So here’s a mystery. Our broadband, according to the BT Broadband checker, “is only suitable for limited connectivity at up to 256kbps”. The house across the road from us, slightly further from the exchange “can connect at up to 8MBPS”, it says excitedly.
Why is it saying this? Because our broadband connection has been up and down like a, like a – I could use a pretty rubbish simile, but anyway – like, a lot. On Sunday night we waited for nearly an hour for the connection to come back up.
But what’s the cause? Sometimes it works fine – we can easily get 4MBps or more. Sometimes it’s rubbish and we’re relieved that it connects us at 160kbps. Why does it do this? It can’t be an ISP issue. It must be something in the chain between us and the exchange. We’ve changed nothing in our house. ADSL splitters all over the place.
So here’s what I narrowed it down to. The router (Netgear DG834G v2 router, two years old). The phone line. Er, that’s it.
One odd thing the router does is occasionally to spontaneously reboot: I look at the logs and it’s just restarted itself for no obvious reason. Google can offer no obvious reason. I’ve given it the latest firmware (but even so, think there’s been a reboot off its own back). The Netgear pages on “intermittent internet connection” are useless – they don’t deal with intermittent connections at all.
So I called the ISP and explained it and said that obviously we’d need BT’s Openreach people to come along and look at it. And looked back through my email records, because we’d had something very similar last year.
Waitaminute. Exactly a year ago I was emailing them with the precise same problem – lots of dropouts, slow connection. How weird that it would go away and then come back exactly a year later. Isn’t it?
Which got me thinking. What’s the same now that’s different at other times of the year? That involves things outside the house?
Plants. Trees. They have this habit of growing. And then, in autumn and winter, falling back. Go outside and look at the phone wire from our house to the telephone pole: hmm, great big apple tree resting on the line. And a holly tree. (Quite a high one, of course.) And no obvious way to cut down the thin branch that’s grown there in the past year – or got longer – to rest on it. With every blow of the wind, the line waggles. Is that it? Is it? I don’t know – I’m not a telephone engineer. But I’d have thought it must put some strain on it and cause problems.
Still, the engineer comes on Thursday. Hope he’s got his long clippers with him.