So the BT Openreach man came along to see about our spotty broadband, which I’d pretty astutely – I reckoned – narrowed down to being either the router or a tree outside resting on the line.
He tried it, agreed the line was very noisy. And then dug into his van, from which he pulled out a 15-foot pole – quite a neat trick from a 10-foot van, you have to admit. (It’s telescopic. Ta-daa.) And then he whacked the phone line by the tree with it to see if it made any more noisy by doing that.
Nope. Not a thing. No effect. Decision: it’s not the tree.
But it wasn’t the router either because he couldn’t get any sort of speed with his trust BT™ Voyager™ USB modem. Where’s the problem then? He took apart the master socket where the line comes into the house. “Not BT wire,” he said languidly. Eh? “The wire – isn’t single-core. That’s not done by BT.”
Which was his big clue. He tried the line where it reaches the eaves of our house: connected at about 5megabits. Wow – that’s better than we’ve seen at pretty much any time.
After a bit of looking about and testing, he pulled out something called the BT Hawk – a bit of kit that measures line impedance, yet seems to be able to say where the impedance changes (can’t find a Google ref, only brief mentions) – connected it to the master socket and said “there’s a big chance in impedance about five metres from here.”
And then we decided that since someone seemed to have added a rubbish line to the master socket, which could be the problem, we should eliminate the rubbish bit. Bit of drilling through the brick, from his cornucopia of a van, and some proper single-core BT wire (why four wires if only two are used? But I didn’t ask), quick new spliced-in junction box to the good cable that had been provided, and bang – 5-megabit steady-as-a-rock broadband.
Seems someone – the previous owners? – had spliced in some old alarm cable, with multi-core wires, in order to put an extra extension into the master socket. And that splice screwed the whole thing up. Tiny; you’d think it would make no difference; yet for some reason it changed the whole characteristics of the line.
So he tried it on his Voyager, and then looked at my Netgear router. “You’ll probably get a better speed out of that – much better than this old Voyager.”
He was right. It’s been up at 5 megabits since I connected this morning. YouTube like it oughta be. No fuss, no muss.
Gee, it’s even kinda boring.
Moral: the BT Openreach bod knows more than you.
Added moral: kudos to Freedom2Surf, my ISP, who proved rather elegantly that smaller is better in customer service terms. This morning (Fri) they called to check whether the fault was indeed cleared, and when I said it was, said they’d keep it open for five more days and then if I had no more issues they’d confirm it as sorted. When’s a big ISP done that?