Why is internet slow? Ways to fix sluggish connections

Anton P. | August 23, 2022

Why is the internet slow or less high-speed than usual? Such connectivity issues could root in increased Wi-Fi signal interference or multiple family members engaging in bandwidth-heavy activities.

However, slow internet connection can also spawn from disrupted global internet health. Service outages or interruptions across ISPs, consumer apps, or public clouds can send waves of internet problems. 

Thus, let’s examine why the internet is slow, paying attention to issues on consumers’ and connectivity providers’ ends.

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The most common internet connection problems

A stable and reliable internet service is critical for anyone owning a smart home or working from home. Slow internet speeds might be a one-time affair, affected by forces outside users’ control. However, if work schedules and meetings get interrupted repeatedly, personal internet setups could be a problem. 

Usually, users do not report merely slow internet speeds. It might affect only certain activities or devices. 

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Causes of slow internet connection

Certain actions and conditions can make your internet slow. Here is a more in-depth look into possible causes: 

  • Bandwidth-heavy activities. The amount of bandwidth available determines the speed of your connection. It represents the maximum amount of information transmitted through a path. Activities or applications requiring a lot of bandwidth can monopolize the connection, making others run slower. 
  • DNS issues. All websites have IP addresses computers find through DNS. If your device cannot look up these IP addresses quickly, it can significantly slow down browsing. 
  • Defective or malfunctioning hardware. Such issues relate to outdated routers, damaged cables, or defective connectors. 
  • Wi-Fi signal interferences. If your device uses the 2.4GHz band, it can suffer from other devices like microwaves.
  • Low signal strength and obstacles. You might have placed your router in a spot surrounded by walls, electronics, and other objects. Such conditions make it difficult for strong Wi-Fi signals to reach your devices. 
  • Issues on the internet service provider’s side. Sometimes, the reason why the internet is slow relates to your ISP. The chances are your internet won’t be back to normal until your ISP resolves issues. 
  • ISP throttling. It happens when ISPs intentionally slow down internet connection based on your activities. For instance, they can do it according to traffic type. Then, actions like online gaming or streaming can end up throttled. Additionally, ISPs can make connections slower during peak times. 

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Why is the internet slow? Internet outages 

Internet stability and speed can be out of users’ control. For instance, Internet Service Providers like Verizon or Spectrum could encounter issues disabling connectivity for their clients. Recently, people in Miami lost internet access due to a cut fiber optic cable

Such incidents can be random or relate to natural disasters like storms or hurricanes. However, your ISP might not provide a clear-cut reason for an outage, like vague network issues or upgrades. 

According to ThousandEyes experts, dozens of internet outages happen worldwide. Some relate to ISP or public cloud network outages. 

Can you get compensation for internet outages?

It is possible that some internet providers offer compensation for prolonged or repetitive outages. You should consult your ISP or look into the contract you have signed. 

Providers usually agree to offer compensation for situations when the internet is down for more than four hours. However, there might be other conditions that must be met to warrant compensation. 

How to fix slow internet speeds 

After understanding why the internet is slow, you should implement possible solutions. Of course, a number of factors can be the reasons behind a less than satisfactory speed. So, you should go through every point and see whether it contributes to slower internet performance. 

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Consider your bandwidth 

The internet might be slow because that is all your internet package can support. For instance, 100-200 Mbps could be suitable for most households. However, let's consider the following internet speed factors: 

  • 5-10 devices regularly connect to the internet at your home. 
  • You or multiple people frequently enjoy online games. 
  • You frequently have meetings via video conferencing apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. 
  • Ideally, you would go for a 300 Mbps package to guarantee the best internet connection.

Thus, it is crucial to consider your and your family’s online habits to calculate the bandwidth you need. 

See devices connecting to your network

One reason why the internet is slow might be that your neighbors are secretly using your Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi piggybacking is a problem for speed as you might not have considered additional devices when assessing bandwidth. Therefore, instead of 10 devices connecting, you might have 15. 

You can see whether unwanted devices have occupied your network by opening the router’s admin panel. Do this by entering your router IP address in a browser of your choosing. 

Then, look for sections containing ‘connected devices’ and look for unknown gadgets. Then, change your Wi-Fi password to a lengthy and complex combination. 

Change channel

The 2.4GHz band is susceptible to interference which can trigger many connectivity issues. Therefore, it might be better to go for the 5GHz band. It is much more resistant to disturbance from other devices. Furthermore, 5GHz can bring better speeds overall. Bear in mind that 5GHz has a more limited range than 2.4GHz. 

Run a malware scan

The reason your internet is slow can relate to parasites or malware residing in your system. Thus, it is best to get rid of them by running a malware scan via a reliable antivirus tool. Malicious applications could unnecessarily use up more bandwidth and leave less for your devices. 

Update your router

Updating your router can work in two ways: 

  • Purchasing a new model with advanced features like supporting both frequency bands. 
  • Installing updates on your current router. 
  • Resetting or rebooting your router to wipe the slate clean. 

The problem is that routers rarely get updates. So, its firmware might be outdated. However, you should configure routers to install automatic updates whenever they come available. If this is not an option, try to see whether new firmware updates are available for manual installation. 

Optimize the router’s location

Your router is your gateway to the internet. Therefore, it should be in the center of your home. Besides keeping it uncrowded by other objects, its location is best when you follow other recommendations as well: 

  • Keep it elevated instead of putting it on the ground. 
  • If you use the 2GHz band, try to keep it far away from devices like microwaves. 
  • If a router has antennas, adjust them to get the best internet speed. For instance, turn your antennas upwards if you want an internet connection to reach the second floor. 
  • If necessary, invest in a Wi-Fi repeater or extender. The former connects to your network and rebroadcasts the existing signal. The latter connects directly to the router and creates a brand new Wi-Fi network. 

Get a mesh network 

A mesh network could fix this problem if the internet is slow or does not work in certain areas. Mesh network Wi-Fi systems represent a group of devices operating similarly to routers. You get many access points, which improves Wi-Fi coverage. 

Connect to a different VPN server 

The internet connection can be slower if you connect to a VPN server further away from your location. It does not always happen as modern services like Atlas VPN optimize their connections. 

However, try a different server location if you experience issues with your speed while connected to a VPN. 

Furthermore, a VPN can resolve specific connectivity issues, like ISP throttling. If providers slow down traffic based on type, a VPN ensures they cannot see it. It does so by encrypting traffic, meaning ISPs won’t know what you do online.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.


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