If you use the internet regularly, you’ve probably noticed that your connection slows down during different times of the day or week. But what causes these fluctuations in speed and why do they always seem to happen when you need the internet most?
In a word, traffic.
Think of your internet bandwidth as the speed limit and your internet speed as the flow of traffic down “the information superhighway.” Highways can get jammed up with traffic, and so can the internet. However, while commuters tend to hit traffic going to and from a nine-to-five job, internet users usually see slowing in the evenings after everyone gets home.
Slow internet is frustrating for everyone, but we’re here to help. Keep reading for insights about internet traffic patterns and tips for reducing their effects.
When is internet rush hour?
Many internet connections seem to slow down weekdays between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays. The capacity of those connections doesn’t actually decrease, but they slow down because high traffic levels cause delays.
Much of this traffic likely comes from streaming. Streaming video from sites like Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu takes a lot of data. So when you and your neighbors stream video at the same time (like on nights or weekends), all that required data jams up the network in your neighborhood.
You may have experienced a similar effect if you’ve ever tried using your phone at a concert or sporting event. With an arena full of people using the network in a concentrated area, the network can slow to a crawl. The same concept applies to your neighborhood.
Why does my Wi-Fi slow down at night?
Nightly traffic on your ISP’s network may cause a data backup in your modem or router, which slows down your home Wi-Fi network. Another possible explanation is that your household may be attempting to use more data than your equipment can handle.
This can happen if you live in a household with more than three people, or with people who use multiple internet devices at once. This equipment overload essentially creates traffic jams in your home network.
Sometimes you can fix this by resetting the equipment or dialing in the equipment settings. Upgrading your equipment may also solve the problem. If you decide to replace your equipment, we have lots of information to help you pick the right router and other home Wi-Fi equipment.
How can I avoid internet slowing at night?
Download videos during off-peak hours and watch them offline during peak hours.
Plan ahead and download your entertainment in the wee hours of the morning. This will free you from the frustration of waiting on slow internet during rush hour and free up internet space for others. It’s like taking a car off the road.
Switching Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may help.
If you switch to a provider with fewer subscribers, it may have less traffic on its network and consequently less slowing. On the other hand, switching to a major ISP with a better network that can accommodate all the traffic may help.
If you choose this option, look for newer networks that have improved technology like fiber or 5G wireless.
Try upgrading to a faster internet plan.
Simply having more bandwidth won’t do much to decrease slowing caused by traffic. This would be like buying a sports car but still using the jammed-up freeway to get to work.
Upgrading your plan will help only if you’re also upgrading to a better network. Some ISPs offer different types of connection technology.
For instance, many ISPs who offer slower digital subscriber line (DSL) internet on their lower-tier packages also offer faster fiber-optic internet on their higher-end packages. If upgrading your plan puts you on a superior network, doing so will likely keep your connection flowing.
What other internet options do I have?
If you’re experiencing heavy slowing on your home internet connection—especially on nights and weekends—you’ll probably want to check out your other internet options. Enter your zip in the box below to see Internet Service Providers in your area and compare the packages and speeds they offer.