Broadband checks and problems for the novice

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During my time as a broadband engineer I have come across some recurring problems, misunderstandings and questions that I have attempted to collate in this guide. It is not an exhaustive list but consists of the "stuff" I have come across most, hope it helps. By the way, this info applies solely to broadband received over the phone line, such as TalkTalk, Sky and a few others.
Firstly, your BB signal is delivered via a pair of wires between your exchange and your phone socket, these wires also carry your phone line. Your phone line is a measurable voltage that travels THROUGH the wires, your BB is a signal that "floats" around the external surface of your wires. This means that any surface damage to your wires anywhere between the exchange and your house will almost certainly slow or stop your BB whilst still allowing your phone to work. Typically a noisy phone line (crackles, buzzes, hums etc) will still allow use of the phone but will slow or even prevent your BB signal from reaching your router. Note that whoever your service provider is, BT still own the lines your service works on and only BT can work on them if a fault is suspected. Your service provider can test them but must report any fault to BT for repair.
Telephone extension leads are a major cause of slow speeds, the flat cable type are not made to carry a BB signal and are prone to loss and interference from other electrical equipment nearby, always use the master socket for your router where possible, otherwise have a proper extension fitted using "twisted pair" cables. If you have problems with speeds or internet access always try your router in the master socket and see if this improves the situation, if it does then your internal wiring is the problem. Please note, internal wiring is literally your problem and not the responsibility of your BB supplier. If this does not have any effect then either your router is at fault or your phone line, call your supplier and have them both checked.
Line filters, the small box that plugs into your phone socket, your phone and router then plug into sockets in the filter itself. These split the phone and BB signal, any telephone plugged into a phone socket MUST go through a filter otherwise every time you use your phone your BB signal will be lost until you hang up the phone. Your router must also be connected to the phone socket via a filter, BUT ONLY ONE FILTER, if you connect via two filters in series then this will block your BB signal.
Don't keep switching your router on and off, leave it on 24/7 or the exchange equipment will think there is a fault and gradually it will reduce your BB speed in an effort to automatically correct the "problem".
The further you are from your exchange the lower your speed will be. After 3500 metres of copper wire between you and the exchange your attainable speed will start to drop, this is due to "attenuation" and cannot be overcome so check the distance to the exchange if you are considering moving house and BB is high on your list of "must have's".
Your BB signal is shared between all the devices that are connected to it at any one time, if your speed is, say, 5 Meg (5000kps), then one device will have full use of this. If you start connecting other devices, games consoles etc then that 5 Meg is shared between them and each device will slow down, remember, some online games need over 6Meg to operate smoothly.
The lights on you router each inform you of a particular status, arguably the most important one (apart from the power light of course) is the DSL or ADSL light, if this is on constantly then your BB signal is coming in to your router, if it is off or flashing on and off, then you have no BB signal coming in to it. Move the router to your master phone socket and try it there, it takes up to a couple of minutes to re-synchronise so give it time. If the ADSL light comes on then your internal wiring is the problem (see above), if not, then your router or phone line is faulty. 
That's the basics covered, in a general sense, so here are the answers to some questions.
Can my provider see how much data I have up or downloaded ?.....................yes definitely, but only the amount, not the content.
Can my service provider "see" into my equipment ?............................yes, by accessing your line they can see what equipment you have installed, the serial numbers, model numbers and software versions, when they are switched on and off and if they are all working correctly. They can also "see" what equipment has been connected wirelessly to the router and if it is currently connected, ie games consoles, mobile phones (even show if they are android etc), portable devices etc. They are all in a list. However your phone numbers etc are not available, nor any details or data contained in your devices. This information is only used to help diagnose problems with your service or equipment and is governed by the Data Protection Act.
Can my service provider access my equipment (router, youview box, powerline adapters) remotely ?....................Yes, if the equipment was supplied by them and possibly if you supplied it yourself, depending on the make. They can access it to provide software updates for example to keep your equipment up to date and working efficiently, these come down your phone line on a fairly regular basis. For example, if you have a YouView box the software is regularly updated at about 2.00 am almost daily, you can check this by hitting the Y (youview) button on your remote, select "settings" then "device management", the mini menu shown will show you when your software was last updated.
Well, that's it for now, remember this guide should be regarded as just that, A GUIDE. It is not exhaustive, nor will it always apply to every situation, but it covers most of them. REMEMBER, YOUR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER WILL PROBABLY CHARGE YOU FOR A CALL OUT MADE DUE TO FAULTS IN YOUR INTERNAL WIRING OR EQUIPMENT, so checking out a few things first could save you fifty quid or so. Good luck.
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