DSL service is provided to NCF members with an "up to" speed for both download and upload. This means that it can be less than that speed, for reasons that are out of NCF's control.
There are a myriad of factors that affect the actual speed of your DSL connection. This article will attempt to address the main ones.
How much speed are you getting?
Don't rely on subjective appraisals that some websites are loading slowly to determine that your speed is slow. It is very common that the speed limiter is the server at the other end. For instance, news video websites can be very slow in the evenings, because many people are trying to download the videos all at once.
Your achieved DSL speed should be objectively measured, which is easy to do. There are two speeds that are relevant:
- Your line profile speed, which your modem detects and records in its line stats. Line Stats shows you how to find out what your modem records the line profile as.
- Your actual achieved speed, though running a speed test.
Line profile speeds
Why would your line profile be set below the maximum? Because your distance from Bell's DSL equipment or the quality of Bell's lines to your house cannot support a higher speed. DSL signal degrades with distance from the DSL equipment and distances over 5 km tend to be very marginal for DSL signals. Even shorter distances can result in service instability and loss of connection at higher speeds. The cure for this is to slow down the speed to prevent disconnections.
You can get some idea of your distance from the DSL equipment and whether distance is an issue for your location, by checking your line attenuation. If the attenuation is high then you are far from the DSL equipment and a lower profile is probably called for to prevent frequent disconnections.
You can see your stats as seen by NCF here. Note the date on that page that says when they were collected. The profile speed is not necessarily the same as your speed attained.
Why don't speed test results match the profile?
You will rarely see your profile speed as a download speed on a speed test. There is a service "overhead" on all DSL speeds that means that achieved speeds are usually limited to about 85% of the profile speed. If you have a 10 Mb/s download profile speed this will mean ideally you should see speed tests turn in results of about 8.5 Mb/s. Similarly with upload speeds on a profile of 800 Kb/s upload profile expect to see the speed test turning in a result of 680 Kb/s.
How to do a speed test
To find the speed of your internet connection, try a speed test website and wait for the test to complete. Ideal test conditions are:
- A proper test of your connection should use a wired Ethernet connection.
- With only one device on your network using the internet connection.
- With background internet applications and processes like cloud services (for example, iCloud, Google Drive or torrents) stopped.
- With only the tab for the speed test open in your web browser.
It is normal for the download speed to be much faster than the upload speed. This is intentional, so that you are able to download big files quickly. Normal, good results for 6 Mbps service would be something like 5.2 Mbps download, and about 600 Kbps upload.
- NCF Speed Test
- Primus Internet Speed Test
- SpeakEasy Speed Test
- Meter.net Speed Test
- Speedof.Me Speed Test
- Bandwidth Place Speed Test
- Cira Performance Test
- Netflix-operated Speed Test
Note: Because different test servers are located in different geographical places their results are not comparable to each other and testing the same connection on different speed tests will provide different results. If you use a speed test to monitor your connection over time, then always use the same test.
What if the speed test shows slow speed?
If you are on a profile of 10 Mb/s and you are seeing speed test results over 8 Mb/s in real world conditions that is normal. If you are getting download speeds in the range of 5 Mb/s or slower then that may indicate a problem.
It could be due to any one of a number of problems:
If you get expected speeds in the morning and late at night, but experience slower speeds in the evenings and on weekends then the likely culprit is network congestion. NCF has investigated network congestion problems in the past and correct issues between the NCF network and the Bell Network at the aggregation point.
Today NCF increases its bandwidth on regular basis to stay ahead member demand, but slowdowns still occur on the internet beyond NCF, as this article explains.
When you did the speed test were you the only person using your internet connection? If someone else in the house is watching a video, streaming audio or is playing a game, it will consume bandwidth and give you a slow speed test result. Try retesting when you are sure no one else is on line through your modem.
Are you running your wireless unencrypted? Are people outside your home using your bandwidth? Running your wireless unencrypted is not recommended.
Speeds seen when speed testing via wireless connection are almost always slower than via wired Ethernet connection, unless the device connected wirelessly is very close to the router. Even with an "N" protocol wireless router a laptop being used for a speed test a floor above the router will typically see half the expected speeds. With "G" protocol wireless it may be one quarter the expected speed, or worse, if there is interference from other nearby networks.
If you are not getting good speed on your wirelessly connected device then try connecting it via an Ethernet cable and see if that makes a difference. See About WiFi for more information on troubleshooting WiFi performance
Any modem should give comparable speeds on the same line, unless the modem is starting to fail. One possible sign of a failing modem is loss of speed, especially once it is warmed up and has been running for an hour or two.
Poor ventilation for a modem can cause it to overheat and lose speed, so ensure that your modem has good airflow around it.
If you suspect your modem may be the issue contact the NCF office to arrange to borrow a loaner modem to take home and test out your connection.
Running a speed test on an old browser will often turn in slow results, because the browser is slow. Make sure you have the latest version of your browser to ensure that the speed test is not being limited.
Some browsers don't necessarily work well or fast and can produce slow results, particularly some versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Try a better browser:
- Apple Safari for macOS
- Brave for Linux, macOS, and Windows
- Chromium for BSD and Linux
- Gnome Web (formerly called "Epiphany") for Linux
- Google Chrome for BSD, Linux, macOS, and Windows
- Midori for BSD, Linux and Windows
- Mozilla Firefox for BSD, Linux, macOS, and Windows
- Mozilla SeaMonkey for BSD, Linux, macOS, and Windows
- SRWare Iron for BSD, Linux, macOS, and Windows
- Vivaldi for Linux, macOS, and Windows
An operating system on your computer that has errors and is breaking down and malfunctioning will not give good speed test results. Microsoft Windows, in particular, breaks down over time and can turn in poor results.
This can easily be tested by running a speed test on another computer and seeing if the results are different, or booting up another operating system and testing using that. A simple, RAM-based operating system, like Puppy Linux is easy to boot into RAM and, with its included Firefox browser, conduct a speed test. If the result is faster than normal, then the operating system is probably the culprit.
It is also possible that your computer's network or wireless card is failing and producing slow speeds. The easiest way to test this is by using another device to conduct a speed test and then compare the results. Different computers connecting the same way and using the same speed test should see similar results.
If nothing works
If none of these hints manages to resolve unexplained slow speed, then your next step should be to read Troubleshooting.
- DSL Rates
- Line Stats
- Computer Help
- Firewall testing
- Managing your monthly DSL bandwidth usage
- The bandwidth bottleneck that is throttling the Internet, by Jeff Hecht, Nature