When you experience a slow or inconsistent Internet connection it is often difficult to gather the needed information and determine the problem, but the answer is easier than you may think.
Computer networks are by design contention based networks. This means a network is shared by many and all network traffic for the many has to somehow contend to survive. The majority of the problems experienced by home users and indeed many corporate network users fall into two distinct camps. The first and the most common is congestion. The second, and hardest to prove, is regulation.
The congestion problem is simply that. The ISP network that you use has too much network traffic and this causes inherent delays to your data packets. This is synonymous with public roads in rush hour, when too much traffic at peak times causes excessive delays. The solution is simple: do not drive in the rush hour unless you have to if you want to avoid those delays.
The regulation problem is a natural counter to the congestion issue and again this parallels public road use in the real world. ISPs intentionally regulate your network traffic flow in order to provide a balance for all the other network users that share your connection to the Internet. For the public roads, traffic authorities create regulation methods which, similar to network traffic, are designed to keep the traffic flowing when congested, traffic lights are a good example.
Are you getting the connection speed you pay for? And if not, what should you do to prove this?
The first step in answering this question is to ascertain the bandwidth speeds you are experiencing. This requires that you run a connection speed test to measure bandwidth throughput, it is then simply a matter of deciding if the service received matches the service contracted. Running a speed test is the process of sending (upload) and receiving (download) a fairly large amount of uncompressible1 data and timing how long the data takes to arrive.
For example, if 1 megabyte of data sent in 10 seconds is:
1,000,000*8 / 10 = 0.8 megabits per second (Mbps)
and your contracted service was for 1.0 Mbps then you might accept this as a measure that is close enough. However if your service is meant to be 5 Mbps then your actual speed performance is far less than you should be getting.
The speed test in Fig. 1 shows a download speed of 1.13 Mbps, however the connection this test originated on was contracted at 4.5 Mbps. Assuming you were not using the network at the time of the test was initiated, this is not a good result by any account.
The essence of the solution is to make an assessment of the problem and then present your case with supporting evidence to your ISP.
1 Many speed tests on the internet are inherently inaccurate because they download an image file or similar which the hardware compresses. This can mean that 40% or more of the data volume is not actually sent.