Slow Internet? Try these steps before upgrading

With work from home (WFH) arrangements in place, home Internet networks are taking strain. If you receive an error message that your Internet is unstable during an important Zoom meeting or your Netflix connection is buffering longer than it usually does, it is time to investigate the reasons for your slow Internet.

There are several reasons why your Internet might seem to be slow, including problems with your modem or router, or there may be too many devices connected to your network that are congesting your bandwidth. It may also be an issue with your Internet provider in your area. Slow Internet could occur when customer demand exceeds the capabilities of your Internet provider. Whatever the reason, there are several steps you can take to possibly rectify the problem:

  • Confirm that you are suffering from Internet congestion

You could run speed tests and record the results which could help present a compelling case to your Internet provider. Setting up and managing your home Wi-Fi correctly can also greatly help boost your speed.

Make sure your PC is connected directly to your modem via a cable and not via Wi-Fi or through a router, as this will leave your results open to debate.

Ensure that only your PC is active on your home network and deactivate Wi-Fi devices like your mobile phone or tablet, turn off video game consoles and make sure nothing else is connected while you undertake the tests. Perform a speed test at regular intervals during the day over the period of a couple of days. It should take around one minute each time.

Compare the recorded ping values and download and upload speeds to determine if they have changed dramatically throughout the course of the day. If there is a dramatic difference between daytime and night-time speeds, you may very well have a congestion issue. A high speed during the day proves your wiring and home infrastructure is not the problem.

  • Ensure the problem is not at your end

Rule out that the problem is not on your end by checking your hardware. Should you have several devices connected, do speed tests on all of them to determine if they all show some slowdown. If not, it may be the hardware or software of a specific device.

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If all tests on all devices are equally slow, there may be a problem with your modem or router. If this is the case, reset your modem and router. If resetting the modem and router does not help the performance of your devices, it may be time to call your Internet provider. 

  • Contact your Internet provider

The technical support team of your service provider may be able to offer further advice about identifying and resolving the issue. You could also order a service upgrade, although that might not be necessary. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, some providers are temporarily offering more bandwidth, particularly for families with school-age children while others have lowered service caps that charge extra when data usage passes a certain threshold.

Tips to improve speed

There are other options to consider improving your Internet speed that is within your control. Making changes within your home may help alleviate issues with congestion without needing to change providers or upgrade at all.

  • Determine exactly what devices are using your Internet connection. An average home has approximately 10-15 devices connected. Each device is adding to the demand on your bandwidth. Switch off devices that are connected but not being used.
  • Understand what consumes bandwidth and mitigate the impact. Sending a text message uses little bandwidth in comparison to video chats, Netflix streams, multiplayer video games and big file uploads/downloads. If you have an important Zoom meeting pending then turn off Netflix.
  • Download Netflix content and watch It later. You can also switch to offline games during peak usage times.
  • Large open spaces or the layout of your home may be weakening your signal with metal or appliances, and you may want to consider a Wi-Fi extender. A more advanced extender system is known as Mesh Wi-Fi. By placing multiple extenders or nodes around your home you create a Wi-Fi blanket that covers the whole area. This is also referred to as Whole Home Wi-Fi.
  • You could also consider mobile networks to get you connected to the Internet, which could mean bypassing all that congestion that is slowing down your regular Internet connection.
  • Connect some devices directly to the router with ethernet cables instead of using Wi-Fi. This may improve the performance of, for example, videoconferencing.

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