Slow Broadband Speed

Slow Broadband Speed Causes. An Engineer Gives Advice

I’m a local, independent telephone and broadband engineer, based in the Stockton on Tees and Middlesbrough area. So, my slow broadband speed causes come from working on “the front line”,  rather than from theory.

And I’m looking at wired broadband here, not wireless. And not the broadband from cable operators, just that which runs over traditional phone lines, and into the existing telephone wiring in your house..

It’s a bit long, but here goes:-

1/ Your extension cabling is picking up interference.

Broadband and phone extensions only need the bare minimum of telephone wiring, just two wires, to work around your house. Years ago, in the days of dial phones, a third wire was required for extensions to ring. We often find this wire is still connected, and often several others, too. All excess telephone wiring does is collect interference like long radio aerials, which is one of the most common slow broadband speed causes. Get someone competent to disconnect them. Also, if you have some of the cheap and nasty flat “under-carpet” extension cable, throw it away. It slows broadband down. I once saw a dramatic speed increase when this was binned. In fact, most extension cables and socket adapters are likely suspects. Try and eliminate them. To see if this or your extension cabling is the problem, plug your router direct into the socket behind the master socket, (hence without extensions connected), leave for a couple of days, and see if this improves matters. If it does, then your house cabling is slowing things down.

2/ Your speed is “capped” by your internet service provider (ISP) .

Your provider has stopped your broadband from being faster at their end, because they don’t have the capacity on their equipment to cope with lots of fast users. Check the small print, and/or ring their customer services. If you have a near neighbour using the same provider, see if they get a faster speed than you. How do you check your speed? See and They are safe and reliable to use. We use them all the time. Slow broadband speed causes might be nothing to do with your end at all…

3/ Your provider (ISP) has a problem at their end.

Some now have their own equipment in local BT exchanges, and this can be less reliable than BT equipment. Yes, it does break down and/or occasionally do strange things which are difficult to prove. Hopefully, the provider’s web site may tell you about on-going problems. But this is not much use of you can’t get on-line…

4/ Your broadband filter is faulty/breaking down.

The plug-in dangling filters are notorious for slowing things down. I swapped one for another for one customer and got an instant leap in speed. A filtered plate which fits onto the front of your master socket is even better. We can install these, and they always make the customer happy!

5/ You are a long way from the exchange.

The further you are away, the slower your broadband speed will be. Fact. If BT have started putting posters saying “fibre broadband is here” on their street cabinets, then this may improve matters, as there’s a high-speed link between the exchange and that cabinet. But, if you are miles away from even that cabinet, you are, in effect, still miles away from the vital equipment, and your broadband won’t be fast. Slow broadband speed causes are often down to where you live. Sorry.

6/ There is a cable fault between the exchange and you.

Your broadband flows over two copper wires half a millimetre thick, which may run through ancient water-filled manholes, up poles, through huge and damp junction boxes, etc., etc. I’m amazed that it ever works at all. If you get a cracking noise on your phone, particularly when it’s been raining, there may be a problem with your line. This may not be provable to your provider, even if they say they’ve tested the line from their end. And intermittent faults are the hardest to prove. If you’ve got a distinct noise, then it’s time to call out the provider’s engineer, as it’s their problem.

7/ You’ve been turning your router on and off!

Don’t turn it off, as it needs to stay in touch with the provider’s equipment all the time to “develop it’s electronic friendship”. In staying on, it builds it’s own “profile” of speed, gradually increasing until it reaches it’s maximum possible, almost as if it is “learning” the best speed for the connection. The difference can be significant the longer it stays on. If you turn it off, it has to start all over again. (Think film – “Fifty First Dates” about girlfriend with amnesia.)

8/ You have a faulty/old router.

Some routers have known “issues”. Finding this out sorted a long-term problem at one premises right away. Do a search on-line using your router type and version as the search terms, and see if others have had similar problems. Your ISP should provide another one if it’s known to be unreliable. They know that, and usually there’s no quibble. Or you could buy another one yourself that is know to perform well!

9/ The issue is actually with your machine, not your broadband connection.

Your PC may simply be slow for multiple reasons. Not dealt with in depth here. Try another known reliable device like a lap-top or smart phone

10/ You have electrical equipment interfering with your router/cables/both.

Don’t put your router next to a washing machine/microwave/television/Christmas lights/neon lighting, etc, etc. Try plugging it directly into the master socket.

So, some trade tips we’ve learnt from dealing with the mysteries of slow broadband speed causes. I’m actually amazed it ever works at all.

And here comes the “sponsor’s message”:- if you’re in the Teesside/North Yorkshire Area, we’re local, independent, and here to help.  And might even improve your broadband speed…

  1. Chris Townrow06-11-2017

    HI I live in Cornwall and down the end of the telephone line that serves our little village. I have very intermittent broadband which is going off several times a day, speaking to my next door neighbour he has the same problem and BT can’t fix his!
    Could this be a case where we are at the end of the line so to speak and when other people nearer the green box are online there is no bandwidth left for us?

  2. Jamie06-17-2017

    Hi I have my drop cable from the exchange is really old the grey type with no internal sheathing just the grey outer stuff , I used to be with virgin so have never used the line will this cable be fine for the broadband that sky are going to provide me ?

    • Rob Govier06-17-2017

      Thanks for the question. Short answer – “who knows until you try it”?

      Is this the drop wire with two parallel conductors, “figure of eight” in section? This has the immediate design disadvantage of no twist in the pair, so is not ADSL-friendly.

      Having said that, I’ve seen reasonable speeds when using this, providing the cabinet/exchange is close enough.

      Now…. I have heard of this cable mysteriously failing and having to be replaced with modern stuff. Somehow, it developed a break and fell to the ground, almost as if it had been cut….(or was it just age that made it fail close to where it entered the house, above a bedroom window?) Not that we’d ever suggest that someone cut the cable… 😉

  3. Malcolm Bennett07-24-2017

    Thank you very much for the informative info on broadband speed. It has answered many points that I had intuitive thought could be the cause of slower speeds, but I didn’t appreciate powering off the router a culprit. Also I have often wondered why the extra pair which comes into most people’s house if via under ground cable couldn’t be double up with the working pair to improve signal levels. Those spare pairs sit there for years never used.

    • Rob Govier07-24-2017

      Thanks for your kind words.

      Sadly, no matter how much copper the ADSL signal is allowed to use, it will still diminish with distance.

      Meanwhile, from an engineering perspective, those spare pairs are a life-saver if the first pair is damaged or faulty.

  4. ASHLEY TINKER09-10-2017

    does having 2 landlines in an any way slow down your internet on the one landline with broadband on it ?

    • Rob Govier09-10-2017

      It shouldn’t do, if both lines are healthy, and you can’t hear noise. Speed can be affected by many things, but this is one that I’ve never encountered. From the exchange or street cabinet,the pair of wires serving your house may be part of a cable with 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 other pairs with no ill effect.

  5. B09-18-2017


    I today found out that when are broadband is plugged into the test socket we get 5mps more. This is exactly what is needed to secure 4K and UltraHD streaming. If I disconnect the wiring which facilitates the other sockets in the house will this produce the same higher speed without having to have it plugged in with the faceplate off full time. We do not need these sockets and do not use a landline. Also would this be the Blue wire into A and white / Blue into B

    • Rob Govier09-19-2017

      Thanks for the visit. If you have experienced a speed gain by disconnecting the sockets, it appears that they are slowing your broadband down, possibly by picking up interference. You will only determine your speed drop by re-connecting the sockets one-by-one. If you don’t need them, don’t connect them. The blue/white pair are the ones usually connected to pins 2 and 5 on the master (or the secondary A and B on later sockets). An independent engineer would be able to advise if he visited. Rob.

  6. Eddie Cocks11-23-2017

    Hi, “Oh breath of fresh air”. I’m up to my ears with TalkTlak. Here’s the facts….. With an ethernet cable from the laptop to the router and a cable from the router into the TEST socket (plate off) on the primary box ( thereby eliminating all extension wiring) I get 0.6 Mbps download and 0.3 upload speeds with a 38 ping ( with speeds like that I don’t need to tell you what the consequences are, do I ? ) My location is SO30 4DF. The distance to the Botley exchange is 1.6 miles and to the local cabinet is 270 yards. This speed is massively below what I should be getting for my area over the normal telephone copper wire network. I have suspicions that my pair of wires are not all they should be as sometimes the ring voltage is insufficient to trigger the phones. and consequently the answering machine, so the only way we know that a call has been missed is when we find it on the VOICE MAIL RETRIEVER SERVICE. That’s if the caller has decided to use it. Of course the line has been tested and there’s nothing wrong, is there ?

    I wrote to TalkTalk 13 days ago ( I don’t hear well and just can’t face trying to decode some intelligence from the Asian accent I know I will be confronted with ) giving them all these facts and to date have had no feedback. My guess is, on the information I’ve given them, they have deduced that they may well have to get Open Reach out – at THEIR expense ( I suppose that’s how the system works ) and would rather see me go elsewhere.

    Any ideas ?

    • Rob Govier11-23-2017

      This certainly sounds like a network-side issue, possibly high resistance. A competent Openreach person would be able to diagnose this quickly by use of a specialist meter.

      It really is up to TalkTalk to mobilise Openreach. To speed the process up, I’d suggest getting someone to call on your behalf with you alongside them to argue the case. TalkTalk will need to speak to you in order to allow the other party to act on your behalf. I do this regularly on behalf of customers with similar problems, taking the tone of a prosecuting lawyer.

      Be prepared for them to threaten you with Openreach engineering charges. Their default position is that your equipment is to blame, and if Openreach find no fault on their side of things, you will incur a £130.00 charge.

      Their line tests are not reliable. I have had providers insist that the line is fine when there is no dial tone or any sign of life at the premises.

      Alternatively, you could use the services of an independent telephone engineer who would carry out tests, and argue on your behalf. This would cost around £50.00 or so, but may bring rapid results. I do have contacts across the UK, and may have one somewhere near to you.

      Your experience is not uncommon. Many providers have atrocious customer service standards. I hope you get this resolved. Rob.

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