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Connection Speeds

Modems, Telephone Lines and Connection Speeds

If you’re accessing the Internet using a 56K modem, but your access speeds are considerably less than 56K -- even as low as 28.8K or anywhere in the 30K range, you’re in good company. Even though you may have a 56K modem, the actual top speed that your telephone line can handle is 53K.

Test Your Connection Speed

If you’re like most computer users, after you connect to the Internet, you check the modem connection icon in your System Tray (located to the left of the clock) to see at what speed you’re connected. While this icon can provide you with some good information, it only gives you part of the story. To get the full story, I recommend you download a copy of Net Monitor.

Net Monitor displays a host of statistics that lets you see exactly what’s happening when you’re connected to the Internet. Once installed, directly under the Connection Statistics heading you’ll find the number of kilobytes sent and received. Below the numbers, you’ll see a graphical display of the same information.

The Transfer Rate panel shows you how much data is being sent and received per second. The number in the text box indicates the actual transfer rate, while the red, yellow, and green lights in the gauge, let you know just how much of your connection’s potential you’re really using. Clicking the True Speed button will initiate a quick test that tells you the best actual connection speed you currently have.

Net Monitor is packed with all kinds of additional information and the Help file does a great job of explaining how to use the utility’s many features. This program is free for the download, but comes with a built-in ad banner at the top of its display that promotes other Kiss Software products.

Alternative Speed Testing Resources

If downloading programs such as Net Monitor is not your cup of tea, you’re not out of luck! You can use the Web itself to test your connection speed.

To test what your actual connection speed is at any given time, visit any of these free Web-based speed tests. You will not have to download any software:

ToastNet’s Performance Test

2Wire's Broadband Speed Test for cable, DSL, or other high-speed connections.

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If you’re experiencing what you consider to be slow access to the Internet, despite using a 56K modem, chances are the culprit is the quality of your local telephone lines. In some areas of the country the telephone lines pass through one or more analog switching nodes before reaching a digital switch in the telephone company’s central office. If the distance between the modem and the digital switch is too far, line noise can prevent the modem from negotiating the analog-to-digital 56K connection. The result: Slower access speeds.

Another factor contributing to sluggish access is the network (Internet) itself. If you’re attempting to access during peak periods of usage (evening hours, in particular), network traffic can have an adverse effect on access speeds. When using any of the speed tests referenced above, it’s a good idea to run a number of tests at varying hours of the day and night so you can determine what your average connection speed is. You may experience considerable variation depending upon the time of day -- which can be helpful to know when planning your online sessions.

Keep Your Connection

Tired of being disconnected while reading an article, writing e-mail or downloading a program? Stay Connected prevents "time-outs" and disconnects for dial-up Internet connections, including AOL. It can even resume broken connections by simulating the Internet activity of a "real" person -- which presumably involves ranting and cursing when a connection is dropped. Stay Connected is compatible with AOL, CompuServe, NetZero, MSN, Juno, Prodigy and AT&T WorldNet and others, and works with all versions of Windows, including XP. You can try it free for 30 days; $19.95 to register.

Happy Modeming!

Mr. M.

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