This story is part Tips for the houseCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
Is there anything more embarrassing than realizing you’ve spoken to a Zoom screen for an unknown number of seconds? “Sorry, my internet is acting up” or something like that is the most common response, but it’s probably more than your internet “party”. This is likely due to slow and patchy download speeds.
We rely on download speeds for more than you think. In the same way video calls, online gamesocial media posting and online shopping are just a few of the ways we use the download side of our internet connection. When your download speeds aren’t up to snuff, these tasks can be frustrating or downright impossible.
So what should you do? Run a few good speed tests to see what kind of download speed you get. If it’s below 10 Mbps, your connection may not be able to meet your needs. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to improve your download speeds. As a bonus, these tips can also improve your download speed for a better overall connection. (For more information, see the best place to put your router to speed up your internetand our choices for the best wifi routersthe best mesh routers and the best wifi repeaters.)
Read more: Best Internet Providers of 2022
You signed up for slow download speeds
Unless you have fiber internet, your download speeds will be much slower than your upload speeds. More cable, DSL and satellite internet providers don’t even advertise download speeds alongside upload speeds, in part because they’re much slower.
For instance, Spectrum Internet speeds are advertised up to 300 Mbps, 500 Mbps, and 940 Mbps. It is understood that these speeds are download speeds, but what about your download speeds? You’ll have to dig a little deeper — like checking the fine print or calling customer service — to find that the download speeds for these plans are 10 Mbps, 20 Mbps, and 35 Mbps, respectively.
It’s nothing against Spectrum because most cable internet providers, including coxswain, Optimum and Xfinity, have similar download speeds and don’t display them as clearly as download speeds. The same goes for DSL and satellite internet, which can have download speeds so slow they don’t even qualify as broadband (less than 3 Mbps).
How to Fix an Internet Plan with Slow Download Speeds
The best thing to do is to know the maximum download speeds of a particular provider or plan before signing up. As mentioned above, you may have to wade through the fine print or plan details to find them. Don’t subscribe to a plan with download speeds that won’t meet your needs if there are other options available.
If you already have internet service with slower download speeds than you would like or need, consider upgrading to a faster plan. It’ll probably cost a little more each month, but you might find that the download speed boost – and the boost it will give to your download speeds – is worth the extra cost. Again, be sure to check what your new download speeds will be before upgrading to a new plan.
Change supplier is another option, especially if fiber optic service from providers such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Google fiber Where Verizon Fios is available. Fiber technology supports the bandwidth required for symmetrical or near-symmetrical download and upload speeds. So if you sign up for a 300Mbps planyou can expect download and upload speeds of around 300 Mbps over a wired connection.
You use Wi-Fi and accept reduced speeds
Wi-Fi is an alternative to a wired connection, not its own separate Internet service. If you’re using a Wi-Fi connection, expect download and upload speeds to be slower than what your provider sends to your home.
Range and signal obstructions can also cause problems when using Wi-Fi. The further you move away from your router, or if you change rooms or floors, your download speeds can suffer.
Depending on the quality of your equipment and the distance from your router, using Wi-Fi can reduce your speed by 50% or more.
Read more: Best Wi-Fi Routers of 2022
How to Fix Slow Download Speeds on Wi-Fi
A wired Ethernet connection will almost always give you a faster and more reliable connection. Try using a wired connection if you need fast and stable download speeds for an important meeting or school project.
Obviously, a wired connection isn’t always convenient and Wi-Fi is much more convenient, so Wi-Fi is often your only option. Some ways to improve your Wi-Fi connection include restart the router, move it to a better placeby repositioning the antennas (if applicable) or moving closer to the router.
An equipment upgrade is also an effective way to improve your Wi-Fi speeds. If you’re not sure where to start when buying a new router, check out our list of best wifi routers. And for better whole-home Wi-Fi connectivity, consider upgrading to a dual band mesh router system.
You are running multiple download tasks at once
Just as too many connected devices can affect your download speeds, too many devices downloading at the same time can slow down your download speeds.
There is not much bandwidth available. When multiple downloads are in progress at the same time, they compete with each other. In the case of download speeds, which are often much slower than download speeds, it only takes a few devices to disrupt download speeds.
Zoom, for example, may require download speeds of 3 Mbps or more for a clear and reliable connection. If you have multiple video calls in progress at the same time, all over Wi-Fi, your download speeds may not be able to keep up with demand.
How to Fix Congested Download Bandwidth
While concurrent meetings or class attendance may be unavoidable, try to stagger meetings and limit the number of connected devices whenever possible.
In addition to strategically planning meeting times to accommodate all members of your household, make sure your the router is configured to broadcast the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. There will likely be less congestion on your 5 GHz band, allowing for better connection quality and faster download speeds.
Plus, upgrading your internet plan or provider to one with faster maximum download speeds will help ensure there’s enough for everyone.
You have reached your monthly data limit
Believe it or not, downloading files and participating in video calls contribute to your monthly data consumption, just like downloading files or streaming TV. Depending on your provider, exceeding your data limit may result in throttled gears for the rest of your billing cycle.
This will probably only be a problem if you have satellite internet. Hughes Net and viasat will significantly reduce speeds once customers exceed their monthly data allowance. Some DSL and cable ISPs may also have data caps, but most will charge overage fees instead of throttling your speeds.
How to Fix Limited Download Speeds
If you have a monthly data cap, it’s best to monitor your activity throughout the billing cycle to avoid exceeding it. Most providers have an app and/or website that allows you to track your data usage.
HughesNet allows customers to purchase additional data “tokens” or blocks of data that will bring their upload and download speeds back to normal until the end of the billing cycle or the added data is exhausted. Viasat does not come with this option, but most may come with a higher data allowance than HughesNet depending on the plan you choose.
Of course, your best option is to choose a internet provider with no data limit or at least one that won’t throttle your speeds for going over your limit. However, you will still want to keep an eye on your data usage, as excessive data usage could violate your service agreement, which may result in service disruption.
Looking for other ways to improve your internet connection? Visit the CNET Internet Hub Page for more articles showcasing everything related to your home internet service. And for more home tips and tricks, be sure to check out our CNET Home Advice Section.
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