Not everyone has access to fast Internet, and even if you do, your particular connection may be slow. Some people have to deal with slow Internet service in rural areas because the signals have further to travel. On the other hand, some cities have slow Internet service because it is overloaded.
Your provider may deliver fast Internet service to your home but your internal network may be slow. A Gizmodo article shows Internet speeds across the country and highlights the areas where speeds are below average.
Slow Internet service is a problem because it doesn’t allow you to take advantage of new opportunities such as Internet phone service, streaming high-definition video or watching TV online. Since some of these services are less expensive than traditional alternatives, slow Internet may be costing you money.
Measure Your Speed
The first step to solving Internet connection problems is to find out what speed you are supposed to be getting and how fast your connection really is. Check with your Internet service provider to find out what speed they say they are offering. If you have a copy of your contract handy, it will often specify “up to X Mbps.”
Your provider’s website may also have details on your plan and the speed it offers. Then you have to compare your connection with a test such as the Digital Landing Internet Speed Test. Measure your speed several times a day because it may vary.
The highest speed you measure should be close to the value given by your provider, but your average speed can be considerably lower as external influences, such as overloads and interference slow down the Internet.
Causes of Slow Internet
When you see a website on your computer, the signal comes from a remote server. It has to reach the servers of your service provider, travel through a network to your local distribution point, go from there to your modem or router, and then through your internal network to your computer. If your Internet is slow, it could be due to a problem anywhere along this journey.
If the originating server is slow because it is old or overloaded, only that particular website will load slowly and the rest of the Internet will be at a normal speed. If your provider’s servers or network are slow, they may be overloaded or badly designed, and you won’t get the speed you were promised. If your local distribution point is too far from your house, or if the connection there is badly installed, your Internet connection will be slow.
If your modem is old or your router is operating at a low speed, your Internet will be slow even if your connection can deliver a high speed. Sometimes you can’t fix the particular problem, but often you can make changes yourself or ask your service provider to take action.
Speed Up Your Slow Internal Network
Your Internet signal goes from your modem to a router or directly to a network card on your computer. The signal can be a wired, Ethernet signal or Wi-Fi. In either case, if your router or network card are old, they may be operating on older, slow protocols and cause your signal to slow down.
If your router or computer is older than five years, it is probably slowing down your Internet and the router and network card should be replaced.
Fix a Slow Local Connection
If your Internet signal comes into your home via the telephone line, it is very sensitive to distance. The further your local distribution point is from your house, the slower the Internet service. This problem is prevalent in rural areas and you may have to switch to cable, which is not as sensitive to distance, to get better Internet speeds. If your local distribution point is close by, the connection itself may be the problem. Ask your service provider to check the installation to fix the speed.
Find the Fastest Internet
Once you know your internal network is fast and you have verified that your local connection is not slowing down your signal, the speed given by your Internet speed test is the speed coming from your provider. If you’re not getting the speed promised in your contract, you might have to try another supplier who promises a high speed and delivers it. Internet speeds are often affected by local conditions, so asking neighbors about their Internet service is a way to find a good supplier.
If your Internet service contract specifies a slow speed, you can check for other service providers to see if faster speeds are available in your area. Some rural neighborhoods have only one possibility for slow Internet service, but most of the country has access to speeds of 10 Mbps or higher. That speed is adequate for most residential Internet use, even if several people are connected at the same time.
Photo Credit: Tina Garrison