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Why is my Internet So Slow?

Posted on 2020-06-24 11:42:00


Internet speeds have always been something to gripe about. Then came the Pandemic and Lockdown: consumers not only had slow speeds but interupted services to contend with, as well. Welcome to the new digital normal.

So what's the cause?

The internet was originally created to pass text from a source to a destination in an uncentralized manner. The idea back in the sixties was to make it difficult for enemies to nuke a location and bring down significant amounts of military communications that would enable them to wage battle. In the late 1990s, telecommunications companies and investors saw opportunities to build out the Internet to support commercial digital ventures. The companies laid thousands of miles of fiber optic cable to transmit and receive magnitudes more text, video, and audio. 

Meanwhile, protocols -- rules of the road -- improved to buttress the faster information transfer rates with increasing amounts of data. While many countries like China, Singapore, and South Korea treated investment in Internet infrastructure as a public utility, the United States in particular has deemed it a competitive commercial interest. The American attitude has allowed commercial providers like Comcast to moderate Internet speeds to get the most out of their subscribers. In addition, they have been woefully slow to upgrade Internet infrastructure to allow for faster transfer rates. 

Pre-Covid-19 Lockdown, the United States already had amongst the spottiest, slowest, Internet rates in the world. That is really not going to change much very soon.

The New Normal

The global response to Covid-19 accelerated the amount of traffic passing through the Internet. Companies had already for decades been sending texts and short videos, conducting video conferences and the like. Families were gleefully streaming Netflix films, Spotify music, and Youtube videos. When Lockdown struck, it seemed like the entire world went online. 

It seemed during the time that everyone on Earth was in videoconferences, playing video games online, streaming movies, and watching Tik Tok. Here's the big news:

Nothing has changed on the Internet since Lockdown ended. It is still operating at its increased levels of traffic. And the iinfrastructure in the United States is creaking from the additional load. However, there are some small things businesses and househlds can do to make your internet traffic speedier and more stable.     

Move your router

The router in your home or office "routes" traffic between the Internet and your devices. Try moving it. Sometimes walls and surfaces create barriers to router signals that rapidly degrade the quality of reception. Maybe the router is in the basement, or a closet. Get it out in the open, or, in the least, in the area where Internet-connected devices are used most.

Detour Internet Traffic

Routers nowadays operate in two frequency ranges. Think of the ranges like the different stations on your radio. Tune the dial one way, and you can listen to your favorite rock station; tune it another, and maybe it's a country and western station. Internet routers function similarly, though you don't have a dial to watch Netflix or stream music. Instead, the router chooses the "station" within a frequency band. The bands are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. 

Most internet traffic moves through "stations" in the 2.4 GHz range. As a result, the range can become quite congested, even though the router does it's best to choose a "station" in the range that enables speedy, uninterrupted operation. Consider, then, moving some devices to 5GHz to free up the 2.4 GHz range.  

Most routers these days actually broadcast two different networks, often with the same name. One will be a standard 2.4GHz network, while the other will be a less-congested, faster 5GHz network. Sometimes you'll have network names that specify which is which, while others may only identify which one is the 5GHz network; it'll depend on who set up your WiFi network. This is something Sound IT can help you with.

Upgrade your gear or plan

Sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and spend a little more money on some updated equipment. Perhaps your router is out of date. Routers that support the 802.11ac or 802.11ax-compatible protocols (rules of the wireless road) have greater ranges and faster speeds than older router models. If you feel, though, that your router is up to date, consider exploring new plans from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), like Comcast. However, if you spend more to get a new plan without a model of router that supports the latest protocols, you'll be wasting money.

Living in an SD world 

Sometimes you'll be streaming a High Definition (HD) program and see the image stuttering or freezing. If you're able to change the format of the program, change it to Standard Definition (SD). You may lose a bit of sharpness in the image, and high-action scenes may not display as smoothly as you would prefer; however, you'll eliminate a lot of the irritating glitching that can interfere with a relaxed viewing experience.

If you need help speeding up your Internet in your home or office, give Sound IT a call at (425)654-2502 and we’ll be more than happy to help you.


(Image credit: "Frustrated Dave?" by mdave is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)