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Ask Slashdot: Holding ISPs Accountable For Contracted DSL Bandwidth

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the fight-the-power dept.

The Internet 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 speedtest.net. 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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The answer was the same 6 years ago: (5, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023697)

If there's nobody else providing service to his mountainside, no radio, no cable, no other dsl company... And the existing company does care to fix it... Then yeah, you suffer or move.

Read the contract you've signed (3, Informative)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024009)

Especially the fine-prints

In many cases, the ISPs include "best effort" in their fine-prints so when their customers complain of the ridiculous low bandwidth that they are getting - like your case of 0.1mbps - them ISPs will tell you that the package they sell you, the 3mbps speed, is meant to be "Best Effort"

Re:Read the contract you've signed (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024357)

In my country the ISP contracts specify minimum bandwidth or "ratio", for example, 30:1, which means that my 300mbps connection may sometimes be 10mbps (thankfully it doesn't happen often, if at all, usually at most the speed drops to 60-70mbps). Once the speed did not rise above ~20mbps for a week or so, I called the ISP and it was fixed (turned out to be a configuration problem on their end).

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023721)

Incorrect.
The answer six years ago was http://www.dslreports.com/ [dslreports.com]
now it is http://www.broadbandreports.com/ [broadbandreports.com]

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (2)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023873)

You mean it wasn't answered here? [slashdot.org]

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023909)

Incorrect. The answer six years ago was http://www.dslreports.com/ [dslreports.com] now it is http://www.broadbandreports.com/ [broadbandreports.com]

Ok this is unfortunately a fantasy and not something you should do in this bullshit legalistic world we live in today. Hypothetical, don't do it, do not try at home etc.
,br> But having said that. Never underestimate the power of beating the living crap out of a few company executives and making sure they know why, and informing them that it will continue until they honor their promises. It would happen a time or two and then they'd get the message and after that no one would be beaten and no one would be cheated.

In the old days they dealt with assholes by running them out on a rail or by tarring and feathering them. Assholes, liars, and cheats were harder to find back then.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (1)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024177)

Ok this is unfortunately a fantasy and not something you should do in this bullshit legalistic world we live in today.

Stupid bullshit legalistic world, in which you can't assault people without fearing some bs trumped up lawsuit. What we need is tort reform! Less money going to all the lawyers, and more money to the guy who sells the billy clubs and socks-full-of-batteries.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (4, Insightful)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023937)

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.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (5, Informative)

ThurstonMoore (605470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024101)

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

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (5, Interesting)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024247)

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.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024139)

Yeah, but don't they block legal porn down there mate?

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024349)

No. Australia has no compulsory internet filtering. Occasionally someone proposes an internet filter and fails to actually get the legislation passed.

you also have horrific libel laws that make (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024165)

nazi germany look like a free speech zone.

Re:you also have horrific libel laws that make (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024453)

nazi germany look like a free speech zone.

yeah like when you get modded down for saying "niggers". it sucks.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024195)

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 [wikipedia.org] Janet Jackson's nipple at him.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (3, Informative)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024355)

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.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (4, Funny)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024417)

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

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024535)

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.

Re:The answer was the same 6 years ago: (4, Informative)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

What did you sign up for? (4, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:What did you sign up for? (4, Insightful)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023687)

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

Re:What did you sign up for? (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023711)

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:What did you sign up for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023795)

"Best effort", which means anything down to 0.

Re:What did you sign up for? (2, Interesting)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024107)

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.

Re:What did you sign up for? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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).

Did you sign up for "up to" service? (4, Insightful)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023595)

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.

Re:Did you sign up for "up to" service? (1)

fredklein (532096) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023815)

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.

Re:Did you sign up for "up to" service? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023845)

No, they advertised up to a certain speed, starting from a certain price, so you can pay more for less if you'd like.

Re:Did you sign up for "up to" service? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024361)

Sure, if you the contract uses that language for the price.

Re:Did you sign up for "up to" service? (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023855)

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!"

Re:Did you sign up for "up to" service? (2)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023991)

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 because there's a new VRAD next door.

Disclaimer: I am in the US, other countries probably handle things differently.

The beauty of "best effort"... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023605)

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.

Re:The beauty of "best effort"... (4, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023735)

If complaining directly to them doesn't work, you might try griping about them on Twitter. My mother-in-law was able to get Comcast to make good on a bad deal that way.

You could always move to business tier. (1)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023607)

You would have alot better response to your complaints. But of course, that 3 Mebibits will cost you somewhere around 100 dollars a month.

Re:You could always move to business tier. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023667)

It actually is megabits.

Re:You could always move to business tier. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024043)

It is 3 Megabits, just not 3 Megabit every seconds. :P

Re:move to business tier.... "3 Mebibits" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024609)

three "maybe-bits?" .. or may be NOT....

Community broadband (1)

benedictaddis (1472927) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023617)

You're not beholden to a de-facto monopoly for your internet service. Have you got any neighbours within wifi distance with whom you could share the costs of satellite broadband? In the UK there are even grants available for setting up community broadband service.

Re:Community broadband (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023679)

I thought the idea was to get faster internets

Re:Community broadband (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023717)

You're not beholden to a de-facto monopoly for your internet service. Have you got any neighbours within wifi distance with whom you could share the costs of satellite broadband? In the UK there are even grants available for setting up community broadband service.

Depending on what you use it for, Satellite Broadband may be worse than a slow (even very slow) DSL connection. I generally use interactive sessions (rdp, ssh, etc over VPN - though I can bypass the VPN and go directly via ssh if I need to)

I'd gladly take a 200 kbit DSL connection with 150msec of latency over a Satellite connection with 1000 msec or more of latency. (though I'm much more happy with my 15mbit connection with 60msec of latency (which is still higher than I'd like, but completely tolerable))

Call the ISP (5, Informative)

Prosthetic_Lips (971097) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023641)

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).

Ya be persistent with the calls (5, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Ya be persistent with the calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024123)

It is possible that your DSLAM just has a tiny line to it and lots of people and is getting overloaded

Hey Now! DSL is "dedicated" bandwidth to the ISP! /sarc

call at different times of day and on weekends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024183)

then you will get a different support staff, a different supervisor, and maybe a different result.

Re:Ya be persistent with the calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024413)

Definitely the right answer. My friend lives in the sticks and was paying the only company who offered internet $50/mo for 1.5 Mbps DSL that constantly dropped out and didn't work when it rained. When he told me about it, I told him to start calling and emailing the local office, tell them he's not getting what he's paying for, and to lower his bill to $20 a month. They sent a technician out the next day who swapped the modem, but when it next rained and it went out again, I told him to call and ask for an engineer. They obliged, looked over the logs, saw the drops, and sent another guy out to replace the box and the interior lines. When it cut out again, he looked up the name of the CEO, called the company, and told them he was referred by the engineer, and for some reason they patched him through. He complained to him about the service, and in exchange for not calling his office directly again, the CEO gave him a free upgrade, a 50% discount, and a free month of service. However, shortly after everything was installed, it rained again, and the service cut out. He sent an email to the CEO complaining about it telling him he would call him every day at 8 o'clock until it was fixed, and two days later they put in a new toadstool, ran a new half mile of cable to his house, and filled in his driveway while they were at it. Six months later, another company came in offering a cable package with twice the speed for the same price which he immediately switched it, but the lesson learned was if the squeaky wheel doesn't squeak so much that it gets replaced, it'll probably get the oil.

Re:Call the ISP (3, Informative)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (3, Informative)

StayFrosty (1521445) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024465)

There are lots of free and open source monitoring tools that can help determine if something is out of alignment. SmokePing [oetiker.ch] 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.

Re:Call the ISP (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024351)

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 switching companies I decided to try the newly-available Uverse service. Mind you this is also DSL, delivered over the same exact line into my house, and I now get a steady, reliable 12mbps. I have no idea why the old service was so inconsistent and the newer version is so much better, but I have been happy since - and not really paying any more!

After the switch, AT&T erroneously charged me $150 for a technician install that was never requested or performed, which took 4 phone calls (two apparently to South Asia, one of which was to an impatient operator with an accent I could barely understand) but they did finally credit me for the scammy charge, and that has been my only issue since upgrading.

Have an SLA? (2)

vuke69 (450194) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023643)

Have an SLA? ...I didn't think so. You're SOL.

whrea: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023647)

Maybe nighttime moisture is killing your dsl signal. To fix my 'dsl goes out when it rains', I had to get a good modem (broadcom based zoom something or other, bridge only modem). YMMV, but luckily there's still ask-slashdot so you can always come back later and complain to us.

Re:whrea: (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023961)

Had a Zoom once. After about two years, it started rebooting every few minutes. I don't have a Zoom now.

Step 1: Grab a different DSL router/modem.

Step 2: If that didn't fix it, call your service provider every single time it goes south until they're so sick of hearing from you that they send out a tech at the right time of night.

Step 3: If that didn't fix it, talk to your neighbors about sharing a trunk line.

more likely moisture in the line does you phone (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024039)

more likely moisture in the line does you phone have a lot of noise on it? if so they you need to call phone line repair.

Re:whrea: (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024097)

sounds like bad wire, I have dug up some horrible looking phone wire in my day and fixed them. Funny the problem just goes away then.

...variable (1)

iMouse (963104) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023649)

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".

The bad news (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023655)

They are over selling their capacity.
They are not contractually obligated to give you the amount you thought you would get, unless you bought service with an SLA that states otherwise.

speeds that low may be some kind line issue (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024079)

speeds that low may be some kind line issue and not the system being over loaded.

"Holding ISPs accountable" for speed? Ha ha ha. (2)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:"Holding ISPs accountable" for speed? Ha ha ha. (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023965)

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

Introduction:

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 me say, if you have DSL you have WAAAAY better speed than Hughesnet.

Look at a T-1 with a SLA...I did. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023701)

I'm SOL on internet at a house I want to buy..the new Satellite service limits my bandwidth and would cost in the ~120 range. I work remotely and will burn through the caps even though they say the VPN speeds are decent now, I can't get DSL or Cablemodem, no close fiber drops, I can't hit a WISP because I can't get a line of sight to it...last resort, I called telco business and I can get a T-1 for $340/month on a 1 year contract. I get a SLA, I'll be taking them up on this..I'll have a T-1 to my house.

Re:Look at a T-1 with a SLA...I did. (2)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023731)

keep shopping, iirc speakeasy (now megapath) has T1s for ~250 a month

Re:Look at a T-1 with a SLA...I did. (2)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023985)

I work remotely and will burn through the caps even though they say the VPN speeds are decent now

As someone recently off satellite - They lie, and hard.

With satellite, the throughput doesn't suck... Even the daily caps, while they suck hard the first few times you hit it, you can learn to live with.

But the latency! Any sort of interactive connection, from online gaming to VPN to even visiting any website that uses SSL, will absolutely crawl. Expect to search for 10YO clients that let you jack the timeouts up to insane levels (and then, still pray the server-side puts up with you taking literally half a second per roundtrip).

As one option shy of getting a T1, I recently switched to a 3G modem. Still has a fairly crappy cap, but the penalty for exceeding it costs basically the same as your basic service prorated to more bandwidth (I pay $80/10G, with $10/G over). And while it costs basically the same as the halfway-decent tier of satellite, it actually works for what I need (like VPN'ing in to work). I couldn't use it to truly telecommute 40+ hours a week, but for the occasional server-babysitting on the weekend, it saves me a drive.

Community action *might* help (3, Funny)

Creosote (33182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023733)

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.

The fine print (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023739)

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).

Live with it (2)

dacarr (562277) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023741)

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 (3, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023983)

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.

Re:Live with it (5, Informative)

bobdole2111 (1134689) | more than 2 years ago | (#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: http://www.techpowerup.com/forums/showthread.php?t=113143 [techpowerup.com] Hope this helps!

SOOL (1)

deweyhewson (1323623) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023745)

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 they knew I wasn't getting the speeds I was paying for, that they knew it was their fault, that there was nothing I could do about it, and that if I tried to cancel they would hit me with a $400 early termination fee as well as the costs of service for the remaining months on my contract. By the way, never sign a contract if you at all can avoid it. I could have probably beaten them in court, with recorded evidence I had, but at that point I was so worn out I just cancelled and switched providers as soon as possible.

Long story short: suck it up while keeping your eyes open for other options. I don't know how close you are to another area that does have more options, or what your level of technical expertise is, but if you're within a mile or two, and you know someone living there, you may consider going in on a connection at their place together and beaming it up to your house using some nice roof antennas over long distance WiFi. The Ubiquiti Nanostation M5 is suited for this purpose, and is actually what my own wireless ISP uses on each home (for speeds up to 50mbps).

If even that is not an option, you may just have to deal with the consequences of living in a rural area, and being stuck with a provider who knows the leverage they have over their customer base because of it.

Customer service options? (2)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Good luck with that. (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023759)

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."

what contract? (2)

porjo (964384) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023761)

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 network, 3rd party last-mile providers, and general user ignorance/misconceptions can make it very hard for an ISP to control/fix/maintain.

"contracted"... are you sure? (2)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023799)

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..

You can do that any day. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023809)

On anything called "DSL" you pretty much have the right to a bill, the rest is best effort.

My ISP (1)

CaptainLugnuts (2594663) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023859)

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.

Capacity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023933)

If your DSL speeds are good during the day, and slow down at night, its almost always a capacity problem. (There is a small chance its a line fault, where cold/rain/etc might cause slow downs, but then it wouldn't *always* be at night).

Your DSL provider has a DSLAM at your local exchange, that DSLAM goes back to another aggregation point via backhaul, from there it keeps going back until it reaches the backbone, then heads "north" until it gets to a transit point, and is handed off.

The situation you describe is commonly with the first leg of backhaul, but, depending on how wide spread the problem is, it may be further back. Remember that during at least the first leg of the backhaul, if not much further, your connection is still PPPoE, so you can't "see" these hops with traceroute. You are effectively tunneled back to the LNS, so ping times, etc won't help diagnose.

So how do you fix it? Unfortunately the answer is make enough noise the ISP looks at your backhaul and goes "ah fuck", and upgrades it. I have no idea what its like with your ISP, but often ISP's don't use dark fibre, so they pay for connections from other Telcos to link their POPs. So sometimes its just a matter of going up an STM, and increasing the pipe size, sometimes its a matter of infrastructure overhaul (in the case of dark fibre thats max'd out), sometimes its a matter of adding more circuits (2 x 1Gbps links are cheaper than 1x10Gbps link).

There is one other possibility, which is that the ISP deploys a shaper (these, despite what people think, and generally good things), but for whatever reason, you're being shaped to hell. This can happen if your account isn't loaded into the system properly, etc. Diagnosing this is even harder, but generally involves bitching lots and lots till they eventually listen. You can attempt to diagnose it if your ISP doesn't use port-based authentication, you can connect in with someone elses (eg a friends) account, and see if you get bad performance from his/her account at your site. If you don't, then its gonna be a shaper problem.

Re:Capacity (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024605)

Actually, you can telnet or SSH into most routers these days and talk to the head end directly, including performing loopback tests (kind of like a ping, but only as far as your DSLAM). That can tell you a lot, including noise margins (both from the perspective of your device and what's being reported by the head end), attenuation, which tones the modem is actually using, etc.

Alternative fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40023941)

Might there be an alternative fix for your issues

How about a dish that might improve your cell coverage or, if there is a reasonable service within say a few miles, something like a client bridge to someone that has a better service?

Not too sure about the technical issues but throw the idea into the mix for others to comment.

Not allot (1)

mikeiver1 (1630021) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023959)

I have been in the same boat and there was little that they could or would do past the basics. This was AT&T, they did run diagnostics from their end and they did send out a tech to check that I had no wire issues at my site. Since I do structured cabling it was all up to snuff. They then tested a number of pairs to my local and found a pair that were good and moved me to them. The connection still sucked. All this has no relevance to your issue. The problem you have is that the DSLAM you are coming off of is fully apportioned out and there are simply allot of users in the evening competing for that limited bandwidth of the back haul. You have a number of possible options. The first is a bit of social engineering and see if you can get someone at the ISP to step up and fix or request that the build out team fix the issue. Pressure from others using the same service in your area might help here. Another option might be to go with a satellite internet service, your mileage may vary with this one. My option when I could not get AT&T to do the right thing was to go with a cellular WAN card. In my area the coverage was crap and only became a good option after I put a high gain Yagi antenna on the roof pointing at the cell tower. I went from a -102dBm to -59dBm (1 bar to 5 bars). In terms of speed I went from around 100Kbps to over 1.5Mbps on Verizon's 3G network. Last is to see if there are any wireless internet providers in the area, allot of rural areas have one serving communities that are otherwise neglected by the major players.

Small Local ISPs are sometimes better. (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#40023999)

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's lines. Ex., I use Hiwaay info services here in Alabama, but they use ATT's copper and equipment. BUT ... if I have a big problem, Hiwaay deals with ATT for me and gets the issue resolved. You get what you pay for.

If you're in the middle of nowhere, you're lucky to get DSL at all. DSL is piggybacked via an RF carrier on your POTS line. Like most spread-spectrum/"stacked bandwidth" services, as the signal degrades, your bandwidth degrades, too. So ... that's one thing you can check. A smaller ISP might be more willing to send a tech with test equipment. The tech can run all sorts of QOS and noise tests on the lines. Who knows? Maybe the line is badly grounded at a nearby neighbor's house, and that's eating half your bandwidth.

Here's the thing: the Big Telco doesn't care. They oversell their bandwidth like mad, realizing that most people are just checking email and Facebook. Not high-bandwidth usage. The few who need lots of bits per second are just not that important to them. As long as you have a connection, they'll say, "that's as good as you can get."

... and check your OWN wiring. (2)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024093)

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.

Call Your PUC (2)

Rob Riggs (6418) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024007)

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.

Where are you testing to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024061)

Where are you testing to? If you are testing to a server that is past your ISP then how can you hold the ISP responsible for lines that they don't own? The speeds are almost always up to XX from your location to the ISP not to a random speedtest site. First I'd verify that your test is accurate for your line and doesn't include other wires that they don't own.

Re:Where are you testing to? (1)

MadMaverick9 (1470565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024207)

why are you posting as AC? this is the only sensible post i've read in this thread. my isp actually provides a speedtest page which is located on a server within their network. 26ms away from my computer.

FCC (1)

ThurstonMoore (605470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024069)

File a complaint with the FCC, I've done it and got good results.

There is often a reason ADSL is "up to" (1)

gallondr00nk (868673) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024095)

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 property a stones throw from the exchange I got 6mbps, when I moved house a mile further away from the same exchange I got 500kbps with the awful wiring the landlord had hacked together, and 3mbps afterwards.

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. Running a modem from a 10 metre telephone extension cable attached to a junky POS extension socket isn't going to do you any favours.

I work for an ISP (5, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 people are on that DSA? How many, roughly, have broadband? Are there plans in the near future for added trunks? If not does he know if they have a plan? In a lot of these cases the ISP is just waiting for customers to drop off the DSA and refusing to connect new customers. So as your neighbors move away and someone new moves in they'll not be able to get service... that'll free bandwidth up for you. You need to figure out the situation you are in, who is in charge at your ISP... the local guys? A corporate office somewhere? Who do you need to talk to to find out what their plan is for you. I promise you there is a network planning department somewhere that has a spreadsheet with your address highlighted in red on it that they lament over at least once a week.

If it makes you feel any better, I can promise you that they aren't making any money off of you. You're basically robbing them blind. Serving a rural broadband customer is expensive and difficult. I wish you luck!

Re:I work for an ISP (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024227)

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.

I bet your ISP is CenturyLink... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024145)

It's definitely your ISP's fault. More than likely you have CenturyLink who are well known to pull this kind of shit.

Re:I bet your ISP is CenturyLink... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024495)

I have CenturyLink and it's the best internet service you can get in the Las Vegas area imo. It's 100% open and I regularly get 10mbps downloads. I also put a lot of value in not having anything blocked and being able to have a real static ip.

-wmbetts

I canna change the laws of physics (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024191)

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.

Re:I canna change the laws of physics (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024321)

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?

Innovate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024217)

Get a leased line, speeds are static. Or get a big pipe and start your own isp. Most companies aren't interested in rural areas due to lack of profit. You just have to break even to get it to work.

Wireless PtP is the only high-performance option. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024225)

There are many, many local wireless ISPs starting up, each using an array of different equipment. The Quality can vary quite a bit, from ISP to ISP, but they generally fare on the good to excellent side. If you can find a local ISP to set up towers as needed, they may be willing to invest in a new customer and (hopefully) others near by in similar circumstances. Being able to call your ISP and talk to real people is always a bonus. And if you need to inform them of QoS issues you will actually stand a fair chance of having it fixed and/or your traffic prioritized.

You didn't read the fine print? (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024249)

Why do you think they put an asterisk by the speed ratings? Anyways, satellite internet is probably your best option.

Depends on the cause (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024261)

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 check they discovered that my house was connected to several other houses as well so even though I had no phones to cause issues they did. It must have been a security system in one of them but the tech fixed the wiring and all is well. If it really is too many people on the line all at once then their probably isn't much that can be done in the short term.

Here is actual data. (1)

Ayars (875441) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024311)

I got sick of hearing AT&T tell me that everything was working fine, so I measured my actual DSL speed. Every 15 minutes. For more than a year. As you can guess, EVERY measurement was, as advertised, "up to 1.5 Mbps". Usually less than half that. Results here: http://hacks.ayars.org/2012/05/for-past-several-years-weve-gotten-our.html [ayars.org]

Move (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024447)

You can't force the internet to come to you.

If they cant stop Charter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40024471)

If they cant stop charter from advertising their best plan vs the worst plan and claiming theirs is faster you have no chance.

Better Business Bureau (2)

Fierlo (842860) | more than 2 years ago | (#40024591)

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 acceptable. That got me, unsurprisingly, nowhere.

I wrote a letter (submitted online) to the Better Business Bureau, for false advertising. It took about three business days for someone at the ISP (a supervisor or manager) to call me and say that they put me up to 5 Mbps, and apologized for the inconvenience.

I thanked them, and said that my issue was entirely that they would not attempt it. After all, it can't really cost them that much to make the switch twice. Though it could have cost them a customer to not make it.

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