What to do when your internet is slow and patchy

With so much of our lives connected to the internet these days, slow speeds and patchy connections can put the brakes on everything. Here’s what to do when you run into internet problems.

It’s not uncommon today for Australian homes to have more than 10 devices all running at once on the internet. Mobile phones, televisions, computers, and maybe even the air conditioning in your house, all need a solid, reliable internet connection to function.

In the age of working from home and Zoom meetings, a slow connection – or worse, one that cuts out completely – can mean life grinds to a halt pretty quickly.

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to troubleshoot the issue and get your internet back on track.

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Test your internet speed

The first thing to do when encountering slow internet is to test your connection speed to get an accurate reading of how it’s performing. There are many free connection speed testing sites available including those offered by Telstra, Google and Ookla.

These tests will generally provide you with both your download and upload speed.

Download speed is the speed at which your connection receives data, and affects things such as loading web pages and video playback.

Upload speed is the rate at which your connection sends data out from your device and affects the performance of video calls and sending images. It will generally be lower than your download speed, as this is the traffic internet service providers (ISPs) prioritise on the network.

Check your modem

Your wifi modem is the point at which all devices in your house converge, and it can get a little congested. Modems are typically left running for months at a time and sometimes fixing slow internet speeds can be a simple as turning your unit off and on again.

The position of your modem in your house also affects internet speeds. Although wifi signals can travel through walls, they are weakened by them and generally the fewer obstacles between your modem and device the better.

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If you’re having trouble getting a strong signal upstairs, consider investing in a wifi extender. These little gadgets plug directly into power points and can provide an additional wifi access point in hard to reach places.

It may also be time to upgrade your modem. Like most technology, modem models are quickly made obsolete. If you’re still using the modem your ISP provided you with years ago, it may not be able to keep up with the sheer number of connected devices in your home.

Check your devices

If you find that the connectivity problems seem to only be affecting certain devices and not others, then the problem may lie with the device. Try turning these off and on again, along with any troubleshooting steps the device manufacturer recommends.

Like an obsolete modem, an out of date laptop or phone will also struggle to process the large amounts of data being sent and received today.

Read: Telstra to pay $25 million in refunds for slow internet speeds

Talk to your ISP

If you’ve eliminated technical problems within your home, it might be best to speak with your ISP. Internet networks are large, complex things and are prone to problems of their own, so the problem may be on their end and not yours.

If you’re regularly unable to achieve the speeds you’re paying for, and your ISP is unable to fix it, then you may be entitled to compensation or to leave your contract early.

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Written by Brad Lockyer