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Troubleshooting Slow Internet Connections

If you are experiencing slow performance from your Internet connection, you will want to consider several of the possible causes, listed below.  As you can see it has been our experience that most of the poor performance in this issue is due to the quality of the "Voice Grade" phone system. This is what most of us use to gain access to the Internet. To be fair to the phone company, the "Voice Grade" phone system was never, from it's inception, designed to be anything more than a system to allow humans to communicate with each other, using their own voices, transmitted in an analog method over copper wires. These wires are switched through a central office system. The "Central Office" (CO) controls who gets connected to whom with a whole bunch of switches and wires.

There are aspects of this "Voice Grade" communications system that actually work against effective data transmission. You are welcome to try to send data over it, but don't expect any sympathy from the phone company if it doesn't work well in your area. To give you an idea of what the phone company thinks of the line from your house to the central office, it is referred to as a POTS line (Plain Old Telephone Service).

The most common reason that a user may not be able to connect at the top speed available for their particular brand of modem is line quality.  There are many miles of fiber and copper wire and telephone company switches between you and KansasNet.  Most phone lines are only capable of supporting a baud rate of roughly 28,800 bits per second.  Higher speeds than this are achieved through data compression algorithms.  However, any static, electrical interference, commonly referred to as "line noise" can cause data transmission errors which may slow down your actual connection speed as the modem attempts to compensate for these errors.

Another factor is the routing from one phone station to another.  When signals are processed from digital to analog, the more times this happens your ability to connect at higher speeds drops.

Major causes of poor Internet performance (Transfer Rate) in order:

  1. Phone connection
  2. Output of source
  3. House wiring
  4. Customer modem
  5. Service provider's (ISP's) modem.

The order of importance is based our support experience. They do not include simply not being able to log in due to settings on the home computer or difficulties we might have with our equipment.

What can you do to resolve this problem?

Test your performance

  • Log in to KansasNet via the 56K number in your area and note your connect speed.  If there is not a 56K number in your area, use the 33.6 phone number.  If your connect speed is less than 26,400 bps, your performance on the Internet is going to be less than average.
    If you have Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP, you can check your connect speed by double-clicking on the small icon of the 'two connected computers' in your system tray (see below).

    Doing so brings up your current internet connection status window.

    The window shows the speed you established your connection at.  However, it is usually, but not always accurate, so there is another test you can do.
  • Connect to KansasNet, and start a download of "WS_FTP LE" by clicking below:
    WS_FTP Limited Edition 5.08 for Windows
    You are not going to download the entire program, just enough to get an idea of how fast your computer is downloading the file.

A reasonable download speed would be at least 2.40 KB/Sec.  Also, keep in mind that lower download speeds could result from high-traffic at this ftp site.  If this is the case, you should try again later, or try downloading another file from some other site.  After you determine the transfer rate, click 'Cancel' to cancel the download.

Visit "Troubleshooting Slow Internet Connections - Page 2"

Isolate the problem as much as you can

  • If the modem logs in below 26.4 Kbps OR the data transfer rate is less than 2.4 KBps, start your investigation with phone wiring, then your modem.
  • The ideal phone connection is what the phone company calls a "Home Run" connection to their box (D-Mark) on the back of your house.
  • The connection at the D-Mark should be clean and firm (not loose)
  • The connection should be the correct polarity.
    (If you don't know how to determine this make sure red wires go to red, black to black, etc. ) You might want to contract with your phone company for this effort.
  • Check your modem for proper operation.
    This can be a challenge. Try it on a known good phone line. Or substitute another modem in it's place. For many this might mean taking the computer to a service facility for testing.
  • If no problems are found in the wiring or the modem call the phone company and report the problem.

Calling the phone company

The phone company makes no guarantees about standard "Voice Grade Lines". They will only ensure that it is functioning normally as a analog, Voice Grade phone line.

Use your data from the 56K phone number as the bench mark.

  • When you call, State that you have a "Dial-up data problem" and that you need to talk to a "Dial-up data specialist".
  • Do not try to explain your problem to anyone else but the "Dial-Up Data Specialist".
  • Discuss your problem in terms of poor data transfer rates. Avoid comments about login speeds as they are fairly irrelevant at 26.4 or above.

There are other issues that are more important to transfer rate than connect speed. Although connect speed is often associated with these other problems, it is not the issue to be addressed.

  • When the service technician comes to your house, don't let that person close the trouble ticket until your data transfer rate is at least 2.5 KBps
    Your success with this problem will depend on your negotiating skills and the physical limit of your geographical location relative to the local "Phone Switch".
  • When the phone company has the line working as good as it can for the 56K line, try downloading on the 56K number again.
    It should be better but there is no guarantee it will be.
  • Always remember, the phone company is happy to sell you the use of a second or third line but makes no guarantees about it's capability to handle data calls. It's a POTS line (Plain Old Telephone Service).


1 Kbps1000 bits per second of data transfer.

1 KBps 1000 bytes per second of data transfer.

ADSL Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line

bit The smallest measure of computer data.

byte A "word" in terms of computer data, most commonly measured at 8 bits.

Dmark The point, usually on the back of the house, where the phone company service responsibility ends. From that point on into your house, maintenance is your responsibility, unless you have a service contract with the phone company.

DSL Digital Subscriber Line

Home Run A single phone jack connected to a phone wire that runs directly to the D-Mark, with no splices in the wire or other phone connections of any kind.

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Last modified: April 17, 2007