclaimer.

      Procedure/Solution: HughesNet, like all other broadband technologies, uses shared bandwidth. Actual speeds will vary based on the amount of traffic on the Internet, the content on a particular website, or by the overall performance and configuration of your computer. Due to this, stated speeds are not guaranteed.

      And let

  • by Creosote ( 33182 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:42PM (#40023733) Homepage

    You don't live up the hollow from me, do you? Because your description fits my situation to a T, apart from my nominal 6 mbps speed. The rural DSL supplier in these parts, Verizon, did take some action in response to a well-publicized community meeting of residents in another part of my county who lobbied a year ago to get DSL extended to their neck of the woods. I think one of the county supervisors attended, and it seems that Verizon decided that it was in their public-relations interest to make a commitment to providing service, which they did in fact implement fairly quickly. In the meantime, Verizon has told me that the notorious evening slowdowns are the result of known "bandwidth exhaustion", which is supposed to be fixed Sometime Soon, for the usual values of "soon". Whether getting all the neighbors together to hold a bandwidth exhaustion protest would do any good is an open question.

  • What exactly did service agreement say? As others have said, words like "average" and "up to" are different from "guaranteed". You can call them and see what's up (probably under provisioning) at night (everyone gets home from work). Try to be nice and see if something can be done at their end (their DSLAM might not be 100% utilized).

  • by dacarr ( 562277 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:44PM (#40023741) Homepage Journal
    I used to work for Speakeasy.

    That last 10% is generally considered to be transactional overhead. Speed testers don't tend to count that. Your best advice is to either live with the 300 kb/s missing, demand a 10% discount for that overhead (which will likely be unsuccessful, because that top speed is NOT guaranteed and it will most likely say as much in the TOS), or find a provider that will provide that max speed limit at all times.

    Good luck.

    • Re:Live with it (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:16PM (#40023983) Homepage Journal

      I don't think it was the 2.7 Mbps that was the concern, but rather the "down to 0.1 or 0.2 Mbps in the evening". That's either the line retraining to the lowest possible fallback speed (bleed-through from somebody else's line, perhaps) or a massively over-committed upstream pipe from the DSLAM.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Heck, I might even go one step further and ask if the original poster or one of the poster's neighbors has a water timer that floods his or her yard at a particular time of day and adds craptons of capacitance on the line or something (because of bad insulation, mice, whatever).

    • Re:Live with it (Score:5, Informative)

      by bobdole2111 ( 1134689 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @10:41PM (#40024439)
      I too used to work for Speakeasy, roughly 1.5 years ago before they were bought out. If your connection drops down to 0.1 or 0.2 at night then I would call your ISP when you're having the issue and request that they run a loop length test (aka plugged/unplugged test. This is the test where they have you unplug your modem for a couple of minutes, then plug it back in but with the power unplugged on the modem). Have them compare the results to when you first signed up for service. Theoretically they should know what to do from here, based on the results of the test, but if they don't then I would ask them what the results were and whether it's reporting any issues like metallic noise on the line, tip to ring, tip to ground, etc. I'd also ask them if they've installed any bridgetaps on the line, and if so, if they can remove them as this can impact service. If they don't find an issue on the line than I would ask them if their backhaul is currently over-saturated, and if it is, to be switched to another backhaul. They can often view this information by logging into Cacti or some other bandwidth monitoring program they use to see the current usage. Anywho, I glanced at this article and this guy does a pretty good job at explaining how DSL works and what some of the common issues are: [] Hope this helps!
      • Additionally, if the slowdown turns out to be the result of side-fumbling, you can usually (with threats and pestering) get a retro-encapsulator installed that should at least reduce it to tolerable levels (you can never -really- eliminate side-fumbling).
      • Tap into America (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Joosy ( 787747 )
        I had a similar situation with my DSL ... it was fast during the day but slowed dramatically in the evening. It turns out that there was a tap on the line someplace. The first two techs were clueless, but finally somebody brought out a special piece of diagnostic equipment and found that there was a tap on the line exactly 2200 feet (or whatever) from the house. (I would guess they send a burst down the line and wait for a reflection.) A day or two later they sent someone out to remove the tap and all was w
  • ISPs typically hide behind "speeds up to..." garbage to ensure you can't hold them accountable for this. My own horror story went along a path of seeing maybe 50%, at best, of the speeds I was promised, and that was when it was working. Endless tech support calls being forced to talk to moronic agents, if they called me back at all, only compounded the frustration.

    At one point, I actually had one of the main guys at the company tell me point blank, on tape (I was recording the calls by this point), that the

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf ( 895604 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:45PM (#40023755)

    Not sure if it's possible in your area, but I switched ISPs and made it clear to them why. This was after the first ISP basically refused to investigate the problem beyond saying that variable speeds are because of 'network traffic', then unceremoniously hanging up.

    Had the same problem with the second one but they investigated, played around with some of their own settings, sent a technician out to the exchange and they delivered a measurable increase. Then I got a call from the first ISP's retention people, offering me a credit against my entire 7-year term to re-sign.

    So basically it was a case of initial hilariously lazy technical staff, that may have been saved by overly apologetic customer service. I had the choice of keeping my faster connection or getting cash back with the slower one. If there's no other option, I'd suggest shaking their customer service tree until results fall out.

  • Aside from all the technical issues involved on the wire (length, capacitance, reflections, etc.) you'll probably find you're boned because all ISPs advertise line speeds with the magical phrase "up to." i.e.: "3Mbps" is not the same as "up to 3Mbps."
  • I work for a broadband provider and I know that, in Australia at least, providing any accurate predictor on what bandwidth a customer will get *before* they're hooked up is nigh on impossible. There are so many different factors that can affect actual bandwidth (let alone the perceived speed as experienced by the end-user) it'd be crazy to try and write into the contract of service (other than to say 'you'll get greater than 0 kbps most of the time'). DSL technology limitations combined with ageing copper n
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @08:51PM (#40023799) Homepage Journal

    Better check your contract, few ( if any ) home services will actually guarantee your rate. It may look like it does, but read closely and you will find it does not.

    Some business accounts do, but not all of them either until you go to a dedicated line..

  • Won't do anything unless the speed has dropped more then a third from what I'm paying for. Ask your provide what their policy is, they might surprise you. Ha Ha, just kidding.
  • As for what you can do, it's what many others have said here: your contract probably states that 6 Meg is an "up to" or "best case" figure. But check it just to be sure. But one thing that I'd suggest, if you can, is to try a smaller ISP with personal service, even if they cost a little more. Avoid the Big Bad Telcos(tm) like the plague. Here's why.

    Especially if you're in a rural area, then it's a safe bet that, no matter which ISP you use, the signal is actually getting to your house over the Big Bad Telco

    • OK, one other thing: it's that piggy-backed RF signal thing again. Take your DSL modem out to the demarc box (i.e., the telco's actual junction, typically mounted outside on the wall of your home). If you're lucky, it's one of the newer ones with standard RJ-11 plugs and jacks. Unplug your entire home and connect the DSL model *directly* to the Telco.

      If your bandwidth improves noticeably, YOU have a problem with YOUR wiring inside your home.

  • by Rob Riggs ( 6418 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:19PM (#40024007) Homepage Journal
    If you live live in a state where the telco is regulated by a public utilities commission, call them and file a formal complaint. Call the telco and give them your case number. They will have a lot of incentive to fix the problem. But do this only after a good faith effort has failed.
  • Part of the reason that ISP's advertise speed as "up to" is because of the way ADSL actually works. Conditions play an enormous part in the connection speed and line quality, and the majority of these are (here in the UK, at least) completely out of the remit of the ISP itself. Distance from the telephone exchange, quality of wiring both internal and external, ratios of how many users on particular line, even type of telephone exchange. These factors can all make big differences. Case in point; in one prope

    • The first thing I always recommend to anyone getting unsatisfactory speeds is rewire your telephone sockets and place the modem as close to the master socket as possible. Also use decent quality sockets.

      And Monster Cable DSL cable. Right.

      Most newer DSL modems have a built in web server, and you can look at the DSL link information. You can find out what rate the DSL line is running at, and its error rate. If those numbers are satisfactory, the ADSL portion of the link isn't the problem, and you can eliminate phone line and local cable quality as an issue. If the ADSL portion of the link is not good, get it fixed. The DSL modem will downshift to a lower speed if the physical line quality is not good. So

  • I work for an ISP (Score:5, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @09:41PM (#40024137)
    I work for an ISP. I've been a lowly tech support agent all the way up to NOC admin to my current position as a DB Admin. I know the ins and outs of ISPs infrastructure, why things are the way they are as well as am now involved with the lawyers due to projects I'm involved in, so I've gotten a heavy dose of the way policy is written and why.

    First let me say, I don't want to defend your ISP, they are most assuredly one of my employers competitors. So yes, they suck, switch to us... but I wont tell you who my employer is... so whatever. The point being, I'm not trying to defend the industry here, I'm probably one of the biggest advocates for what your complaining about at my company and I'm not shy to bring it up with executives. But if you had a better understanding of the situation it might help you improve your situation and possibly relive some of your anger.

    US telecommunications companies have been task with bringing broadband to rural areas by both the FCC and the President himself. They are under constant pressure to increase broadband availability to customers. Just a few years ago it was well under 50% of people had access to broadband. Now it's well over 90%. Recently the broadband stimulus package basically paid ISPs to put in even more rural broadband. For an understanding of how much it cost I think they invested around 8 BILLION dollars and that raised the percentage of the public capable of getting broadband by about 2% to 3% The cost is enormous.

    Now, you may think that's great... and it is. But there is a problem with that. In your case you live on the side of a mountain. I would love to live there myself, you probably don't have a lot of neighbors and having broadband out there is a great thing. But networks are called networks for a reason. You'd at the end of a loop... that loop leads back to a DSA along with all of your neighbors, and then that DSA has a trunk that leads back to the CO along with all the other DSAs in your area. So what's the problem? Distance. Depending on the service you have, there is a limited distance that you can be from that DSA to actually get any service at all. This distance also limits the number of people that DSA can serve because their homes must be within that distance to get service. In areas like you describe, I've seen DSA's serve as few as 10 homes. When you're dealing with a phone line that's not a big deal. Strait dialtone fits on a relatively cheap card, and when trunking back to the CO uses a fixed, almost unnoticeable amount of bandwidth. Then you have the local customers come in and want internet. The ISP says no. Then the local government gets involved and DEMANDS internet... the ISP still says no. I've even seen local governments file (and lose) lawsuits trying to force the ISP into these situations. Then the Feds come and offer to pay for the DSL cards and the new truck... well ok... if you're going to pay for it.

    Now you have a DSA with 10 customers on it, 5 wanted 3MB service, the feds paid to have 2 T1 lines installed. That will work, and they likely wont have any bandwidth problems. Fast forward 3 years. You now have 10 customers on the DSA, they ALL have 5MB service and ALL have netflix accounts. Hence the situation you are in. The customers demand the ISP upgrade. Those 10 customers combined are paying about $350/month total. To add more trunks to the DSA will cost $300k. It's not hard to do the math there... it's not going to happen. So then they go to the local government and ask them to complain again... the local government says "You have internet, what are you complaining about?" and the feds? They got their 95%+ served number for the next election, they don't care about you.

    Your only hope is your ISP. Period. I absolutely guarantee your service agreement was worded in such a way that your speed is not guaranteed. It probably says something like "Up to 3MB of data!" etc... What you can do is get a local technician out there on a service call... talk to him about your DSA. He'll likely tell you. How many other
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I worked for an ISP in the 90s and was involved in the early dsl rollouts. Someone should mod parent up since I am karmaless since a /. db error in 1998.

      Shared traffic on the backhaul is why you have good BW while your neighbors are at the distillery, the hog farm or in the cab of their tractor. At night, shared bw means nobody gets good BW until someone goes to bed.

      DL your movies at 3 am or 9 am and go on with your life.

    • by ZPO ( 465615 )

      Now you have a DSA with 10 customers on it, 5 wanted 3MB service, the feds paid to have 2 T1 lines installed. That will work, and they likely wont have any bandwidth problems. Fast forward 3 years. You now have 10 customers on the DSA, they ALL have 5MB service and ALL have netflix accounts. Hence the situation you are in. The customers demand the ISP upgrade. Those 10 customers combined are paying about $350/month total. To add more trunks to the DSA will cost $300k. It's not hard to do the math there... it's not going to happen. So then they go to the local government and ask them to complain again... the local government says "You have internet, what are you complaining about?" and the feds? They got their 95%+ served number for the next election, they don't care about you.

      Having worked for a DLEC and a couple of CLECs, Charliemopps very likely hit the nail on the head. The DSLAM or DSA (equivalent in this case) is likely fed with 2-4 DS1s on an IMUX. During the day, you have little contention for the 3-6Mbps of bandwidth. In the evening, when everyone else comes home, your speed drops significantly. This is normal and expected. It only takes a few customers running bandwidth intensive apps to consume the available bandwidth. There are solutions to prevent a few piggy u

    • Most of your post was alright, if a bit insider myopic.

      BUT, please stop propagating the 90% of the US now has broadband lie. Those are numbers completely made up the last couple years or so since the FCC started applying pressure for rural broadband. 3G DOES NOT COUNT AS RESIDENTIAL / RURAL BROADBAND! NEITHER DOES SATELLITE!

      Pretty much any service that is not within around 30% of the speed, price, usage terms, and latency of mainstream suburban / urban broadband is not really broadband. Rural extended ra

    • Listen to this guy. I work in the industry, too, for a regional ISP in a very rural area, and I have a couple of things to add.

      To begin with, I know it hurts to hear this, but sometimes reality bites: the residential ISP business model is BASED on oversubscription. Period. Anybody else who tells you otherwise is lying or doesn't know what they are talking about. When an ISP sells a residential or SMB customer a 3Mbit/s down asynchronous connection at under $100/mo, it's guaranteed they don't have the ba

  • They're not providing you with a lower speed just to be dicks. They are using phone lines, and are subject to the condition and distance of the lines between you and your telco's switching office.

    The only time you're going to get right up at their max of their top tier service is if you live within a quarter mile or so of the switch. It's all downhill from there. And if you are in an old infrastructure part of town, your crummy old lines, decaying corroded splices, and watery lines are going to reduce th

    • They're not providing you with a lower speed just to be dicks. They are using phone lines, and are subject to the condition and distance of the lines between you and your telco's switching office.

      The only time you're going to get right up at their max of their top tier service is if you live within a quarter mile or so of the switch. It's all downhill from there. And if you are in an old infrastructure part of town, your crummy old lines, decaying corroded splices, and watery lines are going to reduce the amount of speed they can provide you.

      Most respectable ISPs won't allow you to sign up for a service tier that won't get you any more speed than the tier below it. If your part of town is qualified to 768 and you ask for 2mbit, they should tell you that you can't get that there, that 768 is all the faster that the modem is going to negotiate to. I haven't ran into a DSL ISP yet that doesn't offer different speed tiers. Make sure you're in the appropriate tier. This won't make your speed any faster, but could save you some money rather than paying for speed that you can't possibly get.

      If you want to improve this you can (A) move or (B) hound the appropriate office at your local telco about upgrading their infrastructure in your part of town. There is no option (C), and just because someone else they serve gets faster service doesn't mean you're entitled to it too.

      If you need an analogy, try complaining to ford that you can't get your new mustang to do over 70 on that gravel road to your house. Move, upgrade the road, or switch to a more appropriate product for your situation.

      Summary says he's getting much higher speeds in the daytime than the evening. So car analogy says that they pave the road every morning at 5 am and tear it up again at 6pm. No?

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      They're not providing you with a lower speed just to be dicks.

      Actually, I'm confident that that IS the reason, since their line speed varies so much. The ISP has probably installed the cheapest DSL equipment in the teleco that they can get away with and still claim to provide a service, along with the lowest-rated line onto the backbone.

      It's the traditional way to run a profit-oriented business -- supply the least and get the most. ISPs are not, as a rule, out there to serve you, they are out there to serve

  • Your problem might sound like a typical bottle neck, and Intermittent issue are always a pain to trouble shoot. Be sure to check your modem when you get slow speeds like that. If you're getting a lot of errors then the issue isn't a bottle neck. The reason I bring this up is that I have Naked DSL at home, and no phones plugged into my home lines since there is no dial tone. However periodically I would be disconnected at and have long periods that my speed was being hampered. When I got a tech out to ch
  • In Canada, at least, my one experience with an ISP that refused to provision my DSL connection to the 5 Mbps advertised. I made it very clear that if the line really could not support it, that I would be okay dropping it back down to 3 Mbps.

    They refused, because they don't try to fix anything unless it is below 40% of the advertised "up to" speed. I told them, well, if I gave you 40% of the amount you charged for my services, without even trying to pay for the whole month, you wouldn't find that very acce

    • Unfortunately the BBB in the US is a complete crock. When I see a BBB placard on a business' front door, it's usually a sign of poor service and corruption. Before NewEgg, every mom & pop PC parts dealer I dealt with that sold used merchandise, remarked CPUs, and factory seconds had one. See here, []

      Some of the suggestions to call the PUC & FCC aren't too bad though.

  • by aaronb1138 ( 2035478 ) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @11:25PM (#40024647)

    I couldn't think of a good conventional way, so obviously the answer was a Kickstarter project. Here's the gist.

    Open a call center in India tasked as customer support -support. For $60 yearly or $40 for 6 months you can subscribe. You call or e-mail with an issue with service with a vendor, give them the appropriate vendor support number and your details as needed (you've paid, so they keep your personal information secure). You even have the option to setup a profile where all this is available to the service, speeding up your time logging the ticket (vendor names / numbers / account numbers).

    THEY (India call center techs) call your vendor to handle the complaint process on your behalf. They handle the time waiting on hold, arguing, negotiating, demanding, etc. They could even call you back to conference you in as necessary (authorizing them to speak on your behalf, etc.). They will handle all of the uncomfortable discussions, demanding to be escalated to a manager, getting credits to your account, everything.

    In many cases, the business model would even save money because the calls would be local!!!

    Further, they could e-mail you links to recordings of the calls for your approval later. "Calls may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance." YOU BET!

    For particularly difficult situations, like a vendor with a horrible cancellation policy, captive market, or just crappy service, they can call up to 4 times daily on your behalf, brow-beating the vendor's support infrastructure. For $10 extra, we will "call bomb" them with a minimum of 10 calls a day for a week.

  • an local small teleco has been unable to reliably deliver advertised speeds to me. I finally got teed off enough to start arguing about it and basically got no where. I wanted a reduction in price or dropping the landline and doing dry dsl but they would not do that. The end result is they lowered my rated speed from 4 to 3 Mbps and at least now the thing is fairly reliable (Ironically when it was set at 4 the best I was getting was around 3.4). It still pisses me off as they continually advertise 6 an

  • "My '3mbps' fluctuates between about 2.7 during the day down to 0.1 or 0.2"

    This is due to the 5% who are the high usage "terrorists".

    Are you one of them? Or are you going to keep quiet?
  • by kilodelta ( 843627 ) on Thursday May 17, 2012 @12:28AM (#40024965) Homepage
    Well, the secret about DSL is that everyone is plugged into the same DSLAM and that has limited bandwidth. Plus they could be enacting QOS on the ports too, for example maybe prioritizing traffic from commercial users.

Don't get suckered in by the comments -- they can be terribly misleading. Debug only code. -- Dave Storer