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Home / Tips and Tricks / Why is your WiFi slow? Here are two reasons and how to fix them

Why is your WiFi slow? Here are two reasons and how to fix them



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Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Almost a year in the corona crisis, good WiFi is more important than ever. Almost everything runs on the Internet, from remote schooling or work meetings to streaming the latest show on Netflix or Disney Plus to keep the kids busy and give yourself a much-needed 30-minute breather. Unfortunately, stable internet is rarely our reality, and in many areas, monopolies or duopolies from Spectrum, AT&T or other local providers make it difficult to just switch companies.

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7;s worse, with 2019 Supreme Court decision to decline a net neutrality call, ISPs can still legally throttle your internet, limiting your broadband when you stream more YouTube or Hulu than they want and providing slower connections to websites owned by their competitors. 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 there are some limitations and drawbacks, which I’ll discuss below.

Whether you need to move your router or consider purchasing a VPN, here’s how to fix your bad Wi-Fi.

Read more: The best WiFi 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 throttling your connection. Before jumping to those conclusions, it’s important to go through the usual troubleshooting list: check if your router is centrally located in your home, move the antennas, double-check your network security, and so on. Check out our suggestions if you want to learn more about ways to optimize your Wi-Fi.

If you’ve gone through the laundry list and your Wi-Fi is still chugging, move on to the next step.

STEP 2

Test your internet health

Screenshot by David Priest / CNET

Once you are confident that there are no easy explanations for your Wi-Fi problems, there are a number of ways you can get a more in-depth measure of the health of your internet. I would suggest starting with a simple test via M-Lab. This checks your connection speed and essentially measures whether your ISP is delivering consistent performance regardless of the content you use. This measurement isn’t perfect, but it’s a good place to start.

STEP 3

Find a reliable VPN

Norton

If you’ve taken a simple initial test of your internet health and you still think something is wrong with your internet service provider, start researching 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. Check out our suggestions here: CNET’s Pick of the Best VPNs.

STEP 4

Compare your speed with the VPN

Screenshot by 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 significantly reduce your speed, so the speed tests should show a discrepancy, with the VPN active speed being significantly slower than the VPN idle 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, that could mean that your ISP is targeting your IP address for throttling.

Screenshot by David Priest / CNET

OK, this is the hard part. Even if you find out that your provider is throttling your internet, there may not be much you can actually do. 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 answers:

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

Correction, February 10, 2020In this article, the 2019 net neutrality ruling was previously incorrectly attributed to the Supreme Court, rather than to the DC Circuit Court ruling the case. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.


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