Piggybank News

August 28, 2008

The problem with broadband in Milton Keynes….

One of the most common reasons that people in the Milton Keynes area call NSP Utility Consultants is because they are unhappy with the broadband connection they are getting. The problems fall into three main categories..

  1. The speed they are getting is nowhere near the promised 8mb – in fact it’s terribly slow. Worse, sometimes they have just paid for an “upgrade” and not only is it now not any faster, the connection keeps dropping!
  2. They are a landlord with houses in multiple occupation, or a small business and the connection seems terribly unstable – especially when more than one user is online at the same time.
  3. They can’t get broadband at all – not mobile broadband, not the free MK hub broadband, not anything.

Some of these problems apply UK wide it is true but I honestly don’t think that there is any other major UK city which suffers quite so severely. Luckily there are some simple things which you can do to improve things.

The root of Milton Keynes broadband difficulties is based in the cabling which was laid way back when the new town was first planned. Quite naturally the planners wanted to be seen as innovative and at the forefront of technology so instead of using old fashioned copper wires to create the phone network they used shiny new aluminium wires. What has to be remembered is that at this time the internet had hardly been born and broadband wasn’t even an idea so the problems that this now causes were not predicted.

What the planners forgot (or ignored) is that copper wire transmits signals far better than aluminium, especially over longer distances. They could also have scarcely imagined the emnormous growth of the town over the last few years which means that the small number of planned exchanges now struggle to cope with demand. The result is that many homes and businesses in Milton Keynes are not only connected via a type of line which does not carry signals well but are also located a very long way from their telephone exchange. Obviously the further down the line you are, the further the signal degrades.

BT are planning to upgrade the existing system at some point but in the meantime what can you do to maximise your broadband connection?

No1 – the speed issue

This problem relates directly to how far away you are from your telephone exchange – the further away it is the slower the speed that your line can take. Changing your broadband supplier will have no effect on this and what is more there is absolutely nothing either you or they can do about it. To make matters worse, if your line speed is less than 2mb it quite often causes stability problems if you try to push an ADSL Max 8mb service down it. The reason people tend to get so frustrated is that the customer rep on the end of the line is extremely unlikely to explain this to you when telling you about the new super dooper high speed service they are trying to sell you.

So what can you do about it?

The truth of the matter is that human reactions aren’t anywhere near as fast as computers so if you are able to get over 2 mb then for most things you would actually notice very little difference even if your connection speed improved. Given that the problem is with the physical lines into your house the best advice is just to check your line speed and make sure that you are not paying over the odds for anything more than you can actually get. NSP Utility Services will conduct a basic line test free of charge – just email us on linetest@nspresources.co.uk

No 2 – multiple users causing the system to crash

This problem is unfortunately widespread and not just related to Milton Keynes (although the aluminium line problems certainly don’t help!). Domestic broadband is normally supplied using fairly high contention ratios – ie lots of subscribers share the same line/equipment etc. This is why almost all services seem to slow down at certain times of the day. AOL users for example can always tell when America wakes up! If, in addition to this, you have 4 or more users in a single house using the internet at the same time then the problem is multiplied and it is not uncommon for to experience either very slow speeds or the connection dropping completely.

This is why businesses usually subscribe to dedicated business broadband services which have much lower contention ratios and are designed to handle high traffic volumes for a single address. Until recently the problem with this for very small businesses; or high volume domestic users, like landlords with multiple tenants; has been that these services come with a high price tag and cannot be connected to a domestic rated phone line.

So what can you do about it?

Fortunately, Pipex, one of the first broadband supplier to specialise in the business market is now offering cost effective business broadband which can be connected to domestic phone lines. This package is primarily designed for very small businesses running from home but can be equally useful for the high volume domestic user. In fact for domestic users it has the additional advantage that the time of heaviest traffic is 9am-5pm rather than in the evening when you are at home and wanting to get online.

Check it out atwww.pipex.co.uk/business

No 3 – can’t get broadband at all!

Believe it or not there are still areas in and around the city where broadband access is non-existant. In areas where the network will simply not carry a good enough signal for broadband users often look for alternatives such as mobile broadband packages. Unfortunately Milton Keynes geography is also against you – large areas are built in dips where the signal from satellite/transmittor services is also very poor (just try and get freeview TV in Shenley Brook End if you don’t believe me!). Free wireless broadband with MK hub is also a lovely idea but is currently limited to certain areas of the shopping centre, so it’s not a viable alternative for most residents.

So what can you do about it?

You are really going to hate this answer……..

Nothing at all. The networks are gradually being improved nationwide but until then, short of moving home, you are pretty much stuck with the problem. However you are still able to get on the internet by dial up so the only logical solution has to be maximising the dial up connection speed you have. It is possible to buy software packages which can do this for around £25-30 but the nice people at Tiscali actually throw that software in free of charge with their dial up connection. This software speeds dial up to approximately the same as a 512kb broadband connection, which may not sound a lot but actually makes a huge amount of difference in terms of page loading.

Check it out at www.tiscali-online.com

As I said to begin with, I have had a lot of experience dealing with these issues in Milton Keynes, so if you want more information or help then please just write your query and contact details into the box below, click submit and we will get in touch with you.

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