How to Combat Slow Download Speeds

January 22, 2018 - By 

It wasn’t too long ago 56k modems were the norm. Websites and online multimedia were smaller sizes. Back then, a slow download speed was acceptable because the Web was new and exciting.

Dial-up services were appropriate for those times… but everything has changed.

By 2021, we’ll likely use 8.9GB of monthly data with our cell phones. Home browsing and streaming account for about 198GB a month! Imagine this extrapolated when factoring business technology and workforce usage.

Are slow speeds interrupting your online experience or work?

There are several culprits why speeds are crawling. This article will help identify and provide solutions to each.

Slow Download Speed? Check These Problems

A slow download speed is an annoyance to consumers. Slow speeds disrupt workforce productivity and revenue. Slow speeds are a trouble for all.

Here are the culprits…

Wireless Adapters or Cabling

Older wireless adapter cards may not recognize the connection from a modern router. The newer router is likely broadcasting high-speed internet.

Ethernet cables become damaged due to wear and tear. Check the connectors for frays or crimping along with the rest of the cable.

Replace the adapter or cable if needed.

Interference

Interference happens from:

  • Placement — The access point is blocked
  • Appliances — The radio frequencies are overlapping

Try placing the router/modem closest to your connected devices. Else, configure the access points’ settings to broadcast on a different channel.

Hardware Failure/Damage

An electrical surge can damage devices. Connect the devices to a different network to confirm your suspicion. Replace the device if damage is confirmed.

Bandwidth-Sucking Programs and Viruses

Wanted or unwanted services and programs will eat bandwidth. These background processes include:

  • Multiple browser tabs
  • Net-connected viruses or malware
  • Software updates
  • Peer-to-peer downloads
  • Data backups and recovery

Try these to end the problems:

  • Track bandwidth with programs like GlassWire or router firmware
  • Open Task Mangement and close unwanted/unneeded processes
  • Configure startup to avoid booting with programs at launch
  • Suspend tabs with apps like The Great Suspender or OneTab
  • Uninstall unneeded programs or services
  • Scan and remove viruses and malware

Ads and Tracking

Ads and tracking cookies account for a good chunk of website bandwidth. You can stop this extra data usage with ad and script blocking plugins:

  • uBlock Origin
  • Ghostery
  • AdGuard

Malwarebytes or Windows Defender will block unwanted website tracking and downloads, too. Though, consider supporting favorite sites by whitelisting the domain to show these ads.

Slow Download Speed on the Service Side

A slow download speed happens on both ends:

  • Client
  • Service

Most speed problems happen on the client-side. Their fix amounts to configuring software or hardware. The service side is mostly out of your control but there are ways to boost your speeds.

Get a Better Service

Your choice for internet services include:

  1. Dial-up
  2. DSL
  3. Satellite
  4. Broadband
  5. 3G/4G
  6. Fiber

You can toss out the first three because they fail to offer the good speeds. Your best options are high-speed broadband or fiber.

High-speed Broadband

The standard for broadband is 25 megabits a second. Unfortunately, a lot of telecoms use DSL as an excuse to offer “broadband services”. They advertise DSL as broadband because they meet minimum requirements.

Pay attention to the fine print when comparing internet service providers. Ask about their sustained bandwidth versus what’s advertised. Choose the package appropriate to your needs and budget.

Fiber

Fiber, with speeds up to 1Gbps, is coming to the United States thanks to companies like O.B. One Communications.

These smaller companies are tapping into a massive fiber-optic network. The larger telecoms have sat on this technology for more than a decade.

You will need better equipment to handle fiber connections. Take this into consideration when doing the upgrade. Fiber-ready routers tend to cost nearly double to their counterparts.

Negotiate Better Speeds

A dead-simple way to increase your internet speeds is to ask for it.

  1. Call your ISP
  2. Tell them you want better speeds
  3. Say you’ll switch to a competitor if they say no
  4. Wait on hold while they patch you to customer retention
  5. Get a small upgrade to remain with them

The cost to get a new customer is astronomical. Some companies spend hundreds of dollars to have you sign up. Few will give up the monthly returns if what’s needed is a package upgrade.

Negotiation doesn’t always work if the local ISP has a monopoly. But, it doesn’t hurt to try if competition exists.

A Speed Test will Check and Verify Fixes

Bookmark and visit these sites after each fix:

  • SpeedTest.net
  • speedtest.Xfinity.com
  • Speakeasy.net/speedtest

These online services measure download and upload speeds. Verifying after each fix will create documentation if the problem happens again.

The documentation is also important when handling service calls.

You can use the speed test reports to explain bandwidth problems. You’ll also have leverage if service is slower than what’s advertised. This often leads to a talk with the customer retention department and higher speeds!

Sometimes You’ll Have To Deal With It

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do if speeds are maxed by the ISP. Even fixing all these problems may lead to a slow download speed.

Why? Our daily internet habits.

Today, we’re consuming a billion hours of YouTube each day. We’re sharing hundreds of thousands of pictures on Facebook. We’re uploading massive files to work servers. Wearable tech is uploading data every second.

Websites have become bloated with code and multimedia. Our phones are littered with game apps and background services, too.

Change the media consumption if you want better speeds. Else, deal with it.

Vote with Your Wallet to Get Better Speeds

Support your local telecoms to force larger ISPs to adapt. Use your selection to vote with your wallet so the industry remains competitive.

High speed isn’t about Web entertainment.

It’s about having the appropriate bandwidth to realize new ideas. The ideas found only when we’ve achieved greater access to online resources. The entertainment is a byproduct of hard work and innovation.

Consider donating to the EFF. This organization is fighting for our rights to access and privacy. And, incidentally, better internet speeds.

Agree? Disagree? Or, have a tip to fix a slow download speed? Share your thoughts and tips in a comment below.

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