What’s The Hold-Up? – Combating Slow Internet Speeds

Those who have been around for a while might still remember the early days of the Internet, when the fastest speeds offered to residential customers were 768Kbps dial-up connections. In that far-flung time, it could take minutes to load a web page like THIS, hours to download a single photo from your grandkids (try telling that to these kids who post 925,600,000,000 pictures of cats on a daily basis), and online video was nothing more than a gleam in some young web developer’s eye.

These days, of course, the world of Internet speeds has completely changed. There are very few dial-up customers left (and yes, there are a few still hanging on), and most broadband connections receive, at minimum, 1Mbps into their home. Customers on state-of-the-art Fiber-Optic (PON) technology can now receive speeds of up to 100Mbps or more to their home, something that was once the exclusive province of massive corporations and high-level government institutions.

However, even as service providers continue to build faster and faster networks, the need for speed continues to increase as well. When you look at that ancient version of Yahoo! and compare it to the present-day version, it should be immediately apparent that the way the web is designed and used today is vastly different from what it used to be. Sites require an ever-increasing amount of bandwidth as their webmasters strive to pack more and more content onto their pages. For this and several other reasons we’ll get into below, it’s rare to find someone who hasn’t had an issue with the speed of their Internet connection. What we’ll attempt to do today is shine the spotlight on some of the most common reasons for slow speeds, as well as provide you with some tips for getting back on the fast track.

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

How Many Devices Do You See? (Hint: it's more than 2) Image Courtesy Flickr

How Many Devices Do You See? (Hint: it’s more than 2)
Image Courtesy Flickr

When I receive a call complaining of slow speeds, the very first thing that we check is the number of devices connected to the network. Many users labor under the misconception that the speed that they see on their monthly statement, whether it’s 1Mbps, 5Mbps, 15Mbps, 25Mbps, or even 300Mbps, is the speed they should see reflected on every device they use. The reality is actually much more complex. The speed of your connection is, to use a crude analogy, one big pot that every device in your house draws from. You do not receive 15Mbps to each individual device, rather every device in your home shares that 15Mbps connection, and rarely does so equally. This means that when you’re trying to watch Netflix (for which the minimum recommended speed is 5Mbps) on your Wii, check Facebook on your laptop, and simultaneously download all the latest podcasts to your iPhone while your child plays video games on their Xbox, it is almost inevitable that one or all of these will be slowed down. When videos start buffering and pages are taking forever to load, the first question you should be asking is “how many things are using the internet right now?” Odds are that when you slim down the number of devices competing for speed, you will see a marked improvement.

Something Wrong Under the Hood

Image Courtesy ecyberuniversity.com

Image Courtesy ecyberuniversity.com


No one wants to think that there is anything wrong with their computer. It seems that today we are inundated with news stories about this virus and that virus creeping out of the Russian steppe, so much so that there is an almost violent reaction on the part of many people at the merest suggestion that there might be something wrong with their computer. “I don’t go to any of THOSE sites, so it can’t be my computer,” they say. “I have anti-virus, so it can’t be my computer,” come the protests.

The fact of the matter is, no one has designed a perfect anti-virus software. For every innovation in the structure of these online mousetraps, there is some enterprising young engineer quickly Frankenstein-ing together a better mouse. Also, viruses are not simply contracted from visiting disreputable websites. Often times hackers will embed virus code in sites that have nothing but the most benign intentions. In my own experience, I have spoken with older women who use the Internet for nothing but reading email and visiting recipe sites. Believe it or not, those sites are some of the most common vectors for infections, largely because their clientele is (and this is NOT a criticism) among the less computer-literate. Installing malicious code on a site frequented by computer engineers and network professionals doesn’t have nearly the effect as placing it on a site where people don’t always know how to identify when they’ve got a problem. The best solution if you believe that you have an infection is to have your computer professionally cleaned. If you are experiencing issues of this nature, then you should consider having a discussion with our Remote PC Support team, who can get rid of all the gunk in a matter of hours.

We could spend a whole entry talking about computer viruses (and perhaps we will in the future), but for now just remember this: Better Safe Than Sorry. If you think your computer may be infected, it’s best to deal with it soon. The longer you wait, the deeper the infection will go and the more harm it can do.

What’s Behind the Curtain?

Image Courtesy Shutterstock.com

Image Courtesy Shutterstock.com

Finally, when looking at whether or not your computer may be the cause of your online traffic jam, it’s important to check how many applications (apps) are running on your various devices. Similar to what we discussed with respect to the number of devices connecting to a network and how that impacts overall speed, the number of applications and what they’re doing can also affect the speed of your connection.

On most computers, it’s simple enough to tell what’s running (or so you may think). The average person looks at what windows are open on their desktop and believes that this is all their computer is doing. This could not be farther from the truth. Behind the scenes, on most computers, there are dozens of applications performing hundreds of small tasks every second. They are all-but-invisible, but they are there. What’s more, many malicious programs will hide in the same way, not appearing as a window on your screen, but running in the background where most people won’t notice.
taskman
A simple solution (if you’re a PC user) is to keep an eye on the Task Manager. This is a simple display which can be accessed on most devices by pressing CTRL-ALT-DEL on your keyboard and selecting Task Manager from the resulting menu. If you’re a Mac user, the process is somewhat more complex, so we’ll save time by providing a link to that process here.

A word of caution: Just because you don’t recognize a background application doesn’t mean you should immediately terminate it. As before, if you think you have an infection and are NOT a computer repair professional, you should contact the folks who know what they’re doing. Haphazardly terminating applications can do serious harm to your system, so don’t go closing things all over the place.

About Guest Blogger

Guest blogger for TDS Home.

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37 Responses to What’s The Hold-Up? – Combating Slow Internet Speeds

  1. Bob February 20, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    This is the biggest bunch of crap ever. TDS is over-allocating bandwidth and can’t own up to it. They have sold to much to too many people and ca’t deliver.

  2. Art in Amboy, Washington March 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    In the Amboy Washington area (served by La Center, Washington) we experience glacial Internet speeds from 2pm to midnight on weekdays and 10am to midnight since the Summer of 2012. There is a CAPACITY TROUBLE TICKET for the 500 homes on the “service” and no ETA for resolution. Repeated calls to TDS yield the standard comment “Yes, we are aware that service is poor. No, we cannot fix the problem in the near future and have no ETA on a resolution.” My company supplied a Verizon LTE Mi-Fi for business use so I can work when the TDS network is toast later in the business day.

    When I see TDS investing in all these new IP-TV and additional services in other areas, it upsets me that normal paying customers like us are quietly neglected and politely stonewalled by the nice guys in Tech Support. We don’t have local loop capacity problems with our DSLAM, because in the early morning, the service works awesome. The backhaul needs to be upgraded and the network team at TDS simply won’t do it. It would be good to find an honest and direct person at TDS (who could be from the TDS Corporate Communications team) to inform the affected service area if, or when, the capacity problem will be resolved. If someone had the courage to insert something into our bill for this area that directly addressed this problem it would be both unexpected and appreciated.

    Cheers!

    • DeAnne Boegli March 28, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      Thank you for giving us a chance to explain. I checked in with our Network Services team to get an answer for you.

      TDS is very aware of the problem in Amboy and I’m happy to report we have an imminent fix. There is a project underway for Amboy that will bring relief around the end of May. This area is served by equipment that was discontinued by the manufacturer so upgrading the device was not an option which delayed any fix. We are in the last stages of replacing that device and it does involve a physical replacement and a cut over of service (which should be seamless to customers in the area). The demand for bandwidth has more than doubled since 2012 and this is not unique to Amboy by any means, we do have similar issues in many parts of the country. In early 2013, we also introduced network congestion control – essentially a traffic cop function – in the LaCenter area to help mitigate the capacity issues. And while this has helped, it was clearly not our long term solution. We are, as I said, in the final stages of the project that should provide you relief by the end of May. Thank you for your patience.

      • Art in Amboy, Washington March 28, 2014 at 11:07 am #

        DeAnne,

        Thank you, it will be a welcome relief. I know the poor tech support folks can’t just “give answers” and have to quietly take it from angry customers, so thanks for the answer!

        Cheers,

        ~Art

      • Casey P April 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

        Here’s to hoping, but not holding my breath. Same problem in rural Clark County about halfway from the edge of La Center city limits and Amboy city limits. Between a maximum available service of 3Mbps and a more realistic actual speed around 15~20 Kbps most evenings, I’m reaching the limits of frustration.

      • Art in Amboy, Washington July 6, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

        Hi DeAnne,

        I’m very sorry to update you that the fix you described as slated for mid-May in Amboy, WA (served out of La Center, WA) has not occurred or, if it has, nothing has improved as a result of the fix.

        Could you be so kind as to research the status for us. The “us” are the other North Clark County, WA residents TDS serves that are also complaining in this thread.

        Thanks!

        • DeAnne Boegli July 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

          Hi Art,

          I contacted my internal sources to get an update on that project. Engineering issues caused a delay and as a result the estimated completion date was, unfortunately, pushed out to the beginning of December.

  3. Nola Reynolds April 1, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    We live outside the Black Earth, WI area and we also have the high area capacity issue. No you cannot get an answer from anyone at TDS as to when they will upgrade our optic cable to handle the slow speeds here. Yes, it is frustrating that their starting all these new projects and don’t do a good job of taking care of the customers they already have. No, you can’t stream a movie here unless it’s after midnight. I have called Charter and their service cut off is one and half miles from our house towards town even though their cable runs within 15 feet of our house on the highway. I have looked into exede and after reading the bad reviews decided not pursue. What TDS needs is serious competition from another carrier and then, maybe, something would get done. Is there a contact within TDS that can answer when the cable speed will be upgraded????

  4. rick April 8, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    Same thing in port byron for 4 plus years… over sold and no fix in the future…they just don’t care. 0.25 download shameful tds

  5. Michael May 15, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Is there a status update for the capacity issue in Russell NY? Last I heard from the techs was there was nothing could be done and since we are a rural area nothing would be done.

    • DeAnne Boegli May 19, 2014 at 9:36 am #

      Hi Michael,

      We do have an upgrade project scheduled to be completed by the end of October in the area. Without knowing your specific address, I cannot guarantee this project will correct all issues you’re having with your service. If you email me your service address at PR@tdstelecom.com I can see if I can get more details for you.

  6. rick May 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    Nothing changed here going to be 5 years real soon…. real shameful and if you complain on tds’s face book page they ban you…. I know first hand on that

  7. Charles May 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Davidson fork in Leslie County Kentucky near the town of Hyden between the hours of 7pm to 3 am the speeds drop to 0.36 MB Down with a Ping of 1400 to 1700 unusable. And a shame you need to use phone data at nights and Tds been saying for years capacity issue and and working on it Ive seen nothing done and suffer with issues ever night

  8. Justin June 5, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    This is a disappointment I keep getting the same issue with your company from TDS from kellyville Oklahoma starting in 01/02/2014 we get slow speed cannot get over 0.35mps its like running dial-up and for the last 6 months software issue they say software but its like its set in a localized area were only 3 people are effected and they can consider that they cannot do anything about this we had service with this company since 1999 why is it your company cannot do anything to correct this issue

  9. rick June 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Same slow speeds here in port byron ny for almost 5 years…. no planned upgrades.. they know we have no other options

    • Justin June 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

      Yes I can agree with you within the last year they went from dailup in my area to dsl but again I just got off with the tech support argued with them that the speed and internet dropping again and I got a responce no it not and I state ur not looking at my previous history and theynsaid that history was in the pass and there is no software issue and I was lime last 9 agents I spoke with were wrong and I asked to speak to his manager and he said f off amd hung up I tryed calling back and my phones were not calling out used my cell phone that agent disconnected my service this shows you how bad this company is hiring individuals who do not take the time to read information now I am reporting this company to the bbb for charging me full price for 6 months on service thats bearly work and remind u this I call this company every 2 days and get a diffrent story all I want is internet that works for what I am paying for but I guess thats to much to ask for

  10. rick June 5, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    Good luck I have read the bbb complaints and all tds says is speeds up too….nothing you can do

  11. Jimmy S July 14, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    We recently purchased a home on the far west side of Green County, WI near Blanchardville. I was promised 15 MBit access and upon install was told that all I could get was 1Mbit due to ‘allocation.’ Repeated attempts to get some resolution have been futile. The kicker is that the former owners had 15 Mbit access but I was told any new customers were limited to 1.

    TDS simply apologizes that they promised me one thing and delivered another. Meanwhile, I basically have given up hope of ever being able to fully occupy the house and work from home like I had hoped. TDS clearly has no issues with lying to the consumer and attempting to escalate the issue seems impossible.

  12. Dan July 28, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    Even worse in Western Colorado. TDS has managed to lock up ALL the business, phone, internet, WiFi and don’t seem at all interested in resolving the issues. Lotsa gas about ‘chokepoint use” and “capacity” which does not in the least prohibit them from sending about 5 mailings a month hawking a DishTV signup program. It’s bad enough I can’t download a :30 clip from a site (today I have all of .79 down), not they want me to sit around and spend time waiting for a program to finish. I don’t think their track record for phone OR DSL (ha!) is worth anything. Some of us are hoping to interest a real provider (Comcast) to come to our area. I’m already paying too much for not much of anything, so paying more and actually getting some SERVICE wouldn’t be a problem.

  13. Tim August 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    Same problem as others in Medford WI. My 3Mbit TDS plan dropped to just over 1Mbit actual download speed about 2 1/2 years ago. Then the past year dropped to sub-1Mbit actual download speed. Just before summer, I called and asked if my performance would get worse if I downgraded my plan to 1Mbit. I was told it wouldn’t get worse. So now I’m paying less, but my subjective impression is that my actual performance did get worse. Software When I report to TDS support, they use the same words as others have heard: capacity issue, no specific time table to fix it.

    I’ve tried to coax Charter to come a little farther out of town (I’m about 1 mile outside town), but haven’t been successful. Imagine having your customer base calling your competitors asking to do business with them. TDS is building up a lot of ill will. You can run a business this way … but not forever. Eventually, it will catch up with them.

    • Dee October 20, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

      I also have called their competitors as have my neighbors.

  14. Stu August 26, 2014 at 5:04 am #

    Same kind of issues – Ball Ground, Ga. Unable to attain 1Mbit normally, and the link flaps every time there is thunder in the area. TDS very responsive sending a tech out, however all he can do is apologize, and tell me other customers in my area have the same issue. TDS unwilling to install a new switch between the POP and our location, even although there is a fiber loop just down the road.

    I too am waiting for Comcast – then it’s bye bye TDS …..

    • Dan August 26, 2014 at 11:06 am #

      Hey, Stu, how’d you get such a fast DL speed? Western Colorado averages .78 to 1.02. Likewise much conversation, no action. We’ve be paying for 5.0 for close to 5 years now We’ve been inundated with junk mail from them hawking a switch to DishTV but no action, at all, on getting switching gear designed for use in the 20th century. Forget about the 21st century minimum standards. If only there was a choice here. We are monopolized by TDS for everything.

      • Stu August 26, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

        I guess I should count myself lucky, Dan. I could deal with the speed, if the link was only stable and did not flap during inclement weather (which we get plenty of at this time of year).
        When I first subscribed, I was getting up to 1.8 for D/L. Seemed like every time a TDS tech came on site to try and figure out the line stability issue, I would lose DL bandwidth, until today, 8.8 – 1 is about all I can get.

        I’ve given up calling for support. The last tech who came to my house disconnected the DSL from all the phone lines except one to try and help the issue. So now it’s not only slow, but I can’t move my modem to any other jack in the house …..

        I have also had my land dug up to run new cable from the street to the house – did not help the stability, but cost me about 200K in DL speed.

        I have to believe with the number of service calls TDS receives from my area (according to the tech), it would make tons of business sense to install equipment.

        • Dan August 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

          We live at the end of a 45 mile valley with three towns between us and the “home office”. TDS says they “had no idea” internet service would be in such high demand when the first set the coat hangers on the gutters. Let me know if you have any success in getting another carrier in town.

  15. Justin August 27, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    Well Still been several months with getting run around with this company and i keep getting their is a software issue or capacity issue with your connection. I have had 4 to 6 service calls since my original post but frankly this company doesn’t care about their customers in the rural area’s I am suppose to be getting 5mps but I am running this speed test from the site and it comes up randomly each time with 1.35 or 2.24 and .49 each time and I must say kinda getting really aggravating to get a run around from this company each time. I am giving them one more month before switching to satellite internet company and telling everyone else who is out in this area that also carries tds to drop them they will then lose their consumer based people out here in this area.

    • Stu August 28, 2014 at 4:33 am #

      Good luck, Justin.
      I get your frustration, but be careful with the satellite option. Even a poor dsl link can outperform satellite when you consider the dreaded FAP (fair access policy), which can drop you down to modem speeds when you have used up your dl allotment. Latency may or may not be an issue also.

    • Dan August 28, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      Welcome to the 19th century. Did you also get their “School Tips” email. It must have taken hours to make a list of all the obvious things to do. We don’t need a PC list to get by. We need them to stop wasting time on make-work projects and return to the feeble attempt to run their business close to 20th Century standards, forget about 21st Century. Telephone Drip Stumble.

  16. Doug Alley October 9, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    I live in Stetson Maine, a rural town between Bangor, and Waterville. I am on “extended range DSL” and have a max speed of 768kbps. AND I get to pay EXTRA for it…You know, cause it is SO hard to bring Internet to me in such a rural location. I’ve been here for 5 years, and I have to look at a TDS pedestal on my front lawn. I talked to the tech one day as he was installing DSL for a neighbor…The extra work TDS had to do to boost my signal is a simple black ring attached to my line…Takes the guy like 5 minutes. So a couple years ago, TDS got a big grant to upgrade their equipment…Fiber optics! YAY! Right? NOPE! The NEW customers…(you know, the folks that have no Internet, that are going to be wooed by offers of free TV’s, and gift cards, low prices and lightning fast speeds) got all the upgrades, and me…what did I get? CRAP!!! The same crap I am ALWAYS going to have, until the Federal Government…Also known as The Tax Payers Of These United States GIVES TDS some more money to upgrade us so they don’t have to spend their precious profits to give those of us paying higher costs for lower speeds, and THE WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE I have EVER dealt with! (We wont even go into how it took me almost a month to convince TDS that there is an address here, and how I had to contact another local phone company…That is not able to service my town, cause TDS holds all the card…to find out the name and phone number of the last person here to have a phone) By the way? As President and CEO of TDS Telecom at TELEPHONE & DATA SYSTEMS INC, David A. Wittwer made $2,300,740 in total compensation in 2013!

    • rick October 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      maybe you live in an area like mine. No other options for internet and tds knows that so they have no attention of upgrading our system. Our avg speeds are point 5 download

    • Dee October 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      I’m in Avon ME so feel your pain. I literally spent hours on the phone with them today -ON HOLD listening to their music. Was given a ticket # & told a tech would be here by 5PM. Well it’s 9pm now, no tech, no call……nada.

    • Dee October 20, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      Man I feel your pain Doug. My neighborhood is begging TWC to hook us up…

  17. Dee October 20, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    My day with TDS slow speeds
    Greetings! I’ve been a TDS customer since moving to ME in Jan. 1995. Started out with just telephone, then dialup & progressed to their DSL and finally a DISH Network bundle. Since my emails go unanswered & techs fail to show up when scheduled, I’d like to share my story with anyone willing to read it. I was happy with their DSL until the beginning of Oct when it suddenly became extremely slow ~ no matter what time of day/night. When I initially called Tech Support I was surprised to discover that the dept. had been outsourced. During the first call to Tech Support I was told to buy an Ethernet cable, connect my laptop to my modem and call back. My second call I reached a different person who told me he would create a troubleshooting ticket and I would receive a “call back”. I received a “call back” all right, several days later in the form of a VM from a tech who had (unknown to me) been scheduled to come to my house. Had I known I could have easily arranged to be home. He left the phone # which I tried calling at the beginning of the week of Oct. 13, only to be on hold for at least an hour so I hung up. I tried again this past Friday, Oct. 24 and after 78 minutes on hold, hung up again. Hate to tell you TDS but some ppl have a life. Today I decided I would resolve the issue no matter how long it took. I wanted to know the actual breakdown of my services so after dialing, pressed the # for that department. After being on hold for 64 minutes, I reached a woman who said I would need to be transferred to another department and I was put back on hold where I remained for 113 minutes! Just as someone from that department answered the battery in my handset died so needless to say all that time was wasted. I called again from my cell phone and after 52 minutes listening to the same dreadful music, was connected to a female. I told her that I was extremely annoyed and wished to speak to a manager. Back on hold for 22 minutes. A female supervisor came on, gave me the price breakdown but of course was unable to help me with tech support or even find my original service ticket. She said however that she would route my call so that it would be the next one in the queue. That took an additional 19 minutes after which my call was answered by a man in the Caribbean. After speaking to him at length, he set up a service call for this afternoon and said a tech would come to my home by 5pm EST and asked would someone be there to speak with the tech. I assured him I would and was given a ticket #7811939. Upon my request he then transferred me to “Drew” from Sales so I could ask about pricing should I need to upgrade to a higher speed. Drew answered my pricing question but was unable to tell me how to contact TDS to complain about the horrific experience I’d had today. So it is now 8pm EST and needless to say, a tech did not come to my house nor did one call. I can say without a doubt that my day long experience with TDS Telecom was by far the most reprehensible business encounter I have EVER had with any company. I was told by each person I eventually reached today that “Monday’s are high call volume”. Personally I don’t think that’s the consumer’s problem; if they have high call volume then hire additional staff. And if you recall, I waited over one hour last Friday before hanging up and at least one hour earlier in the week (I hadn’t started to log the times at that point).

  18. Dee October 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    Totally agree! They are horrible & tell us anything to just shut us up. But be late with your payment & bam! You’re shut off…

  19. Dee October 20, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    BTW, I posted on their FB pages & emailed any addy I could locate for them. Truly doubt they’ll even notice. Any company that would leave a customer on hold for 3 hrs obviously doesn’t care about us.

  20. Justin October 20, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    I know how you feel I live in the country my internet was going in and out of connection constantly and for 8 months it is a software issue we cannot do anything no resolution is available yet. well after that i complained and bitched about the service had same tech come out. Know this tech on a personal bases like his first name last name were he lives hang out sometime that how much i had this tech come out your not suppose to have that happen well we finally fixed the issue and after another month no problem out signal keeps dropping like been shot.
    Not only that I just let it be thinking its just a something small well come next day i was off wanted to finally catch up on some shows online and all lights on the modem were green but no connection at all that made me complete mad I called them they said well we resolved your issue there should not be a problem I did everything I dns flushed my computer ping it checked lost packs nothing was working.. from the first start of getting TDS I thought it was a bad Idea they are not providing information about the area when they say something like yes it works fine in that area (WRONG) it doesn’t so I spoke to their tech last night you know this Dumb wench said it is your computer please take it into your local repair shop to ave it fixed.
    I told this wench that I work for the company I have my computer from I work on these computers for a living that it is there system that woman called me names and hung up on me and i never said a bad word to her and you know what it’s fine I have already reported TDS to the BBB and provided the audio conversation of that talk I had with them along side with the company of the information that they stated that we offer these deals and prices to them. they states that when they called me earlier today people have been making more complaints to them that I need to contact my lawyer cause I am taking them to court for false information and
    bad business aspects for over charing me and not providing service that is not met by expectation

  21. Justin October 20, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    I think TDS Has the worse customer service ever they place the information off to the 3rd party consumer just to not listen to how ad their service is but trust me once I take them to court I suggest everyone else does the same thing getting the run around bad service and failed to see your expectation so many complaints already