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Why is my internet so slow?

This guide explains to users why they may be experiencing slower internet speed than they expect and how to resolve this.

Last updated: 10 November 2020

Why is my internet so slow?
As more and more of us have become accustomed to being able to access the internet quickly, a slow or unreliable internet connection can be extremely frustrating. 

This guide will outline some of the factors which can affect internet speed and offer some potential fixes, as well as outlining how you can change your internet service provider to ensure the best broadband deal

How can I test my internet speed?

If your internet feels slow the first thing you need to do is to is to run a speed test. Before running the test, make sure you pause any streams or downloads you’re currently running. 

Once you’ve done this, compare the speed you are receiving with the speed which you pay for - you should be able to find this information on your bill or on your ISP’s website. If your internet speed is slower than you are expecting to receive, or you’re still generally unsatisfied with it there are a few things you can do. 

First, you’ll need to find out what’s actually causing your connection to be slow… 

How do broadband speeds work?

Most fixed line broadband connections reach your home via your telephone line. Broadband companies will vary in which technology they use, which results in different maximum connection speeds. If your provider uses a copper telephone cable, then the length the cable has travelled before reaching your home will affect the internet speed you are receiving. Put simply, the further the cable has to go, the bigger the slowdown. Fibre optic connections don’t really suffer from the same problem.

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What other factors may affect my internet speed?

In addition to permanent speed limits due to copper cables, many broadband services are affected by slowdowns during ‘peak times’ when, due to the nature of working hours, a higher than usual number of people are attempting to access the internet. When using the internet at off-peak times, such as during the night when most customers are asleep, you’re much more likely to receive the best possible service. 

The slowdown you experience depends on your provider and their own investment in network capacity. The more expensive providers will often be more capable of dealing with peak time traffic as their infrastructure is designed for businesses and large offices. If you are currently experiencing slow speeds during peak times and require a faster connection during the working day be sure to use our site to compare broadband deals to find the package best suited for your needs. 

Why am I not receiving the broadband speed I was advertised?

Another reason why many consumers find they are not receiving the speed they were advertised is that often broadband providers sometimes use ‘up to’ speeds. These advertise the fastest possible speed which could be achieved using the shortest lines and during periods of low traffic, however, they are rarely experienced by consumers. Whilst ‘up to’ speeds are what only 10% of customers achieve much lower speeds can be experienced by customers depending on the quantity of traffic or the length of copper cables.

What broadband speed should I expect?

Instead of focusing on the ‘up to’ speeds, when comparing broadband packages consumers should consider the average speeds most consumers are receiving. The majority of customers receive coverage that is between the advertised ‘up to’ speeds and the ‘minimum’ speed. The regulator Ofcom releases figures on the average speeds for different broadband technologies which can also be found on our website. However, Ofcom’s figures alone do not tell you whether those speeds are available in your area. Using our broadband comparison service, you can enter your postcode and see an estimate of the likely speed someone living in your area will receive. 

How can I improve my internet speed?

If you are unsatisfied with the speed you are receiving once having run the test you then need to establish if the problem results from your actions on your end before you contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP). 

In order to do this, try: 

  • Turning off your modem or router, waiting ten seconds and then restarting it. 
  • Ensuring there is nothing blocking your WiFi device from providing connection, or too many devices close by congesting the airwaves.
  • Making sure you do not have too many users on your connection at the same time who are downloading files or using streaming platforms. 

How can I change my internet provider?

If you have taken these steps and the problem persists it is time to talk to your ISP. Ofcom voluntary regulation stipulates that if a customer is receiving a much slower speed than was offered when they signed up the provider must offer you advice on how to increase your speed. If this is not possible the provider should then offer the customer, the opportunity to leave their contract early without having to pay. If the provider refuses to offer this service, it is worth contacting ombudsman or a dispute resolution scheme as you may be being treated unfairly.  

If you are successful in leaving your contract you, compare broadband deals with usave to find the cheapest and most reliable deal for you based on where you live. 
Harry Pererra

Author: Harry Pererra

Harry turns on his experience in web design and programming to write about the latest news in the world of tech and broadband. When he isn’t writing for usave he is working towards his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and prefers dogs to cats.

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