By Michelle Ricker January 25, 2021
Summary: What causes slow internet? From data caps to internet throttling to limited bandwidth on shared cable internet, there are several culprits that could be ruining your speed. Let’s take a look at how you can hit the gas on your high-speed internet to move from slow to go-go-go.
With more of us working — and schooling, gaming, scrolling, and relaxing — at home than ever before, the internet has become a key connection to the outside world. Whether you’re working on a school project, finishing a presentation for your job, or trying to have a family game night over Zoom, a lagging connection can leave you feeling disconnected.
But how do you know if you’re experiencing blocked WiFi signals, internet throttling, data caps — or you just need better high-speed internet service? Let’s take a look at how you can test your internet speed and determine what may be slowing you down.
If you’ve started to see lags in your downloads and uploads, start by running an internet speed test, and compare it to what you’re supposed to be getting with your high-speed internet plan.
You’ll want to test your devices in different rooms of your home and at varying times of the day. If the test indicates that you’re getting half (or even less) than the speed you get when you’re close to the router, you’ll want to boost the signal in that area. If the test indicates that things are still slow when you’re standing next to your router, then you should call your internet service provider. Your internet should be at least 95% of the speed you signed up for. If you’re not sure what speed you signed up for, you’re in good company: 42% of American adults don’t know their download speed.
There are a few reasons your internet speed could be slowing down — and not all of the solutions require calling your internet service provider. Let’s take a look at several ways you can troubleshoot slow internet once you’ve run a speed test.
Start with your hardware. Is everything plugged in properly and working? If so, resetting your modem and router might do the trick. Take a moment to also check that all of your devices are feeling the need for speed, and it’s not just one computer. If turning things off and on again doesn’t work, you can consider upgrading to a newer modem or router to ramp up your speed.
While you might be using an ethernet cable for your desktop, it’s likely that you’re primarily using WiFi to connect to the web. Depending on where your internet hookup is, your signal might be getting blocked or absorbed, making it hard to stream videos in certain parts of the house.
Concrete, brick, or wood walls in your home — even a nearby stack of books — can make it tougher for WiFi signals to get through. And, if you live in an apartment complex, your neighbors’ high-speed internet could actually be blocking yours. Instead of rearranging your furniture, there are two boosters you can install yourself to make your internet work better for you.
First, you can use a WiFi extender to amplify the signal from your router (no matter where you have it plugged in) and extend it. The extended signal may not be as powerful as the original one, it’ll be stronger than it was before.
|More affordable||You have to manually switch between the two networks|
|Good for apartments or smaller homes||May slow down the system|
|Performance is geared toward speed||Software requires updates|
WiFi Mesh Network
However, depending on the size and layout of your home, a WiFi mesh network could be a better option. WiFi mesh uses multiple access points — called nodes — that you place around your house to envelop it in a wireless network. With a mesh system, you can cover almost every corner of your home by adding more nodes.
|Nodes can be easily added as needed||You’ll need to keep routers plugged into outlets in multiple rooms of your home.|
|Performance is geared toward range||Network types are less customizable|
|Fewer dead zones||Can be expensive to implement|
Some high-speed internet providers have data caps — a restriction of how much information can be transferred over the internet. Your daily activities like streaming, gaming, working, video chatting plus your smart home devices all add up and get you closer and closer to the data limit on your internet. If your internet provider does have a cap and you reach it in a month, they can slow your speed — that’s the internet throttling you’ve probably heard about — until the next billing cycle or charge you a hefty fee.
Data caps vary by ISP and plan, but you can always check if your internet use is restricted by checking your account online or your bill.
The way you use the internet has likely changed over the years, so if you’ve got a strong signal and have ruled out internet throttling and data caps as the culprit for your dragging speed, it could be that you simply need a faster plan.
If your entire household is now doing everything from home rather than heading off to work or school, you might have too much data traffic for your bandwidth — and that’s slowing your connection. Trying to participate in a Zoom webinar while your roommate plays a video game online will likely lead to lags, buffering, and frustration for both of you.
The right internet plan for you depends on two things: how many devices you have in your home, and how you’re using the web.
For example, if you just use your phone and your laptop, and you mostly browse social media, check emails, and stream TV, 25 Mbps is probably right for you. But, if you’ve got a smart home and family members with a dozen devices gaming online, streaming in HD, and video conferencing, you’ll probably need closer to 500+ Mbps. The plan you had before might be cramping your current lifestyle, so find the best internet plan that’s right for you right now, where you are.
We hope this article has helped you discover what’s disrupting your internet connection and find a solution. If you’re realizing you need to upgrade your internet plan, or even change your high-speed internet service provider, remember that EarthLink gives you options for internet without data caps. We want you to have the internet you deserve at the price you want.
Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an M.A. in Communication and has more than 5 years of writing experience. She thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She currently lives and works in Atlanta.
See all posts from Michelle Ricker.