Is Your Wi-Fi Slow? Your ISP Might Be to Blame

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Is your internet suddenly moving really slowly? It might be due to an outdated router or a less-than-ideal router location. Your connection issues may need only an easy fix, like upgrading to a mesh network or simply restarting your modem and router. But if you’ve already attempted many of the tried-and-true methods and your internet speeds are still subpar, the issue might be something your internet service provider is intentionally doing: bandwidth throttling.

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Yes, you read that right. Your ISP could be making your Wi-Fi slower on purpose. Because of a 2019 Supreme Court decision in which the court declined to hear an appeal on net neutrality, ISPs can still legally stifle your internet, limiting your broadband if you’re streaming more TV than they want and serving slower connections to websites owned by their competitors. 

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One solution to slow Wi-Fi (if it’s caused by internet throttling) is a virtual private network
. Basically, ISPs need to see your IP address to slow down your internet, and a good VPN will shield that identity — though this comes with some limitations and downsides, which I’ll discuss below. We’ll walk you through how to tell if throttling is to blame and, if not, what to do about fixing your crummy Wi-Fi. (You can also learn more about how to get free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world.) 

Read more: Best Internet Providers of 2022

Step 1

First, troubleshoot your slow internet connection

So your Wi-Fi is slow and you think your service provider is throttling your connection. Before you jump to those conclusions, it’s important to run through the usual troubleshooting list: Check that your router is centrally located in your home, reposition its antennas, double-check your network security and so on. If you want to read about more ways to optimize your Wi-Fi, check out our suggestions.

If you’ve run through the laundry list and your Wi-Fi is still chugging slowly, move on to the next step.

Screenshot by David Priest/CNET

Step 2

Test your internet speed

 

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Step 3

Find a reliable VPN

 

Screenshot by David Priest/CNET

Step 4

Compare your speed with the VPN

Next, test your internet speed somewhere like Fast.com or Speedtest.net. Compare the results with the same test when your VPN is active. The use of any VPN should cut your speed considerably, so the speed tests should show a discrepancy, with the VPN-active speed being notably slower than the VPN-inactive speed. But a VPN also hides the IP address that providers use to identify you, so if your speed test with the VPN is faster than without the VPN, that may mean your ISP is targeting your IP address for throttling.

Screenshot by David Priest/CNET

OK,

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