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Technology Knowledge Base

My Internet is Slow. What Can I Do?

There are many different reasons your internet speed might be slower than you would like. In this article, the different types of connections are explored, the nuances of a “good speed” are laid out, and troubleshooting advice is provided.

Internet Connection

Internet connection options vary by Internet Service Provider (ISP) and by region. When deciding what will work best for working from home, consider some of the following factors before selecting an Internet package and Internet connection type: connection speed or bandwidth, cost, availability, reliability, and convenience.

Understanding The Differences Between Internet Connections

Mobile

Many cell phone service providers offer voice plans with data plans that allow for for Internet access. Mobile Internet connections can provide good speeds and allow you to access the Internet from your cell phone.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

Wi-Fi Hotspots are sites that offer Internet access over a wireless local area network (WLAN) by way of a router that then connects to an Internet service provider. Hotspots utilize Wi-Fi technology, which allows electronic devices to connect to the Internet or exchange data wirelessly through radio waves. Hotspots can be phone-based or free-standing, commercial or free to the public.

Broadband

This high-speed Internet connection is provided through either cable or telephone companies. Broadband Internet uses multiple data channels to send large quantities of information. The term broadband is shorthand for broad bandwidth (more on bandwidth later). Broadband Internet connections such as DSL and cable are considered high-bandwidth connections.

Fiber

Fiber-optic internet is a broadband connection that can reach speeds of up to 940 Megabits per second (Mbps), with low lag time. The technology uses fiber-optic cable, which can send data as fast as about 70% the speed of light. In addition, fiber-optic cables are not as susceptible to severe weather conditions as other types of traditional cables, which helps minimize outages.

Cable

Cable Internet connection is a form of broadband access. Through use of a cable modem, users can access the Internet over cable TV lines. Cable modems can provide fast access to the Internet, making a cable connection a viable option for many.

Satellite

In certain areas where broadband connection is not yet offered, a satellite Internet option may be available. Like wireless access, satellite connection utilizes a modem. This type of connection can be problematic due high latency.

What Is a Good Internet Speed for Working from Home?

Working from home requires, at minimum, reliable internet service for email and a strong cellular signal or landline. It also often requires sharing large files and participating in videoconferences, both of which use considerable bandwidth.

When considering how much speed you need, beware that low promotional pricing may be for an ISP’s lowest speeds. Also, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you make sure the download and upload speeds you actually get are the ones that you’re expecting.

Actual transmission speeds depend on the type of application you’re using, the number of people using it at the same time, and more. Internet Service Providers with a fiber optic network, like Verizon Fios, AT&T, and others, are generally the fastest and most reliable. Fiber is followed by cable, and then other technologies like fixed wireless and satellite internet.

Bandwidth vs. Speed

The terms bandwidth and speed are often used interchangeably but not correctly. The cause of the confusion may be due, in part, to advertisements by ISPs that conflate the two by referring to greater speeds when they truly mean bandwidth.

Essentially, speed refers to the rate at which data can be transmitted, while the definition of bandwidth is the capacity for that speed. To use the water metaphor, speed refers to how quickly water can be pushed through a pipe; bandwidth refers to the quantity of water that can be moved through the pipe over a set time frame.

Why Bandwidth is Important

Bandwidth is not an unlimited resource. In any given deployment location, such as a home or business, there is only so much capacity available. Sometimes, this is due to physical limitations of the network device, such as the router or modem, cabling or wireless frequencies being used. Other times, bandwidth is intentionally rate-limited by a network administrator or internet or wide area network (WAN) carrier.

Multiple devices using the same connection must share bandwidth. Some devices, such as TVs that stream 4K video, are bandwidth hogs. In comparison, a webinar typically uses far less bandwidth. Although speed and bandwidth are not interchangeable, greater bandwidth is essential to maintain tolerable speeds on multiple devices.

Be aware that smart home systems, security systems, solar panels, and other home systems and appliances may be connected to your home internet and will affect your bandwidth.

How to Troubleshoot Your Connection

Where you live, the time of day you’re using the internet, how many people live in your home, and what kinds of services they use all determine your internet speed.

There are a few things to consider in troubleshooting your home connection to make sure it works best while you are working from home.

Run a Speed Test on Your Device

Internet upload and download speed is asymmetric. That means your upload and download speeds will be different. The minimum suggested by TC Support is 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) for download speed sand 5 Mbps for upload speeds.

You can test your connection speed online at speedtest.net.

Test Your Device

The problem may be with the hardware physically closest to you. A computer or tablet can slow down for reasons outside of your home network or your broadband connection.

  • Start with its web browser, for example, Google Chrome. Quitting and restarting the browser can usually fix problems with pages that take too long to load.
  • Your device may also have its own issues with your Wi-Fi. Disconnecting from the network and reconnecting may fix it. If that doesn’t work, reboot the entire device.

Test Your Wi-Fi Network

  • First, if you have a wireless router, try turning it off and then back on. Second, check its settings page or its mobile app to see if it has any firmware updates waiting that might fix performance glitches.
  • If the router is at one corner or end of your house, try moving it to a more central location. You may need a Wi-Fi extender to reach certain areas of your home.
  • Check to see which of the two major Wi-Fi bands, 2.4 or 5 gigahertz (GHz), each device is on. Modern dual-band routers should assign these automatically, but your device may require you to choose on a router-settings page. The older 2.4 GHz band offers better range but is more subject to interference and delivers slower top speeds, while the newer 5 GHz doesn’t reach as far but provides faster speeds.
  • Plug a computer via Ethernet into the router if you are still experiencing issues. The best performance will be possible over a physical connection. Performance is often sacrificed for the convenience of a wireless connection.
    • If you are plugging in your computer to a wired Ethernet connection, disconnect Wi-Fi on the computer.

Test Your Modem or Gateway

Many broadband services – in particular, cable, but sometimes fiber too – require a specialized device to connect your home network to your broadband link. That modem or gateway can be a source of trouble as well, although it’s a less likely suspect than your Wi-Fi.

  • First, try rebooting it.
  • Then, check for firmware updates if the device doesn’t do so automatically.
  • Finally, it may be that the modem or gateway needs replacing.

Contact Your Internet Provider

If you’ve ruled out all the hardware in your home, your connection itself is probably at fault. If your neighbors are reporting similar issues, the odds are higher that it’s an issue with your internet provider’s connectivity in your areas. So, get in touch with your provider’s tech support to see if they can diagnose the problem and get it fixed.

The other possibility is that you’ve outgrown your plan and need to get faster service if that is an option for you.

Resources Used to Create this Article

What is Fiber Internet?

Internet Connection Types

Bandwidth

What is a Good Internet Speed?

Ways to Increase Internet Speed