Recently, I received two interesting questions from U.K. subscribers. I wrote about and answered the other one, which was about external hard drives, in this week’s email newsletter.
In this question, subscriber Robin wrote about problems she is having with her broadband connection…
I have a stand alone desktop computer with a Tiscali.co.uk 8mb broadband connection and Windows XP Home edition.
Whenever I make or receive a telephone call, it cuts off my broadband connection. Any ideas on what could be causing this? I am using a Speedtouch 330 modem to connect.
Also, even though my broadband connection is supposed to be 8mb, it is not very fast and the download speed varies between 1mb and 3 mb.
I have been told that if I use a router, my broadband speed will be faster. I see you recommend routers in your newsletter but I am not very clear on routers. As I only have one computer, I don’t see the need for wireless but I have been told that all wireless routers can be switched off and used as a wired router. Is this true?
Lastly, if I use a router, do I still need a modem to connect my broadband or will the router do this?
I am a subscriber to your newsletter and hope you can advise me on these problems.
First, I’m not familiar with that brand of modem. Since Robin’s broadband connection is getting cut off when she receives a telephone call, I assume she has a DSL connection of some type. With DSL, her broadband connection and her telephone connection use the same wires, but are at different frequencies. Therefore, she should not be losing the broadband connection when she gets a telephone call.
I browsed to the www.tiscali.co.uk site (which came up VERY slowly from this side of the Atlantic). I see that they sell the 330 modem for £19.98. However, Robin’s may be an older verion of the modem.
I suspect her modem is the problem. She should talk to the Tech Support at her Internet Service Provider (ISP), who should be able to advise her on what to do. If she own the modem, I expect that they’ll tell her to replace it. If she rents or leases the modem as part of her Tiscali service, they’ll probably replace it.
Regarding her slow speed of the connection, it could be the firmware in the modem, or just slow speed from Tiscali. Also, it could be a tuning issue with her Windows TCP/IP settings. There are general rules on how to adjust Windows TCP/IP settings to optimize them for your particular situation.
Alternatively, you can use programs that are designed to apply the generalized settings for you. I used Optimize 3.0 to optimize my TCP/IP settings based on my particular circumstances.
In the U.S., the speed is always stated by the ISP’s along with the magic words "up to" — as in "up to 8 Mb/second."
I strongly recommend that anyone using broadband also use a router. It provides a firewall of sorts — computers on the Wide Area Network (WAN) side of the router can talk to the router and the router talks to your computer. The router is the only device that actually has an IP address that is on the Internet.
Basically, your computer on the "Local Area Network" (LAN) side of the router requests a web page. That request gets passed to the router, which gets the response. Then, the router passes the response back to your computer on the "Local Area Network" side of the router.
Notice that I said "response" — the router will only pass responses to requests through from the WAN side of the router to the LAN side of the router. Any attempts to connect to your computer from other computers on the Internet get stopped at the router.
Robin also asked about turning off the wireless function in a wireless router. I don’t know about being able to turn off the wireless functions on ALL wireless routers, at least now, but my first wireless router was one by Belkin — and it did not have the ability to turn off the wireless. Be sure you get one where you can turn off the wireless or get one that is wired only.
A router does not replace a modem. It is an addition to a modem. Some DSL (phone-line-based) broadband Internet service providers supply a modem that has a built-in router. Tiscali sells a combination modem-router.
Personally, I would choose a router as a separate product, so that if I needed to update firmware or if it fried from a lightning storm or in some other way failed, I haven’t lost both my modem and my router.
I have a similar philosophy with regard to the printer/fax/copier combination models, televisions with built-in DVD players or video tape players, etc.