Slow internet driving you mad? 4 possible reasons

User icon with frustration lines emanating from their globe head.

Within the giant—hopefully not sentient—synapses of the most comprehensive compendium of knowledge in the history of man lies boundless possibility. Since its wider consumer release in the ’90s, the internet has evolved to provide us with avenues for real-time communication with friends, access to an endless supply of information, and the opportunity to buy whatever we want, when we want it. 

Over 60% of the world’s population has regular access to the internet in one way or another, and most people spend just over a quarter of their day online. That’s a lot of connections. Even if we spend most of our energy online posting pictures of cats—which, by the way, was totally a thing before the internet existed—the internet’s capacity as a tool for social change can’t be ignored.

But none of that even matters if you can’t establish a connection in the first place. What’s worse is when you can connect but your speeds are locked to something ridiculous like 128kbps. In the most connected age we’ve been as humans, something as minuscule as a faulty cable or outdated software can cause unexpected outages. You know what they say, a butterfly flaps its wings in Seattle and now I can’t connect to my Netflix.

Here’s what may be behind the buckles of your digital straight jacket:

Cable quality

Hundreds and thousands of cables help to make up the backbone (or central nervous system?) of the internet. In fact, it’s what makes up the “net” in “internet.” There are several different types of cables that make up the infrastructure of the internet including fiber optic and underwater cables. Whatever the type, the largest cables connect continents and the smaller cables connect our homes and businesses to the outside world. Unsurprisingly, not all cables are equal, and this will dictate the quality and speed of your internet connection. Unfortunately, this means that if the cables servicing your area aren’t up to par, your internet speed will suffer.

How to solve this problem: Consider upgrading to fiber optic cabling. In comparison with, say, cable internet, fiber optic will deliver much faster speeds.

Bandwidth throttling

Throttling happens when ISPs deliberately slow down your internet speeds based on websites you visit, content that you’re streaming, or servers that you’re gaming on. ISPs do this because it still allows them to reduce traffic across their networks, thereby allowing them to service more customers without needing to alter their network capability. And it’s not like they can’t handle the extra data either. For example, there have been instances of forcing service providers to pay fees in order for their services to avoid being throttled. Comcast was quite famously chastised for this back in 2014. A great way to tell if you’re being throttled is to perform a speed test with and without a VPN. If your internet speed increases with a VPN, it’s almost certain that your ISP is throttling your traffic.

How to solve this problem: Get a VPN! In fact, we know just the one.

Router reach

Right off the bat, let’s clarify that your choice of router won’t greatly affect the internet speeds in your home. What it will affect though, is the coverage that you receive. In other words, the more capable the router, the more likely it will be able to handle distance and signal strength. If you find that your internet connection is markedly worse the further you move away from your router, it might time for an upgrade. For an extra level of protection, and a possible boost in speed and stability, install a VPN router

How to solve this problem: Upgrade to a more powerful router. Keep in mind that while some routers come with built-in VPNs, not all routers can be turned into a VPN router so it’s best to do some rudimentary research before. 

Outages

The thing about outages is that they are entirely out of your control. Unless you’ve somehow directly caused your ISP servers to fail, there’s a very low chance you can change this outcome. However, this then leaves rectifying this issue entirely in the hands of your ISP, and if you live in a remote area or if your ISP is unreliable with maintenance or service upkeep, then you may have to opt for tethering to your mobile connection—which in and of itself, could also be affected by your location. Grim!

How to solve this problem: Where possible, change ISPs. 

Will using a VPN slow down my internet?

All VPN services add a layer of encryption that can potentially slow down your internet connection. ExpressVPN, however, has a lightning fast, constantly optimized network, so you probably won’t notice a difference. Be sure to try our Lightway protocol (available on apps for Mac, Windows, Android, Linux, and routers) for a superior VPN experience. If you run into any problems, contact Support, available 24/7 by live chat and email.

Read more: How to boost Wi-Fi at home for faster internet

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