Steps to a Faster Broadband Connection

If you’re paying much more for high-speed Internet service, and not getting the performance you expect. Follow these guidelines to boost your broadband speed, and keep your connection running smoothly.

1. Test Your Connection Speed
Before you start using, get a baseline reading of your downstream and upstream connection speeds at Speedtest.net. Measure the speeds at different times of day, especially during the hours when you use the connection most frequently and at least once after midnight or 1:00 AM.

2. Update Your Firmware or Get a New Modem
If your cable /or DSL modem is more than a couple of years old, ask your ISP for a change. The latest cable modems meet the DOCSIS 2.0 (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) standard. If you have a 1.1 modem and a high-throughput plan, you’ll likely experience a large speed increase just by swapping modems. Even with a brand-new modem, make sure that you have the latest firmware installed.

Cable providers such as Comcast usually push new firmware to modems, so there’s no need for most cable modem users to perform upgrades themselves. To update your DSL modem, you’ll have to connect to its Web interface, which means that you’ll need to know the IP address of the modem on your local network. This information should be in your user manual; alternatively, you can find default settings for most modems on the Internet. Enter this address into your browser and the Web interface should come up, and check the firmware number on the status page and see whether a newer version of the firmware is available on the manufacturer’s site. If it is, download this more recent firmware to your PC and then find and run the firmware update procedure from the modem’s browser utility. Reboot, rerun Speedtest and see whether your data is traveling faster. Besides boosting transfer speeds, using a new modem or updated firmware can solve a host of nagging connection issues, such as intermittent dropouts.

3. Check Your Modem Parameters
While you’re updating the firmware, check the maximum allowed speeds (both downstream and up) should match your service plan. If they don’t, your ISP didn’t set your service up properly. Give your ISP a call and ask it to fix the setup remotely. And, look for signal-to-noise ratio or SN margin and line attenuation, both measured in dB. The lower the signal-to-noise ratio, the more interference you have and the greater the number of packets that will need to be re-sent because they didn’t come through the first time.

4. Troubleshooting Line Quality
If your off-peak Speedtest numbers didn’t measure up to your plan’s specifications and if you found poor signal-to-noise or line attenuation numbers, it’s time to troubleshoot your wiring. Excessive noise may cause intermittent dropouts, too.

Your first task is to determine whether the signal is already degraded when it reaches your house or whether your own wiring is at fault. To test this, move your cable modem as close as you can to where the wire first splits. Retest and see if things improve. If they don’t, call your cable company. If your own wiring looks to be at fault, reduce the number of splits that occur before the wiring reaches your modem and/or replace the wire itself, which may be faulty. The ultimate solution for cable modems is to create a split directly after the junction box and then run a clean new cable directly to your modem, using the other split for all of your TVs.

If you still have too much noise, the best solution is to install a “DSL/POTS splitter” immediately after the phone box, where the wiring comes into the house, and then run a dedicated “homerun” wire straight to the modem. This arrangement will completely isolate your modem from the regular phone wiring — and the new wire should help, too.

5. Optimize Software Settings
Now that your cable or DSL line is as clean as you can make it, you’re ready to use your system and applications for maximum performance, too. For optimizing network performance parameters in Windows XP or Vista, we like TotalIdea Software’s Tweak-XP Pro Premium and TweakVI Premium to optimize without requiring you to understand Registry editing or hidden Windows settings. Pro version of Network Magic, an excellent network monitoring utility, includes optimization capabilities as well.

6. Accelerate Your Downloads
Frequent downloaders can save huge amounts of time by using a download manager like our favorite, FlashGet. FlashGet creates multiple simultaneous download links and then puts the file together afterward. All you do is click or drag download links to the FlashGet window; the program does the rest. It integrates with Internet Explorer and works with Firefox using a companion utility called FlashGot.

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