Phone Line Problems.

A procedure to check and optimize your hookup to your ISP

OK, your connection to your ISP seems slow. After pursuing this problem many times with many customers here are a few of the tests I have compiled to try to determine if your connections are really slow or if it just seems so.

The speed of your Internet connection is determined by many factors:
                      Your Computer
                      Your Phone Lines
                      The connection to your ISP. He has many incoming phone lines and modems.
                         Are they all good? You will get a different one each time you dial in.
                      The Modem Server performance (the computer the ISP's modems are connected to)
                      Your ISP's upstream direct link to the Internet
                      Your Target Site's connection speed and hardware capacity
                         and demand on that hardware and their link to the Internet

First, lets establish a benchmark of your performance. Clear your Cache first! This is accomplished by going to 'options|Network Preferences|cache' in Netscape. In Explorer 'view|options|advanced|empty folder'. In Netscape you can bypass this procedure by displaying a page then, while holding down the shift key, click the 'Reload' button. Time the speed it takes to load your ISP's homepage. Most of the data in it comes directly from the ISP. This reload should be less than 20 seconds with a V.90 modem. Do it two or three times clearing cache or holding the shift key each time. If it takes much more than 30 seconds you may have a problem. Is it your computer, your modem, your house wiring, phone links through the phone company or at your ISP's end in his lines or modems, or the performance of his modem server .

Next, lets eliminate your house wiring. At each house is a junction box where the phone lines enter your house. Open it. You will see one or two connections. These are modular plugs like where you plug your phone into the wall outlet. By disconnecting the plug you have disconnected that line from the house. Get a 50 foot phone extension from Lowes, Radio Shack, etc. and plug it into the disconnected receptacle. Plug the other end directly into your modem. Now you have bypassed your house wiring and are connected directly to you phone line. Retest using the above procedure. If it's better this way you may have some house wiring problems. Use this test when your connections seem worst. Trying it two or three times like this will help identify or eliminate house wiring problems. The Phone Company recommends Category 5 type wiring. It is much less susceptible to interference from outside sources like radio transmitters, fluorescent lights, portable phones, etc. If you have a portable phone on your line disconnect it and test again. They have sometimes caused problems like these.

If your problem is still with you when you eliminate the house wiring it may be phone lines or your computer. Is the problem always there or just sometimes? If it is always there it may be your settings for your modem or outdated drivers. Drivers are small peices of software that instruct Windows how to work with a piece of hardware.

Assuming your computer is setup properly and your house wiring is not your problem the next part gets tricky. You must identify if your computer/modem is at fault or the phone lines. The easiest way is to contact someone with a good, working laptop computer that can come to your phone line and try his computer. This will identify the problem as your computer or the lines. If you can't find someone to help this way can you take your computer to a friends house where their computer is working good? I know, this is a BIG pain but to make sure its not you before you call the Phone Company it must be done. If your friends computer works on your lines then you have a problem. If your computer works at a friends house with known good lines then the Phone Company has a problem.

Yes, numerous people get disconnects. They are frequently caused by a drop in the carrier detect signal on the phone line. The default for many modems is 0.9 seconds. Any drop in carrier detect for more than this will disconnect you. Noise on the phone line frequently lasts longer than this. The time to wait before dropping the connection can be increased by increasing the modems S10 register. I have mine set to S10=40 and seldom see disconnects anymore. To change the setting in Win95/98 go to 'My Computer|dialup networking. Select your ISP's icon (one click) then 'file|properties|configure|connection tab|advanced'. In the extra settings area enter S10=40. This should give you something over 3 seconds of grace when a noise spike happens. This will frequently eliminate many disconnects. If you use Windows 3.1 with the MSIE dialer there is a file in the \iexplore subdirectory called 'modems2.ini'. Add an S10=40 to the end of the initialization string. If you still use Trumpet Winsock somewhere in configuration you should find your modem init. string and the S10=40 may be added to the end there.

Hopefully, some of the above tips will help in your quest for better performance. I have omitted many possible causes for bad performance but most of these tests are non technical enough that most users can attempt them.

Best of luck!

Chris Mayer
Owner: C&C Computers