10 Potential Reasons Your Internet is Slow

In today’s modern digital age, characterized by an ever-increasing reliance on seamless connectivity, a fast and reliable internet connection is undeniably essential for both work and leisure. However, there are instances when your otherwise efficient internet connection inexplicably seems to slow down.

ISPs are hard at work trying to make internet service more reliable. Operators like Grande Communications are lowering their number of subscribers per node and taking interest in future technologies (such as DOCSIS 4.0) to improve speeds across the networks. 

Still, there’s not one but several factors that can slow down your internet speed. In this article, we take a look at the 10 most common reasons your internet may be slow. We also offer suggestions for what you can do in each case. Let’s get started.

  • Network Congestion

Network congestion is undoubtedly one of the most common culprits behind a sluggish internet experience. In situations where a large number of users with the same internet service provider (ISP) as you are performing heavy tasks (streaming, downloading, etc.), there’s less bandwidth available for you. 

Network congestion is out of your control. However, upgrading to an ISP with a higher network bandwidth can lower the instances when you have to face network congestion. Fiber and cable internet services are less vulnerable to network congestion than DSL and 5G home internet.

What You Can Do

  • Switch to a fiber or cable ISP with higher internet speeds.
  • Consider using a wired connection for critical tasks instead of WiFi or mobile data.

  • Outdated Router or Modem

An often-underestimated factor in influencing internet speed is how old your router or modem is. Aging devices are unable to keep pace with the demands of contemporary data transfer rates. Even if you have a 1 Gbps internet service, you won’t see speeds anywhere close to that if you’re still using a DOCSIS 2.0 modem or a WiFi 4 router.

Consider investing in a new modem powered by DOCSIS 3.1 and a new router powered by WiFi 6. These technologies are designed to efficiently handle high data volumes and provide enhanced signal strength. If you don’t know the specifications, upgrade your modem and router every three years as a rule of thumb.

What You Can Do

  • Upgrade to a WiFi 6 router and DOCSIS 3.1 modem.
  • Ensure the firmware is up to date.
  • If you lease the router or the modem, ask your ISP to upgrade your devices.
  • Wi-Fi Interference

If you mostly connect to the internet at home via WiFi, consider what other objects and devices WiFi signals can interfere with. Common household appliances like microwave ovens, cordless phones, and neighboring Wi-Fi networks can disrupt your WiFi signals. You may experience slower speeds as a result even where WiFi signals should be strong.

You can mitigate some of the interference by restarting your WiFi router, which forces it to automatically find a channel with the least interference. Newer routers powered by WiFi 6 are better at minimizing interference.

What You Can Do

  • Restart your WiFi router.
  • Upgrade to a WiFi 6 router.
  • Consider using Ethernet cables for devices that need consistent connectivity.
  • Signal Range and Strength

One useful insight about Wi-Fi networks is the inverse relationship between signal strength and distance from the router. That is, the farther you are from the router, the weaker the Wi-Fi signals become, invariably causing a decline in speed. 

You can ensure better coverage throughout the home by placing the router at a central location. If the router still can’t provide wall-to-wall coverage, consider investing in a mesh WiFi system that uses multiple routers to improve signal strength.

What You Can Do

  • Place your router at a central location.
  • Consider a mesh WiFi system.
  • Don’t place the router near objects and devices that can interfere with WiFi signals.
  • Background Apps and Updates

One of the most overlooked causes of slow internet is the amount of bandwidth background apps consume. Tasks conducted by these apps can lower the bandwidth available to users, taking a toll on the overall internet experience. 

You can mitigate this by uninstalling unnecessary apps, minimizing the number of startup apps, and manually closing apps when the internet is slow. You can also schedule resource-heavy downloads and updates during off-peak hours when the speeds are higher and users aren’t active. Additionally, you can place speed limits on devices and apps to ensure they’re not hoarding the bandwidth. 

What You Can Do

  • Close unused apps and programs.
  • Schedule downloads and updates during off-peak hours.
  • Place speed limits on devices and users

  • Malware and Viruses

Malware and viruses aren’t only a threat to your data, they can also slow down your internet speed. Some malicious programs are designed to exploit your internet connection to perform tasks for cybercriminals. These can bring your internet speeds to a halt.

You can install reputable antivirus software and scan your devices to identify and remove such malware. Also, avoid opening untrustworthy websites to protect your devices going forward.

What You Can Do

  • Install antivirus software and scan your devices.
  • Regularly scan for malware and viruses.
  • Avoid downloading files from untrusted sources.
  • ISP Throttling

Unbeknownst to many, certain internet service providers (ISPs) employ throttling; a deliberate practice of impeding specific types of internet traffic such as streaming or torrenting. Your ISP’s terms of service may tell you whether such measures are in place. 

If your ISP does employ throttling, you can use a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent these imposed limitations and increase your internet speed. Beyond bypassing throttling, VPNs increase online security and privacy, improving the overall internet experience.

What You Can Do

  • Read about your ISP’s policies on throttling.
  • Consider using a VPN to bypass throttling.
  • Choose an ISP that doesn’t employ throttling.
  • Old Wiring and Infrastructure

Slow internet speeds can often be attributed to outdated or deteriorating wiring and infrastructure. When the intricate web of cables facilitating data transmission is compromised, sluggish internet speeds are inevitable. If you think your speeds are slow because the infrastructure is outdated, reach out to your ISP for a professional assessment. 

However, note that outdated cable networks may not be feasible to fix. In contrast, fiber networks are more robust, reliable, and newly implemented. Consider switching to fiber internet through CenturyLink customer service, which is offering some of the most affordable fiber plans right now.

What You Can Do

  • Contact your ISP to have the wiring inspected and replaced.
  • Consider switching to a different ISP.
  • Consider upgrading to fiber internet.
  • Peak Usage Times

Internet speeds vary depending on the number of users currently using the internet. During peak usage times—typically evenings when a large number of users are online—internet speeds can be particularly slow.

You can schedule data-intensive tasks such as downloads and updates during off-peak hours, leaving more bandwidth for the current tasks. Still, some tasks such as gaming and streaming can’t be delayed. Consider upgrading to fiber internet which is more reliable even during peak usage times.

What You Can Do

  • Schedule bandwidth-intensive activities during off-peak hours.
  • Consider upgrading to fiber internet.
  • Plan Limitations

Ultimately, the speeds available to you are determined by your internet plan, which involves restrictions on your max download and upload bandwidths. Some ISPs also have data caps that place limits on your total monthly data usage. Your speeds may slow down once you reach the data cap. 

See if your max available speeds are too slow for your current needs, and consider upgrading to a faster tier. If the speeds you are getting are much lower than the advertised speeds, you may want to switch to a more reputable ISP. Also, see if your current ISP has a data cap that’s too low for your current needs.

If you want a faster internet connection, it’s generally best to switch to another ISP than upgrading the current plan. Many ISPs have promotional offers exclusively for new customers—you may get faster service that’s even cheaper than your current plan. You can use an online resource such as BuyTVInternetPhone.com to see all ISPs operating in your area.

What You Can Do

  • Upgrade to a higher-tier internet plan that better suits your needs.
  • Switch to another ISP with faster plans.

Concluding Remarks

If you’re like us, there’s nothing more annoying than arriving home from work, ready to stream the latest episode of our favorite show, only to see it’s unable to play in full HD because the internet connection is too slow. Now that you know the most common reasons for slow speeds, you can identify the causes and improve the experience. 

If it’s your network slowing the connection—such as an outdated router/modem, WiFi interference, background apps, and viruses—you can improve speeds almost immediately by taking appropriate action. However, if the issue originates on the operator’s side, you should contact their customer service or switch to another ISP. 

Some causes of slow speeds may be inevitable, such as peak usage times. But if you have a fast cable or fiber internet connection and there are no background tasks hogging the bandwidth, you should be able to game and stream in 4K whenever you want.

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