Tips and Tricks
In this final part I’ll cover some invaluable tips and tricks on how you can get the best speeds and stable connection possible. I’ll also cover some tips you can use when dealing with your own ISP and how to get them on your side.
Being cheap will cost you dear in the long run…
Routers can frequently cause problems, especially some of the cheaper ones. Most ISP’s recommend or even supply certain brands based on their performance and not solely on cost. In my experience the following routers are typically recommended :
Netgear DGN1000 series (including the 2000 & 3000 series)
Thomson Speedtouch 585v7 & 8
Draytek Vigor 2820 & 2900 (if you need advanced features etc.)
Now this doesn’t mean that other makes of routers are bad but it might be wiser to stick to routers that are known to be stable. I’ve had some experiences with TP Link routers for example which can sync at higher speeds but frequently drops the connection.
Router settings – now pay attention Bond! If you own a Belkin, Cisco or Linksys router, deep in the setup there is a setting called “Dial On Demand” which is usually enabled. Whatever you do make sure that you disable it and set the idle timeout to “0” so that the connection stays on… always!
I have seen a large number of so called “intermittent” problems go away simply by disabling this feature. There is also another reason to turn this off is because if you do have some kind of intermittent line, dial on demand effectively “masks” the problem and makes it a lot harder for the Support guys to fix as we can only see what is actually going on and not the true picture.
Extensions are evil. The cheap 20 metre extension going upstairs that you bought from the local pound shop can cause more problems than you can possible imagine. If you really need internet upstairs use wireless or run up some Ethernet cable and you’ll have less problems that way.
Turning you router off and on repeatedly. This is bad, why? Well its because this one action can drop your speed without you even knowing it. Now there is a good reason for this… BT has something called an automatic line management system and it’s called RAMBO (Honest!). Now Rambo is good at what he does, takes no s**t and what he says goes right! But there is one slight flaw in that Rambo isn’t particularly smart. Rambo cannot tell that the customer turns off their router at night and back on in the morning, all he sees is it goes off and on more times than a light bulb and so he “fixes” it because that’s what he does and you wake up one morning and then discover your speed has slowed down.
This is because you have had you profile changed, usually to a lower value, by Rambo’s good intentions. This can also happen when there is a genuine problem on the line and it’s tried to fix it as best it can. Imagine that you are talking with someone who is talking way too fast… Did you catch everything they said, I’ll bet you didn’t and you had to ask them to repeat it again. So how do you fix this situation, easy all you need to do is to ask the other person if they can “slow down” until you can understand everything they say. This example on YouTube (4:14) is the best explanation I’ve ever seen it’s hilarious!
How to deal with Technical Support
Ask a group of people for their impressions of Technical Support staff and you’ll probably hear the same description e.g. spotty, know it all’s that speak technobabble… Now if you do suffer from skin oil problems, are young and work in Technical Support then you have my apologies and also a recommendation to use a dermatological face scrub and you’ll feel so much better!
Now not all Technical Support people are created equal, there’s Technical Support and then there’s Technical Support. For the majority of people their experience of technical support will probably come from an outsourced call centre on the other side of the world staffed by people who are so obviously reading from a script that it hurts and if your problem isn’t listed they will drop your call. Sad but true I know. For some ISP’s technical support is just a person reading of a list and asking you to perform tasks that appear to be meaningless with no explanation as to why you need to do this.
There are a number of independent providers in the UK who do think differently in that they employ staff with the technical know-how and the ability to talk to a customer like an ordinary person. Because their staff are based in the UK it means not having to deal with the issues of language and cultural barriers that can arise from using overseas call centres. Now these services are not cheap but you must remember that being cheap will cost you dear in the long run.
When it comes to getting Technical Support on your side it is important to remain calm and speak to them the way you would like to be spoken to. A little politeness goes a long way in these situations. Tell them exactly what you have and what changes no matter how insignificant you have made. Ask them what they want you to do next and let them know if anything changes.
Customers need to know that the Technical Support guys (and gals) are trying to help them but there are limits on what we can actually do. All we have is our in-house systems that show us what things look like from here, our voices, technical know-how and our patient nature. The rest as they say is up to you! So when a Techie asks you to try something, imagine that you’re them and you’re trying to fix a problem with a blindfold on, if you are not sure of something don’t be afraid to ask! The good Techies are the ones that can tell within a few sentences what your level of knowledge is and pitch things to you in a way that you can understand even if they don’t always make sense.
What to do when things turn bad
If you are not happy with the service you are getting from your ISP the first thing you should do is to complain. Now by complain I don’t mean by screaming obscenities and making threats at the poor person on the other end of the phone because its not always their fault, they are just doing their job.
With a calm but determined approach you should be able to escalate an issue up to a Team Leader who is responsible for the actions of the other team members and can speak with some authority in trying to get your complaint resolved.
If you are not happy with the response you can request your MAC code. At this point you may get passed onto the retentions department who will try and offer you a discount if you stay as their customer. Remember, if you are not happy and want to leave you are free to do so as long as you are outside of your contract period which is typically 12 months. If not, you could still leave but you will be required to pay the remaining months on your contract.
Choosing a new ISP
If you are moving house or are unhappy with the service from your current ISP then the chances are that you will be looking to change provider. Now before you sign up for that “super fast, super cheap” broadband deal that’s too good to be true there are a number of things you should consider:
- What is the contract term?
- What is the fastest speed I can get?
- How much can I download per month?
- Are there any speed restrictions e.g. Traffic Shaping/Throttling?
- What do your customer’s really think of your service?
The key thing to remember is that we are all consumers of somebody else’s products and services. So don’t get seduced by the costs but make an informed decision based on research from the internet, work colleagues and friends and family before you sign up with a new ISP.
There are a number of websites devoted to broadband issues. Below are a sample of the most useful ones:
- Think Broadband
- Kitz especially their Exchange line checker which is useful of you want to find out how fast your line can go.
- SamKnows another Exchange speed checker.
- ISP Review highly recommended if you are looking to change provider.
Well that brings us to the end of this series. Hopefully you will have gained some knowledge and feel more confident in tackling broadband problems.