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Why is my WiFi slow? How to restore your internet connection in 5 steps



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Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Months to the Coronavirus Crisis many of us depend more than ever on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime to lock long days into livable. That makes it all the more annoying when a show stutters and stops at its peak thanks to poor Wi-Fi. The collective groans, the bated breath while the cargo space is jammed for 99%, the children crying that Elsa or Moana will return: all this could be prevented if the internet simply remained stable. But unfortunately, stable internet is rarely our reality, and in many areas the options for ISPs are too limited to fix the problem just by switching companies.

What's worse, with last year's Supreme Court decision refusing to invoke net neutrality, ISPs can still legally restrict your internet, limit your broadband if you stream more YouTube or Hulu than they want and provide slower connections to websites owned by their competitors. Fortunately there is a solution to some of these problems : the virtual private network. Basically, ISPs need to see your IP address to slow down your internet, and a good VPN will protect that identity (although it has some drawbacks I'll cover below). Here's how to find and use a VPN to check if your ISP is artificially slowing down your internet.

Read more: The best Wi-Fi extender for almost everyone

Step 1

Go through the usual troubleshooting methods

So your Wi-Fi is slow and you think your service provider is limiting your connection . Before coming to those conclusions, it's important to go through the usual troubleshooting list: make sure your router is placed centrally in your house, reposition the antennas, check your network security and so on. If you want to read more about ways to optimize your Wi-Fi, check out our suggestions.

If you have gone through the laundry list and your Wi-Fi is still chugging, proceed to the next step.

Step 2

Test Your Internet Health

Screenshot from David Priest / CNET

Once you're sure there's no simple explanation for your Wi-Fi woes, you can get a more in-depth measure of the health of your internet in a number of ways. I would suggest starting with a simple test through M-Lab. This will check your connection speed, essentially probing whether your ISP delivers consistent performance regardless of the content you are using. This measurement is not perfect, but it is a good starting point.

Step 3

Find a Reliable VPN

Norton

If you have done your first basic internet health test and you still think there is something wrong with your ISP, then look for it to VPNs. There are dozens of reasons to buy one, and just as many factors to consider when looking for the best virtual private network, such as security, price, and server locations. Fortunately, we've already done that work for you. View our suggestions here:

CNET & # 39; s choice for the best VPN & # 39; s.

Step 4

Compare your speed with the VPN.

Screenshot from David Priest / CNET

Then test your internet speed somewhere like Fast.com or Speedtest.net. Compare the results with the same test when your VPN is active. Using a VPN should lower your speed significantly, so the speed tests should show a discrepancy, with the VPN active speed being significantly slower than the VPN inactive speed. But a VPN also hides the IP address that providers use to identify you, so if your speed test with the VPN is faster than without the VPN, it could mean your ISP is targeting your IP address for limitation .

Step 5

Fix your internet

Screenshot from David Priest / CNET

OK, this is the hard part. Even if you find out that your provider is suppressing your internet, you may not be able to do much. Many people in the US live in regions with ISP monopolies or duopolies, so you may not be able to find a better provider. But here are a few helpful comments:

  • If you do have use the best provider in your area. Measurement Lab provides a good resource for finding information specific to your region that can lead you to a more reliable ISP.
  • Use your VPN to maintain more consistent speeds. A VPN can't fix a bad connection or other reasons behind your slow service, but it can reduce the limitation of unscrupulous ISPs.
  • Call your provider and threaten to change providers if they don't stop restricting your internet. This may seem old-fashioned, and I can't guarantee lasting results, but providers have responded positively to such tactics when I used them.

Correction, February 10 : This article misrepresented last year's net neutrality. decision before the Supreme Court, rather than the DC Circuit Court, which decided the case. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.


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