Why is my internet speed not speedier?
March 13, 2012 8:27 PM   Subscribe

Why does my internet speed top out around 2 MB/s instead of what comes up on speed test websites (20Mb/s+)?

I'd consider myself fairly tech savvy, but I don't know why my speeds are so poor. Is it the router? Some settings somewhere? On all my builds and computers, I've never been able to surpass a certain speed even though my internet is much faster.

Example: In uTorrent or downloading anything from the web, I'll never break 2.5 MB/s even though my ISP advertises much higher speeds and I'm able to get 20+ Mb/s on speed test websites.

I have DD-WRT v24-sp2 (08/07/10) mini on a Asus WL-520GU. My computer is a Windows 7 machine with a motherboard that says it will do LAN speeds of "10/100/1000Mbps".

I don't know what else to provide, so I'll leave it at that and answer questions as they come up.

posted by apip to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1 MB (megabyte) = 8 Mb (megabit). Plus it depends more on the bandwidth of the remote host. If you're torrenting, depends on multiple hosts and the peer network setup.
posted by supercres at 8:29 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

From what I've heard, ISPs always fudge the numbers a little. Just like how laptop manufacturers fudge battery life, guys fudge their height and medication ads fudge the details of studies.

The rest depends on too many variables to really pin down.
posted by dekathelon at 8:29 PM on March 13, 2012

Response by poster: Everything in the original post was supposed to be in Mb/s. My bad on the errors.

Even if I'm connected on an awesome torrent with billion seeds or downloading directly from Google or something, I'll never break 2.5 Mb/s.
posted by apip at 8:32 PM on March 13, 2012

I thought the speed test websites actually did upload and download files, so they should be accurate, at least for the size of files. Are you sure you don’t have some speed throttling on your torrent software? I thought most of them came with a limit set.

I have very little idea what I’m talking about here, just guessing.
posted by bongo_x at 8:36 PM on March 13, 2012

Best answer: I would double-check that you're only getting 2.5 megabits per second in utorrent. Thats really really slow for cable (though on the low end of normal for DSL). Plus, I believe utorrent defaults to displaying everything in bytes, not bits. It would make sense, too-- 2.5 MB/s = 20 Mb/s.

If it is true, make sure you're connectable from the web-- the necessary ports open on your router, in your firewall, etc. Google "port check". There should be tons of pages for configuring utorrent and your router for this.
posted by supercres at 8:37 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There is throttling on uTorrent, but when it's disabled, it will top out at ~2.5Mb/s
posted by apip at 8:37 PM on March 13, 2012

Typically, torrent programs will show d/l speeds in bytes whereas speed tests show bandwidth in bits. As mentioned above, a connection capable of 20 megabytes /s download speeds would be a 160 megabit line. Here in Canada, a 100 MB line for example, would cost me ~100$ a month.
posted by Lorin at 8:39 PM on March 13, 2012

Response by poster: oh hmmm uTorrent is measured in bytes. I guess that does make sense with everything.


posted by apip at 8:39 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm all but convinced that my ISP is intentionally setting a high QOS priority for traffic to and from speedtest.net, just to make their service look better than it actually is.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:46 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm all but convinced that my ISP is intentionally setting a high QOS priority for traffic to and from speedtest.net, just to make their service look better than it actually is.

I've long suspected at least some ISPs were doing that.
posted by 6550 at 8:56 PM on March 13, 2012

Another thing to consider when evaluating your speedtest.net results, are ISPs that offer technologies that up your bandwidth for the first few seconds of a download, such as Comcast's "Powerboost". I suspect that these companies tailor the period for the increase to be just long enough for a speedtest.net test to run, so that it'll report the boosted speed, and not your regular speed.

There really needs to be a "marathon" version of the test, where you can set it to run for n number of hours, so you can get a true feel for the speed your really huge files will actually download at.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:09 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

At least in most places in the US, 2.5MB/s is a pretty speedy download. So, if you're in the U.S.: congrats!
posted by toomuchpete at 10:11 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

What radwolf76 said: lots of ISPs offer a special bandwidth shaping approach that will give you a LOT of bandwidth for the first few seconds of a connection, but will then throttle it down to your purchased rate or lower. I've confirmed this many, many times on my (supposedly) 16Mbps connection where I routinely start with 30-50Mbps and then slow down to around the speed I pay for.

This probably doesn't have much to do with your torrent speeds, which are far lower than your rated speed. However, even at work where I have a hundreds of megabits per second to the Internet I never get above a few tens of megabits per second on torrents, including times when I'm downloading something with hundreds of seeds.
posted by haykinson at 12:07 AM on March 14, 2012

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