Ask LH: Can I Dump My ISP For Bad Latency?

Ask LH: Can I Dump My ISP For Bad Latency?

Dear Lifehacker, I recently signed up for a 24 month contract with an ISP. I am a big gamer, I love YouTube and I download heavy files from time to time so I got the unlimited plan…

I live in the Perth CBD (just metres from a major exchange) so speed isn’t supposed to be an issue. It’s fluctuating between 12 and 17 mbps with the theoretical maximum being 24 mbps. I can live with that. My issue arises with gaming. Apparently they push all their traffic to Melbourne (which is 3000+ km away) and that makes the games I play on console impossible to enjoy because of the delayed latency. I went back to my contract and tried to find a mention of this somewhere. No luck.

My question is the following: if it isn’t mentioned anywhere, do I have a case for termination? It wouldn’t matter for most people but that is the number one reason I got unlimited broadband in the first place. Thanks, Game Over

Snail picture from Shutterstock

Dear GO,

Unfortunately, “unlimited” in a broadband context only refers to the volume of data you can download and upload, not the latency — if the plan in question doesn’t promote low latency as a key selling point, there may not be much you can do.

That said, it’s always worth seeing if there are any settings adjustments or nearby servers you can use instead. If you’re gaming over a Wi-Fi connection, switching to wired/Ethernet solution could also help to alleviate some of the lag you’re experiencing, albeit for unrelated reasons. You can read additional tips on speeding up your internet connection here.

The big lesson here? If something like latency matters, ring up and get a commitment from the provider before signing up. That gives you grounds for asking to get out of the contract if the service doesn’t measure up. You may then have a case for the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) if the ISP refuses to honor its agreement.

If any readers have their own latency or ISP contract tips, let GO know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Heres an idea, how about instead of asking lifehacker what your rights are – who are neither qualified to provide legal advice, nor know the terms of your contract.. How about instead, you read your contract(s) before agreeing to them, and then just know your rights. Does that not sound like the ideal solution to anyone but me to ALL of these questions?

    • @michael_debyl: You realise you can actually get yourself into quite hot water offering incorrect legal advice without disclaiming that you are not in any way qualified to provide such advice, right?

      • Key word being incorrect. If you consider my advice to read things you agree to as incorrect, you probably have bigger issues in your life.

        • Dude, you edited your response to remove the aspect I was making fun of. Congratulations on your overwhelming need to win an argument, even if that means completely backing away from your original point.

          • I’m always cranky in the morning xD I didn’t read the part where the asker (askee ? lol) mentions that it’s not mentioned “anywhere”.

    • It’s not legal advice.. It’s just advice.. and it’s quite broad advice as well. There’s no issue with it at all. All they said was basically get a service commitment from service provider, and if they haven’t met those commitments, the TIO is available to help. Oh sorry, I didn’t realise you work for an ISP.

    • I found the question quite reasonable, the asker states that Latency is not mentioned anywhere in his contract. I can’t see any legal advice given by LH.
      Is it so hard to accept that people would be interested in reading about, discussing and gaining some tips on how best to deal with ISP’s and their contracts on a site like this?
      Michael you must be fortunate to always end up with contracts that deliver exactly what you expect. Some people aren’t so lucky. They don’t deserve to be ridiculed for asking questions. Personally, I’m glad I read about this and will remember to look out for this kind of problem when looking for a new ISP in future, as it’s almost never mentioned when one signs up.

  • if latency over 100ms constantly, optus will release you if they cant do anything about it.

    • … 100ms to *where*?

      It seems extremely unlikely to me, on anything but a point to point leased link – given that anything else goes through public infrastructure, out of their control. You might be right, it would just not make much sense as a policy..

  • Get used to it mate. It’s Perth. Virtually all traffic from every ISP will be routed via one of the eastern cities. It’s the way it goes unfortunately.

    • Depends on what you are doing and which ISP.

      There are some ISPs that will connect to a perth IP via syd/melb because it’s easier for them to just trunk everything back east and exit their network from there.
      Since console games use a p2p system after the matchmaking has been done you will have a hard time playing with your friends in perth if the ISP does that.

      As for international traffic, its almost always going to route out over the pacific – although there are some links that go out via asia so you won’t see much difference for that.

      I would suggest going with a WA based ISP like iiNet or… (actually I think iinet already absorbed all the other WA players) if you want to have your local routing to use a local exit node.

  • Nop, mostly its just Telstra and Optus that do this. We found it quite a lot with hosting stuff on Amazon EC2 and S3 in the Singapore data center. In Perth any one not on Telstra gets routed out the Broome to Singapore link and yay 50ms pings. If they’re on Telstra, Perth > Sydney > LA > Japan > Singapore. Completely retarded.

    • I recently gave bigpond a second chance after 8 years. Yep Knob Ed is my name.

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