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How can I determine how many kbps my network is operating on?

I run an Internet cafe with a DSL line of 128kbps, but I am getting the bandwidth only 17kbps. I asked the service provider to give me the proper bandwidth of 128kbps, but they reply that 20 kbps is good enough and that I should multiply by eight to get the true measurement. I don't know what they're talking about and I fear that I am getting ripped off. Help?
First, what are you using to determine the 20Kbps? The problem with DSL is that it is distance limited. As a signal travels through a communication line, you have two things that affect performance, distance (the signal gets weaker the longer it goes, and latency, the time it takes the packet to travel from one point to another) and provisioning (this is how the carrier provisions his lines). If they are trying to tell you to multiply by 8, I would guess (although I do not have enough info to be sure, so you will want to confirm this), they think you are measuring in kilobytes and they are measuring in kilobits – there are 8 bits in a byte. There are several freeware tools that will measure throughput on a connection. I would compare a couple of them to be sure of your actual throughput. But the farther you are from the central office that supplies the signal, the weaker it will be and the slower it will be when it leaves your premise. Also, most DSL services have one speed for uplinks and one for download links. It is generally faster on the download side than the upload side. You will want to check the speed both ways to determine if you are really getting what you are paying for.
This was last published in November 2004

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