Why Is My Internet So Slow?

What to do when slow Wi-Fi gridlocks your day

Mindy Woodall
Dec 12, 2023
Icon Time To Read4 min read

We know a slow internet connection is no fun—we’ve been there with the loading symbols and the glitchy connections. And there are few things more annoying than prepping for your pajama-friendly work-from-home day and then finding out that your internet is too slow to support your Zoom meetings.

Luckily, a lot of internet-slowness problems are simple to fix. Work through these troubleshooting steps and see if your speeds increase. If not, it might be time to call your internet service provider (ISP).

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1. Check your internet plan

First things first, check your internet plan and make sure it supports the speeds and amount of data you need to run your life—whether that’s working from home or streaming Netflix videos.

For example, if your plan supports only 15 Mbps of download speed, then you’re probably not going to have a great experience with streaming. That’s especially true if your kids are trying to do virtual school and your partner is also on video conference calls.

Along with checking what speeds you have, check to see if you have a data cap on your plan. Your internet service provider can deprioritize your internet speeds if you exceed the amount of data on your plan. “Deprioritization” might sound like mumbo-jumbo, but it basically means that you’re not going to get the data you need.

If your plan should have more than enough speed and data to go around, run an internet speed test to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.  If you’re not, it may be time to switch plans—particularly to a fiber internet plan.

Recommended fiber internet providers
Provider
Package
Monthly price
Download speeds
Learn more
AT&T Fiber InternetAT&T Internet Fiber 2 GIG$145/mo.*Up to 2000 Mbps
Verizon FiosFios 500 Mbps$74.99/mo.500 Mbps
Verizon FiosFios 1 Gig$89.99/mo.Up to 940 Mbps
Verizon FiosFios 2 Gig$109.99/mo.Up to 2300 Mbps
Frontier Fiber InternetFiber 500$44.99/mo. w/ Auto Pay and Paperless Bill^500 Mbps
Frontier Fiber InternetFiber 1 Gig$69.99/mo. w/ Auto Pay and Paperless Bill°1000 Mbps
Frontier Fiber InternetFiber 2 Gig$99.99/mo. w/ Auto Pay and Paperless Bill**2000 Mbps
CenturyLink InternetCenturyLink Fiber Gigabit$75/mo.††Up to 940 Mbps
WindstreamKinetic Internet by Windstream 1 Gig$69.99/mo.‡‡1000 Mbps
* Above pricing is after $10/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount with a debit card or bank account; if using a credit card, then price is $5/mo more.
Price per month with Auto Pay & without select 5G mobile plans. Fios plan prices include taxes & fees
Available in select areas only. Price per month with Auto Pay & without select 5G mobile plans. Fios plan prices include taxes & fees
^ w/ Auto Pay & Paperless Bill. Max wired speed 500/500 Mbps. Wi-Fi, actual & average speeds vary. One-time charges apply.
° w/ Auto Pay & Paperless Bill. Max wired speed 1000/1000 Mbps. Location dependent. Wi-Fi, actual & average speeds vary. One-time charges apply.
** w/ Auto Pay & Paperless Bill. Max wired speed 2000/2000 Mbps. Wi-Fi, actual & average speeds vary. One-time charges apply.
†† Speed may not be available in your area. Maximum download/upload speed of up to 940 Mbps via a wired connection. Paperless billing required. Taxes and fees apply. Offer details. Offer includes professional installation at customer’s eligible location
‡‡ The $39.99 price is for 3 months. After the three months, price increases to $69.99. With $5 Auto Pay for each month the customer is enrolled in AutoPay. Limited-time, non-transferable offer for residential customers that may not be combined with other promotions. Credit restrictions may apply. Subject to availability, price duration for 24 months.

2. Check your router

It doesn’t matter how fast your internet plan is if your router can’t get the signal to your device. Make sure your router is in a good place for signal strength. That might mean it’s time to pull it out of the basement and put it in your living room to reduce signal interference. Or, if that’s too inconvenient, you can invest in a Wi-Fi extender to boost your signal throughout your house. You can check out options like the Eero Mesh Wi-Fi System on Amazon.

You should also check to make sure your router configurations match the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you accidentally changed the settings, it could have affected your internet speeds.

If all fails, try the old standby trick of turning it off and on again. Unplug your router for a couple minutes and then plug it back in. Hint: It also helps to station yourself near the router for the strongest signal.

And if that last-ditch effort fails to jolt your slow internet, it might be time to get a new, updated router. Here are some of our recommended routers for AT&T internet plans or for Spectrum internet plans.

3. Check your hardware

If the above steps haven’t worked, then the problem might be the device you’re using. Check internet speeds on another computer, tablet, or phone in your household and see if they also have a slow connection.

If things are only sluggish on your laptop (or whatever it is you’re using), then the problem is your hardware, not a slow internet speed. Try clearing your cache and make sure you’re connected to the right network. You can also try these other steps:

  • Restart your device.
  • Check for updates, viruses, and malware.
  • Delete some old or unused programs.
  • Say goodbye to extra photos or videos (that you already have backed up to the cloud).
  • Try different browsers. Test out Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari to see if one works better than the other.
  • If you’re using an app, test a different one to see if it has the same problem.
  • Change the password on your Wi-Fi network. If you have an unsecured network, or if you’ve been using the same obvious password for a while, you might have some hop-ons hanging out on your network.
  • Look for a virus. Viruses and malware can cause major lag to your internet connection. We recommend installing any anti-virus, anti-malware software to locate any potential issue that might be slowing you down.

4. Close down some apps

We know it’s boring to be stuck at home, and all your family members are probably opening multiple apps on every device you own. Keep in mind though that some functions, like video and gaming, can take up a ton of bandwidth, especially if they’re happening across multiple devices.

If everyone in your house is streaming and gaming all at once, ask them to take a break while you make that conference call or finish that presentation. You’ll also want to close down any extra apps you have open on your device that you don’t need right away.

5. Hardwire using Ethernet

Hardwired connections are faster and more reliable than wireless ones. Try plugging your computer directly into your router with an Ethernet cable instead of using Wi-Fi.

It’s not as flexible as wireless, and you can’t work from your back deck anymore, but Ethernet might be able to pull you out of that low-speeds slump for a bit.

6. Call your ISP

Ah the dreaded internet customer service.

But sometimes, when all else fails, it’s time to pick up the phone and call your internet service provider. A customer service rep can tell you if the network is down in your area or if your speeds are being throttled, either due to network congestion or your plan’s data cap.

They can also check your connection on their end. We've heard endless tales of friends not getting the internet speeds they need, calling up their ISP, and the internet rep changing something on their end so our friend gets a nice boost in download speed. (Moral of the story: It never hurts to ask.)

7. Change ISPs

Internet still too slow or your speeds aren't hitting the mark?

It might be time to opt for another internet service provider. You can check out our recommendations for the fastest internet service providers, or explore some speedy internet providers in the table below.

Recommended internet providers
Provider
Monthly price
Download speeds
Learn more
XfinityXfinity Internet$9.95-$85^^50-1200 Mbps
ATTAT&T Fiber$55-$245°°300-5000 Mbps
CenturylinkCenturyLink Internet$50-$75***80-940 Mbps
VerizonVerizon Fios Home Internet$49.99-$109.99300-2300 Mbps
ViasatViasat Internet$69.99-$149.99†††12-150 Mbps
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
^^ Pricing for some packages are for the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
°° Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes $ fees. Limited availability. May not be available in your area.
*** Speed may not be available in your area. Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply.
Price per month with Auto Pay & without select 5G mobile plans. Fios plan prices include taxes & fees
††† Offer available to new qualifying customers. One-time standard installation fee may be due at checkout. Minimum 24-month service term required. Equipment lease fee is $12.99/mo. Taxes apply. Service is not available in all areas. Offer may be changed or withdrawn at any time.

Not every internet provider will be available in your area, but we can help with that.

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FAQ

Yes. VPNs have a tendency to add an extra layer of slow to everything, but it’s more about bogging down your PC than it is the VPN actually slowing down your connection. Not sure what we’re talking about? Read our review about VPNs.

Sometimes internet service is busier due to more users on the network. (Don’t worry, we all get those late-night “gotta surf the internet” blues.)

We will say, it’s good to check for a slow internet speed with an internet speed test at different times during the day and night. You might find certain windows of time are just no bueno for building Maroon 5 playlists on YouTube. But it might just be that your provider throttled your speed.

No, your browser won’t affect the actual speed of your internet data. That being said, sometimes one browser has a loading issue that another doesn’t, and some browsers are known for being inefficient. If you’re somehow still using Internet Explorer, for instance, that will definitely slow you down.

Oh, and make sure your browser is updated to the latest version, too.

Mindy Woodall
Written by
Mindy has been writing about technology for seven years. She covers all things smart home for Reviews.org, and keeps track of the latest robot gadgets. Mindy attended the University of Utah and her work has been featured on the likes of Parents.com, Digital Care, Hostfully, and more.

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