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Via speedtest.net, I have an download/upload speed around 30MB/1MB but when doing "strenuous" internet activities (torrents, uploading/downloading large files to webservers, etc), I get about 1MB/100KB.

Is there a problem in my network settings or something that is slowing me down? Should I contact my ISP and ask them what's up?

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Is there a chance you are getting throttled? –  soandos Dec 27 '11 at 3:15
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Your units are borked. I assume your speedtest.net numbers are 30Mbps/1Mbps? What are your second set of numbers? 1MB/s 100KB/s? Or something else? –  David Schwartz Dec 27 '11 at 3:37
    
A 30Mbps connection should give you a maximum transfer speed of 3.2MB/s. A 1Mbps connection should give you a maximum transfer speed of 110KB/s. (These are computed values. The measured values are about the same.) –  David Schwartz Dec 27 '11 at 5:42
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You have too many variables against you.

Logically, your path of connection is:

  1. Computer -> Router
  2. Router -> Modem
  3. Modem -> ISP
  4. ISP -> routes
  5. routes -> SpeedTest.net
  6. reverse

routes is determined by traceroute from your connection to speedtest.net and reverse is the same connection back, perhaps on different routes.

One. Assuming that your connection to the router is greater than 30Mbps then let's temporarily eliminate that connection (Unless you're using a WirelessB Router which has transfer rates of 11Mbps).

Two. If the patch cable from your Router to your Modem is a 10Mbps Base Ethernet cable then you will never see 30Mbps connections from your computer.

Three. If your Modem has a low SNR then you may need to have this boosted by your ISP. Even if they can provide you with that fast of a connection, if you have a lot of noise in your line whether from an amplifier that you installed prior to the modem connection or just poor connection to your ISP, this could cause interference and you will not see the full bandwidth that you're paying for. Also, you may have issues with the protocols that you're transferring on. They may restrict torrents to only 10Mbps where as port 80 traffic transfers at 30Mbps.

Four. You should google Internet Health Report to see if there are major internet backbones down that could be causing your connection issue. (http://www.internetpulse.net/) If you're experiencing slow speeds intermittently then it could be due to an internet backbone having issues. Internet Backbones are what piece together and tie in all of our networks together. They relay traffic and provide connections to various ISPs. By having a greater latency on a backbone where you have traffic going through, it may look like you're having issues connecting to some websites but not others. Below is a screenshot taken just a minute ago.

enter image description here

Five. Just because you have 30Mbps connection doesn't mean that you will achieve those speeds if the host providing you that information is not uploading at that speed. If the SpeedTest.net server that you're testing with is only capable of uploading at 10Mbps then that is the greatest speed that you will see. You should always test against other servers when using SpeedTest.net because they may not always give you the fastest server. They usually just pick the one with a quick ping. Doesn't necessarily mean the fastest. For example, using SpeedTest on your phone may pick a location far from you and return slow results. Sometimes picking one closer or a different server will return various results. It's a hit or miss.

Conclusion. Easiest thing you can do to test this is eliminate the number of jumps. Connect your computer directly to your modem. Go to your ISP's website and see if they have a speed test on their server. Use that speed test to see if you get the results that you're paying for. Otherwise, if you complain to them that one website or one thing that your doing is slow then you leave yourself open to having a crummy explanation given to you by your ISP when there is an actual issue at hand. You can log into your modem (sometimes 192.168.100.1) to see what SNR you're actually getting to your ISP.

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Downstream SNR : 39.2 dB hmm... and wouldn't you know it Maximum Downstream Data Rate : 10240000; Maximum Upstream Data Rate : 1024000 there's my 1MB/100KB. –  Steve Robbins Dec 27 '11 at 8:04
    
Is your modem at least a DOCSIS 2.0? If not then you will want to upgrade to this or a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. You can also try resetting the modem and see if it will pick up the new settings from your ISP (unlikely). –  kobaltz Dec 27 '11 at 14:32
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Some ISPs use a "boost" that gives you a surge of bandwidth for the first $n seconds of a transfer. Sometimes it's long enough to sustain an entire SpeedTest/SpeakEasy/[favorite bandwidth test here] test.

Another possibility is that your ISP is shaping traffic based on the application. ISPs have long been known to tamper with torrent streams. Calling up your ISP and trying to get answers will be slightly less pleasant than self inflicted oral surgery using a reciprocation saw. If you get a direct answer it will take weeks of phone calls and abandoned tickets. It will also be wrong. If the answer happens to be right, it will be wrong shortly.

Finally, as David Schwartz mentions, you may be confused on the units of measure at play. Most network traffic is measured in "bits" and not "bytes." An internet connection of 30MB is quite different from one rated at 30Mb. Speed tests almost always rate traffic in bits so SpeedTest is telling you that you are getting 30 mega bits. Perhaps whatever utility you are using to download files is giving you the bandwidth rate in mega bytes.

If you want a more solid connection with no fear of ISP tampering, you'll need to pay for a business line and then inspect the SLAs associated with it. If it's "business class" DSL or Cable, just know that the ISP is laughing at you for paying more money for the same awful carrier signal.

MPLS over an OC12 or go home.

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