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A world without the internet is unimaginable in today’s world. We need it in every area of our lives — work, school, entertainment, business, shopping, and more.
Find out why internet speeds fluctuate and what you can do to fix inconsistent speeds.
Is it Normal for Internet Speeds to Fluctuate?
When you sign up for home internet, you have a contract with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP shows download and upload speeds to show you what to expect.
Most providers use the term “up to”, which tells you that this is your maximum speed. But, you have no guarantee that you will always experience the same speed.
Your ISP uses both bandwidth and latency. Latency refers to how long it takes data to move. Bandwidth tells you how much of that data moves in a specific period.
The biggest reason your speed fluctuates is that more users share the network. While your network can support a large number of users, it will slow down as people use it at the same time. This is why you’ll notice faster speeds during some hours of the day and slower speeds at other times.
Reasons and Fixes on Why Internet Speed is Inconsistent
Why your internet speed is so inconsistent tells you what causes the inconsistencies. You can also learn some possible solutions to fix the problem.
6 Reasons for Slow Internet Speeds
Many factors affect your internet speed, such as your connection type. Cable connections are the most common. A big problem with a cable connection is that multiple houses usually share the same line. Your neighbors can slow down your speed because they stream many movies or download many games.
DSL lines are popular in some areas, but the connections often use old wiring that cannot handle modern speeds. You might be too far away to get the speeds you want,
Satellite connections are available if you live outside a major city and in a rural area. This type of connection often slows down because of weather conditions.
1. ISP Policies
Some of the reasons your internet fluctuates are the company’s policies. Always check the contract you signed with the ISP.
They might slow down traffic during the more popular times of the day or limit the amount of traffic. It can also have a limited capacity in your area.
Your plan shows how much bandwidth you can use per billing cycle. The ISP will throttle your speed when you near your cap/limit.
Remember that many ISPs will also slow down your internet if you fall behind on your bill. Your ISP will likely reduce your speed until you pay your bill.
Google offers a free internet speed test that is easy to use. Click on the box to perform a quick test.
The results will show you both your upload and download speeds. It will help you determine if you have a problem with your ISP.
Try running the test on multiple devices to compare the speeds. You know the ISP is the issue if all devices are in the same range.
2. Certain Devices
Sometimes, the problem lies in your devices and not your internet. It often happens if you are using an old device or one that has an old operating system.
For example, if your laptop is running Windows 7 or an older OS, don’t be surprised if it takes some time for pages to load. The same goes if you are using an older tablet or smartphone.
Another cause might be your PC has one or more viruses. Make sure you experience the same internet speeds on all devices to determine if it’s a problem with your ISP or the device itself.
3. Website Design
Have you ever visited a website before and found that it took longer than you expected to load? Sometimes it’s the website design and not your laptop.
Not all sites respond as quickly as others do. This is especially true of sites that feature a lot of ads. Your device may even give you an error message because the page takes so long to load.
4. Home Issues
If the above reasons are not the issues you’re experiencing, the problem might lie in your router and modem. Whether you got these devices from your ISP or purchased them, they will give slower speeds because they are too old.
Wi-Fi signals can also slow down because of the obstructions in your home. Those signals have difficulty passing through thicker and heavier materials such as brick and concrete.
Another culprit is the number of people using the same Wi-Fi signal or the number of devices working on the network.
Many people do not realize that the bandwidth their ISP provides is the total amount they can use in their homes. If you stream Netflix in one room while playing a computer game and other family members use other apps, your internet will slow down.
5. Faulty Router
Also, make sure you don’t have a faulty router. Routers can burn out because they run too hot.
This often occurs when you leave it too close to a vent or a window. Using the router in a dusty room can also cause problems when it accumulates inside the device. You may also find that your internet slows down because the router needs an update.
6. Improper Access
If you’re like many people, you probably don’t think twice about the people who use your network. You set your Wi-Fi as a free-for-all.
An open network lacks password protection. While you might think it’s fine because it’s your house, it leaves your network vulnerable.
Anyone can use your network and slow down your speed. Other users do not even need your password to use your network. They can download apps that help them get through your firewall and gain full access.
You may not notice a problem because the other people just surf the web or do simple things with your connection. When multiple people download and stream content with the same connection, it overloads the network and slows the speed down.
4. Fixes for Inconsistent Internet Speeds
Living with a slow internet connection is hard. It can keep you from catching the latest episode of your favorite Disney+ show or disrupt a download.
When you try to resume that download, you’ll find that you need to start over again. Check out some top ways to fix your inconsistent internet speeds and get the fast speeds you want.
1. Change Your Router
If you think too many devices share your network and slow down your internet, it’s time to upgrade to a better router. Modern routers have ports that work with USB devices and cables and give you a solid wireless connection.
Make sure you buy one that can support all the devices in your home. It’s also helpful to add a password to your connection. When you have an open network, anyone can access it and slow down your surfing speed.
Don’t forget about the cables either. Your modem should have an ethernet cable that connects it to the router, which gives you a wireless connection.
This cable can overheat and wear down from daily use. If you have cats or dogs, they can damage the cable when they chew on the cable. There is a chance that the cable doesn’t work, but both devices still do.
Check the cable if you had a fast speed before and suddenly had a slow speed or no connection. Replacing the old cable can restore your original speed.
To see if the problem lies with the cable, unplug it from the modem and plug it directly into your computer. If you experience the same speed, you can replace the cable and see if that fixes the problem.
Before you replace your router, try some simple solutions to see if you can fix it. Use a computer vacuum to remove any dust from the case and search for firmware updates you can then install.
Try turning the router off and unplugging all of the cables. Plug in all of the cables and restart the router. Some routers will automatically download and install any necessary updates.
It’s also helpful to try using the router in different places around your home. You may find a better connection when you move it away from metal surfaces and other electronics.
You can also reset your router, which helps if it has too much data stored. Most routers have a small hole next to the power button. Use a paperclip or another tiny piece of metal to press the button hidden inside this hole.
The router should restart and return to its original factory settings. Resetting the router will delete cached or saved data and may improve your speed.
2. Check for Users
The next time you go online, check your settings to see how many people are on the network. It is a good way to identify all authorized users and devices such as your family and their computers.
If you see unauthorized users, remove them from your network. It is also a good time to add a password to your connection.
Make sure you pick one you can remember but is not easy for others to figure out. Avoid creating a password that uses your address or pet’s name.
3. Install a Dedicated Line
Many apartment complexes offer internet deals for residents. You can either bundle the cost of your plan into your monthly rent or qualify for a discount when you sign a new lease.
The biggest issue is that the ISP usually install one line every apartment uses. Some households spend long hours playing games and streaming the latest movies, resulting in low speed. Similar problems can occur in certain cities where ISPs use one line for multiple homes.
A potential solution to your speed problems is a dedicated line. Contact your ISP and let them know you want a separate line for your apartment or home.
Though you may need to pay for this service, the new line will only run to your residence and nowhere else.
In most cases, the ISP will send a technician to run a few tests and ensure you have a good connection. The technician can also determine if there are issues that affect your speed other than the shared line.
4. Check Your System
Bring up the Task Manager to check all the running applications. One reason your internet fluctuates is that you have apps running in the background that take up a lot of your bandwidth.
You should always check your system when you have problems using one device but not the others you own. Some applications automatically start and run as soon as you turn on your computer.
They can slow down your entire system and make it hard for you to use the internet. Change the settings to stop them from running without your permission.
Why is Internet Fast During the Day and So Slow During the Night?
Finding that your internet is faster during the day and slower at night is normal. You should remember that your ISP has peak hours when most people are online. In most areas, peak hours start at around five to six and last until 11 or midnight.
More people get online when they come home from work and stay online until they head to bed. Your internet will likely run slower during those hours because so many people share your network.
3 Ways to Get Faster Speeds
If you want to know how you can enjoy the same speeds throughout the day, there are a handful of things you can try. Not all solutions are suitable for all homes, but you might have some success.
1. Choose a Fiber or Cable Network
While DSL and satellite connections work well in some areas, they are not the best option for city dwellers. A fiber optic or cable network is a much better choice.
A cable connection usually features a line from outside to inside your home. You can use the same line you use for your TV to establish an internet connection. Fiber optic connections are much stronger and offer faster speeds. Not as many ISPs offer this type of connection, though. You may need to put your address on a waitlist until it becomes available.
2. Use a Wi-Fi Extender
Do you notice that your speed fluctuates across different rooms in your house? Maybe you have fast internet in your living room but slow internet in your bedroom.
Using a Wi-Fi extender can help. Also called a Wi-Fi booster, this small device plugs into the wall and picks up your wireless signal.
It extends the range of the signal and moves it deeper into your home. If you have multiple floors or a lot of square footage, you may even need to use two or more of these devices to boost your speed and make it reach all areas.
3. Upgrade Your Plan
Most ISPs offer more than one plan for internet users. When you look at the speeds they offer, you’ll find that they range from 50Mbps to 2,000Mbps or higher.
A speed of 1,000Mbps is strong enough to run multiple devices without lags. Look at the current plan you have and compare it to all of the available plans. You may find that your ISP offers a better plan with faster speeds that you can upgrade to before your next bill is due.
Make sure that the company knows the reason you need an upgrade. You can also ask them to run a speed test for your area, which should tell them if all homes have the same slow speeds or if there is a problem in your home.
If they find that the speed only affects your devices, they can arrange for a technician to come out and try some possible solutions. Depending on where you live, the technician can take a few days to arrive. Always ask the ISP for a discount to compensate you for your troubles.
Don’t let an inconsistent internet speed keep you from doing all of the things you love to do online. The problem can relate to your hardware or ISP, where you use your devices, and the traffic on your network. When your internet speed fluctuates, make sure you know why it happens and what you can do to fix it.