All about Broadband Faults but you were afraid to ask… Part 2

Now we come to the “How To Fix” part of the guide. I promise I’ll try and make it as painless as possible.

Important: The advice in this section is aimed at UK broadband internet users only.

Authentication – there are two ways we can test to see that the servers on BT’s side receive your password and the first one is real easy… just log into you router’s web setup and simply retype them in.  Now there are some occasions where this doesn’t work and it’s usually with routers that have been supplied by your ISP e.g. Orange, O2 and Sky etc.  In these routers the usernames and passwords are there but the have been hidden away from the customer’s view.  You can get to them if you have the right tools and know what you are doing. remember Google is your friend!

  • How to get your Sky username & password.
  • How to get your O2 username & password.
  • How to get your Orange username & password.

Now if the re-entering your username/password doesn’t work there is another thing you can try and that is the BT Test Accounts.  Now depending on which network you are on they will vary so if one doesn’t work try the other one. You don’t need to enter a password but if your router wants a password you can use 12345 etc.

For people who can only get “up to 8Mb”
bt_test@startup_domain

For people who get “up to 20Mb”
bt_test_user@startup_domain

The thing to remember is these will not connect you to the internet, what they will do however, is test to see if the Exchange recognises the password.  You  need to look at your router’s web setup page and look for status as “connected” and an IP address in the 172.x.x.x region.  If you get an address then there may be an issue with your password and if not then there could be an issue at the Exchange. You may hear terms like the Radius server is down from your ISP.

Synchronisation – The first thing to do is see if you can get a dial tone on you phone. If you can’t then it means that your phone line is down.  Bear in mind that you can still have a broadband connection with no dial tone.  This can happen for a number of reasons such as damaged outside wiring, work being carried out at the Exchange and lastly the dreaded MSO (Mass Service Outage), this is when things get really bad like Edinburgh in Jan 2011, where thousands of customers lost their phone and broadband connections for several days.

Intermittent – typically intermittent faults tend to occur in the home and are usually as a result of the router being stuck on a cheap 20m phone extension from your local Pound shop.  It is also worth pointing out that the microfilter (or matchbox with a lead, as I sometimes describe them) can also become faulty, they are cheaply made and don’t last forever.  Normally most routers will come with two anyway. I also ought to mention that wired phone extensions can also play havoc with broadband signals especially if poorly installed or if the wiring is ancient but more on that later… with these kind of faults there are a number of things you can try in sequence.

  • Firstly, begin by disconnecting any equipment sharing the phone line e.g. Sky+ boxes, fax machines etc.
  • If your router is upstairs you will need to unplug it and bring it downstairs and connect it to the “Master Socket”.
  • If you have a spare micro filter try swapping it and see if the connection improves (see “How to tell if there’s an improvement?” below). If you don’t have a spare then go out and buy one!
  • Check to see what type of Master Socket you have, if it is a newer one then remove the two screws that hold the bottom half of the faceplate and remove the faceplate. Note that this will drop your call if you have one in progress!!!
  • Quiet Line Test – using a wired telephone handset (preferably) connect it directly to the Test Socket and dial 17070 and select Option 2. You will hear a woman say “performing quiet line test” at 30 second intervals.  In between the announcements you should hear silence. Any noises, crackles or pops are a sign of a noisy line which you need to report to BT Residential as a noisy phone line.  DO NOT mention broadband in the conversation or they will tell you its not their responsibility.
  • Connect the router and new filter to the Test Socket and see if the connection improves. If the connection is better then it means there is an issue with your internal phone wiring which is your responsibility, not your ISP’s and certainly not BT’s, unless they fitted the extensions in the first place!
  • Run a BT speed test http://speedtester.bt.com and check to see what speed you line is delivering and what “profile” you have. This may not work if you have what is called an LLU (Local Loop Unbundled) provider e.g. Orange, O2 etc.
  • As an absolute last resort try another router. You don’t have to go out and buy one if you have family or friendly neighbours, you just need something to get online with and see if the connection stabilises.
    How to tell if there’s an improvement?

dyx8nnNow when I said “see if your connection improves” I typically hear “oh its made NO difference” which is a sweeping, all encompassing phrase the people like to use similar to “well it happens all the time…” but when questioned it actually turns out that it has only happened three times! There is a vital piece of information you need about your connection and it is called the Sync (Synchronisation) speed. You may see it listed as “Upstream” on some routers e.g. Thomson Speedtouch 585.  Now you won’t find this from going online and running a speed test. You need to log into the router’s web page and check the status where you may see something similar to the image on the left.

Now if the sync speed goes higher (the numbers get bigger) then you have a wiring problem inside your house. If there is no change then it may be the case that the line is performing at the best speed it possibly can.

Profiles

BT_speed_test_screenI mentioned the term “profile” earlier.  This is a value assigned to your connection which effectively “caps” your connection to the fastest speed the line is capable of while remaining stable.  The key word here is stable, no one wants a super fast connection if it drops out every 5 seconds!  This is why you need to take the speed test results with a pinch of salt as it will always show a download speed less than or equal to the profile.  Now if your profile is well below the Sync speed e.g. Sync is 8192 and the profile is 135 you definitely have some kind of intermittent connection and the first place to check is your own equipment and wiring.

Performance – Now as I have previously mentioned this type of fault is a PITA to fix as for all intents and purposes everything is actually working.  I typically recommend that customers run a virus scan and if possible also run a check for any malicious software that may have been installed without their knowledge as a first port of call.

Performance faults can often be caused by programs running in the background or viruses/trojans that are making connections from your PC to the internet. They can also be caused by having little or no wireless security e.g. allowing anyone to connect and use your connection! The first test you can do is to log into the router’s setup page and turn off the wireless.  If your connection magically improves than it means that someone has been using your internet connection without your knowledge.  To get around this you can enable a higher level of wireless security such as WPA or WPA2 which is way more secure. You should also change the passphrase used to connect to your router in case it has been compromised and that should keep the neighbours out!

When it comes to virus scanners you don’t have to run out and buy a copy of Norton (Blech!) as most of the major players have “free” antivirus programs available that are every bit as good as some of the more commercial offerings.  I typically recommend the following:

For antispyware software I recommend:

So that brings us to the end of Part 2 and hopefully I’ve given you some useful approaches you can use to fix your problems.  In the final part of this series I will give you some invaluable tips and tricks to keep your connection in tip top shape and also how to deal with your ISP’s support and get them on your side. Watch this space!

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