slow broadband cable snail keyboard

What is Internet congestion and how can I test for it?

Australia’s existing Internet infrastructure is creaking under the weight of modern broadband and multimedia experiences.

When I log on to my home cable Internet in the middle of a weekday, I get great speeds. Typically a 10ms ping or less, and blistering 100Mb/s speed. And until recently, I have been getting that same experience on weekends, and in the evening. That was until Internet TV hit our shores.

Now, between around 5pm to 11pm, I will get pings in excess of 250ms and speeds as low as 2MB/s. Not only is this a near unusable pace for most of my needs (streaming, swapping files to and from Dropbox, gaming online), but it’s also well below the speed I’d expect from a cable connection – with the speed booster pack – sold by my ISP.

Does this situation sound familiar?

Have you too noticed sluggish Internet during your evenings of late? Maybe you even flagged it with your ISP only to be told that there is “no congestion on your line” and a technician must come out... who basically shrugs their shoulders and replaces a few bits and pieces to no effect?

It is congestion and it has become quite a problem for a lot of consumers across Australia since the launch of streaming services like Netflix and Stan. Streaming Internet TV requires a constant data demand from those devices that connect to the service, and as more and more people request movie and TV footage to be pumped through your local Internet exchange at the same time, the slower your speed gets.

If you are suffering too much congestion, your ISP needs to upgrade the infrastructure in your area and this will not happen unless you apply the required pressure. First you will need proof.


How to test if your internet connection has congestion issues

  1. Bookmark www.speedtest.net
  2. Make sure your PC is connected directly to your modem via a cable – not connected via Wi-Fi or through a router, as this will leave your results open to debate.
  3. Make sure only your PC is active on your home network; deactivate Wi-Fi devices like your mobile or tablet, turn off consoles, and make sure nothing else is connected while you undertake the following tests.
  4. At regular intervals during the day, and over the period of a couple of days, head to www.speedtest.net and click Begin Test. It takes around one minute.
  5. When the test has run its course, press the Print Screen button in the top right of your keyboard.
  6. Press the Windows button in the bottom left corner of your screen (if you are on the desktop) and type in the word Paint.
  7. Right click the icon and select Pin to Taskbar as you will be using this program a lot.
  8. Now open up Paint and select Paste in the top left corner. A screenshot of your Speedtest data should appear in the program.
  9. Create a save location – I created a folder on my desktop called Speed Checks.
  10. Save the Paint image to your save location folder and call it the time of your check. For example, 8am.jpg or 7pm.jpg and so on.
  11. Collect a good sample size.
  12. Once you have a collection of screenshots across the course of a day, compare the Ping, the Download Speed and the Upload Speed.
  13. You can expect some slowdown at night (15% is reasonable), but if there is a dramatic difference, then you have a congestion issue. A high speed during the day proves your wiring and home infrastructure is not the problem.
  14. Show this data to your ISP and demand action. Be sure to get a date on when your local exchange is scheduled to be upgraded.

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