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Why is my internet so slow?

If your internet isn't delivering the speeds you were promised, check out our guide on how to fix it.

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Tired woman with her head on the table in front of her opened laptop

Canada currently ranks 5th in the world mobile connection speed and 17th globally for fixed internet speed. Speeds are generally improving across the country but due to increased demand, your internet connection may be plodding along like a turtle. Don’t worry, you’re not stuck. We’ve identified 4 common causes, and how to go about fixing them.

Reason #1: Equipment and signal issues

Cheap and faulty hardware can often affect your connection speed in a bad way. Anything along the internet chain from your modem to the phone in your hand could be causing an issue in the connection.

You can fix it by:

  • Checking your modem. If you got your modem from your provider as part of your plan, it’s probably fine. If not, check that your modem is up-to-date enough to handle a fast connection. If you’re using an old modem, it could be inadvertently throttling your speeds, and it might need an upgrade. There’s also a small chance that your modem is faulty and simply needs replacement.
  • Testing your Wi-Fi. Hook up your device to an ethernet cable and run an internet speed test. If your internet connection is significantly faster, either your Wi-Fi is getting interference or your modem’s antenna isn’t strong enough.
  • Running speed tests. Run a connection test on several different devices to confirm that it isn’t just your phone or laptop that’s the problem. If one device is slower, you may need a new one, or you might need to run a virus scan.

Check how fast your connection is with Finder’s Internet Speed Test

Reason #2: Network congestion

When lots of people go online in the evening, the additional load on the network causes everyone’s connection to slow down, despite your internet being built for high traffic. While it is normal to receive slower speeds with the majority of people self-isolating at home these days, just how much it slows down for you depends on your provider.

A possible fix?

  • Switching providers. If congestion is your only problem, this is the easiest solution. Different network providers promise different typical evening speeds, which are the speeds you’ll likely get between 7pm and 11pm when everyone’s online. Picking a provider with a higher typical evening speed means congestion shouldn’t mess with your connection as much.

Reason #3: Low speed tier

You might be getting a slow connection purely because you’re on the wrong speed tier. This depends on what plans your internet provider offers. If your internet is crawling, you might be on a basic plan, which is hardly faster than what you would get on an older ADSL connection. It could also be the case that you simply have too many people accessing the connection at once, making it crawl for everyone.

Fix it by:

  • Upgrading your plan. If the speed tier is the issue, the easiest fix is to just upgrade to a higher speed tier. Contact your provider to see what they offer in terms of faster plans.

Reason #4: Distance from the node

If you’re on a Fibre to the Node (FTTN) connection, the speed you get is heavily dependent on how far away that node is. Signals degrade in old copper wires the further they have to travel, and being at the end of the line can give you a significantly slower connection than someone who’s right next to it. Even a few hundred metres can have a huge impact.

This means that you might have a slower connection than you were promised, simply due to bad luck in your physical location. Sadly, there’s no physical way to improve the quality or capabilities of your connection, since this a limitation of the installation.

Fix this problem by:

  • Swapping to a lower speed tier. This isn’t so much a solution as a way to save paying money unnecessarily. If a provider can’t deliver on the speed they promised when you bought your plan due to technical limitations, they’re legally required to let you drop to a lower and cheaper speed tier. Get in touch with your provider’s customer service team to discuss your options.
  • Using mobile broadband. If you’re unhappy with your connection, consider investing in mobile broadband or home wireless broadband, which both use the same network as a mobile phone. Chances are, if you’ve got good network coverage with your mobile network provider, it should translate to a decent mobile broadband or home wireless connection. Your results may still vary, but you can expect a connection speed between 20Mbps and 100Mbps.

    While there are unlimited data options when it comes to home wireless broadband, you’re more likely to have to deal with lower data limits for regular mobile broadband for the same price, but at least you’ll be able to get something that runs at a reasonable pace.

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