Why is my Verizon DSL so slow?
February 24, 2013 7:46 PM   Subscribe

My Verizon DSL is peaking at about 1 mbit/s. Our plan should be providing 1.1-15. Why is my internet so much slower than expected?

Given that youtube.com/my_speed shows many people on my ISP are getting much higher speeds. I'm wondering if it's due to my setup: Linksys WRT54G running the latest Tomato firmware, while I'm on a MacBook Air using wifi. The (WPA protected) wifi is shared with my roommate, and I administrate the router/AP and can view any clients connected to the network and the bandwidth usage. It's just me on there usually, and it's always this slow. Sooo what could it be?
posted by mnemonic to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You'll probably need to ask Verizon to look at it. What speeds you get over traditional DSL are affected by several factors:

1. Your distance to the phone company's central office (where all their hardware sits, called the DSLAM). This is called the local loop length. Usually over anything more than 3 miles is too far. The longer the local loop length, the worse your speeds will be.

2. The quality of the lines between you and the DSLAM. You can have a very short loop length, but very bad lines. Do you hear ghosting or static on your phones? Fading in and out? That's a good sign your lines have a lot of noise on them. Any pedestals in your neighborhood in bad condition? People hit them with their cars all the time.

3. The quality of the lines in your house. A lot of people think they can do their own wiring for the telephone, and it's Good Enough (tm) for plain old phone. But DSL is much more sensitive. Are all the lines in your home in good condition? If you have a junction box to split off other lines, are the connections in that junction box in good condition? All all of the jacks in your house in good order?

4. Your hardware itself. Could be you have a busted DSL modem. They can be affected by power surges and lightening strikes just like anything else.

You'll need to talk to Verizon about #1 and #2, and maybe #4 if you rent your modem. Verizon will help you with #3, but for a cost.
posted by sbutler at 8:03 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I should say, it could also be your wireless router. But that's really easy to test. Find a computer with an ethernet port (or get the dongle for your Air) and plug right into the router or DSL modem.
posted by sbutler at 8:06 PM on February 24, 2013

So I just went through this with our DSL provider. We had a short run to the central office and our lines tested out beautifully but for some reason we'd get 1-3Mb on a 15-18Mb line.

First calling our provider (Sonic) got something on their side fixed some config which addressed our primary speed issue.

Now at this point as long as we were plugged into the router we got 18Mb+ download speeds, but over wifi we got 1Mbps. We found this was because our new office was in an area saturated with a lot of wifi signals and we were using a crowded channel. (You won't see this if you're in the burbs, its a crowded metropolitan area thing) Switching the channel setting on our wifi router did wonders. We used a tool called iStumbler for OS X to see the local channel usage and make the right selection. Once we got up on a clear channel we're now getting 18Mb+ on our line.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:15 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Option click the Wi-fi icon in the menubar and select Open W-fi Diagnostics. Then pick View -> Performance. What are the orange and green lines doing?

Mine looks like this and I get about 75% of the theoretical speed I should get. But I am 25 meters from the router and there is a metal building in the way.

And I second what bitdamaged recommended. I also changed the channel and saw a pretty good increase in speed.
posted by johnpowell at 2:45 AM on February 25, 2013

When TimeWarner switched us (on their end) from a crowded channel to one that was underused, our speed improved enormously.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:39 AM on February 25, 2013

Try to test with as few devices in the loop as possible. Plug your computer directly into the modem and test the speeds here first. If they are still less than what you expect try to plug the modem directly to the outside line from your provider. If you are in a single family house there should be a box on the outside of the house with a regular phone plug - unplug your house lines and plug in the modem.

If you get poor speeds with your computer plugged directly into the modem and the modem plugged directly into the outside line, then you have a really strong argument for your provider. Otherwise they will typically blame your internal wiring / network configuration.

If you get great speeds - the problem is indeed with your internal wiring / network configuration. You need to start adding components and see when the speeds drop.
posted by NoDef at 7:52 AM on February 25, 2013

You aren't explicit, is your roommate seeing the same poor performance?

Turn off the router and turn it back again. Repeat the test.

Does it still suck? Turn the router and the dsl modem off. Then turn the DSL modem on. Wait a couple minutes, then turn on the router. Repeat the test.

If it still sucks, it is time to start elimnating possible causes.

Check the wifi connection quality as described above. How are things if you move closer to the router? how are things if you switch to a different WiFi channel? Ping a site like Google. There should be little or no packet loss and response times shoud cluster well under 150ms when you connection is otherwise idle. If your pings don't look good, try pinging the LAN IP of the router itself. These results might shift suspicion, but they aren't likely to give an answer on their own. You need to dig deeper.

Your Air doesn't have a wired ethernet port, and I assume you don't have a USB or thunderbolt ethernet adapter. Does your roommate have a computer with an ethernet port to use for testing?

If so, wire it directly to your router. How are the speeds then?
If the speeds still suck, take the router out of the mix. Plug the computer directly in to the DSL modem. You'll probably have to configure a PPPoE connection with your account info and such using the Network Configuration panel in System Preferences, and yonce you do that, you'll probably have to reboot the DSL modem. How are the speeds?

If the speeds still suck with a computer wired directly to the DSL modem, then it is time to spend some time with Verizon's tech support.

If they are fine with the computer wired directly to the DSL modem, but not with your router in the mix, then the most likely problem involves the router.

Starting with things that would likely impact both wired and wireless connections, first thing I'd do is make sure you don't have any obviously wrong settings. I'd start would be disabling all inbound and outbound QoS, and any bandwidth limiting for guest networks, or time of day, or throttling when monthly connection limits are approached.

If that doesn't help, copy down all the important settings in the router and reset it to the base configuration. Configure your DSL connection. Test again using the default wifi config. If it looks good, add your WiFI security back in. Test again. Keep adding settings back until things either break, or until you are done and everything is still working well.
posted by Good Brain at 12:42 PM on February 25, 2013

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