What to Do When Your Internet Service Provider Keeps Failing You

In a day and age when working from home is the norm and streaming is how we access entertainment, having a reliable internet connection is key.

Depending upon which Internet Service Provider (ISP) you have, the problems you experience over any period of time may vary greatly. In most cases, however, problems involve some combination of slow internet speeds, intermittent service, or extended periods with no service at all. Your right as the customer is to receive exactly what you paid for. If that's not happening, you can take steps to get your internet service back to where it should be.

Contact your ISP and explain all the issues you're experiencing

An easy way to rectify any problems with your internet is to call your provider. If the fix is simple, they may walk you through the process of getting your internet up and running over the phone. 

If the fix requires a change to the hardware they've provided, contacting your ISP will allow them to dispatch a technician to your address as soon as they can. Running through their customer support circle may be a long and tedious process, but it is best to contact your ISP first if you have any concerns with your internet connection.

Upgrade your internet plan

While your gut reaction to slow internet and no service may be to blame your service provider, you may need to take a step back and see if your internet usage has changed. How you are using your internet can have a large impact on its speed and reliability. If you initially bought a plan meant for occasional web surfing and emailing, but then found yourself streaming movies and gaming, you will likely need to update your internet plan to accommodate a greater strain on your existing plan.

Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). In most cases, a plan with 25 Mbps is all you need, and is what most ISPs offer in their basic level plans. However, if you have a variety of devices or people using your internet, you may need to upgrade your plan for a larger Mbps threshold.

According to Tom’s Guide, recommended internet speeds include the following based on your devices and usage:

Internet speed What you can do
Up to 25 Mbps
  • Web surfing
  • Email and social networking
  • Video streaming
  • Connect 1–2 devices (without slowdown) 
50–100 Mbps
  • Gaming
  • 4K streaming
  • Connect 3–5 devices
150–200 Mbps
  • Share large files
  • Live stream video
  • Connect 5+ devices

Many ISPs provide internet plans with speeds up to 1,000 or even 2,000 Mbps, which allows you to connect 10 or more devices simultaneously, allowing for 4K streaming and file sharing, as well as the capability to connect multiple smart devices.

Thus, if you have a 25 Mbps plan, but you’ve added more devices in your home and are spending more time on video calls or streaming 4K video content, you may need to update your existing plan.

Check your internet type

There are a variety of internet types available, and some may be a better fit for your home and location than others:

  • Fiber internet — The fastest internet available, providing speeds as great as 2,000–5,000 Mbps. It is typically available in large cities, but it isn’t available everywhere.
  • Satellite internet — The slowest type of internet available, but is available almost everywhere in the United States. It can be a good option if you live on a rural property.
  • Cable internet — The most common type of internet in the United States. It is more widely available than fiber internet, providing high speeds (but not as high as fiber internet).
  • Digital subscriber line (DSL) — An internet type that is slowly becoming obsolete as more companies move to fiber. DSL uses the same wiring as landline telephone networks and maxes out at 100 Mbps.
  • 5G home internet — An upcoming internet type that functions over a fixed wireless connection. It isn’t widely available, but is more common in large cities and towns.
  • 4G LTE home internet — Similar to 5G internet in function, but slower. It typically relies on available cell service in an area.
  • Fixed wireless — A wireless/cell service base internet type that offers limited speeds from 25–50 Mbps.

Check your Wi-Fi connection

While it is easy to use the terms “internet” and “Wi-Fi” interchangeably, they are actually two very different things.

In simple terms, the internet is what allows you to connect to other devices and online services — the internet allows you to browse the web or send and receive emails. Wi-Fi enables you to connect to the internet through a wireless signal.

Thus, if you’re having trouble with your internet service, you may want to check your Wi-Fi to see if it might be causing a connection issue. You can easily troubleshoot Wi-Fi by doing the following:

  • Check Wi-Fi router lights — green is good, while red or orange may indicate that something is wrong with your Wi-Fi.
  • Reboot your router and modem (the classic, “turn it off and turn it on again” method)
  • Reset your router to the factory settings
  • Use your computer or device’s network diagnostic tools
  • Forget and re-add Wi-Fi network on your devices
  • Reset network settings on your devices

While there may be a larger problem that is affecting your internet connection, checking your Wi-Fi can be a good place to start, and may even be recommended by your ISP. If everything is working with your Wi-Fi but your internet is still down, contact your ISP to have them come take a look.

Find out if other customers are experiencing similar issues

You likely aren't the first customer to experience issues with your internet, and you likely won’t be the last. Therefore, it can help to see how other customers have resolved their internet issues in the past. 

Search online for the specific problems you've been having (assuming you're still able to get access to the internet from your home; if not, find a wireless internet hotspot in your area). There are plenty of technical support forums where you can read about the problems other people have experienced and the solutions they used to fix them. There may even be a specific message board dedicated to your particular ISP where you can communicate directly with other customers and get their advice.

Look at the other ISP options available to you

In the end, if your ISP problems continue for long enough, it may be time to look at other service providers in your region. Though it might not seem like there are many providers to choose from, you should be able to find one that can ensure you a stable connection at a decent price. Look for providers that have some sort of reputation in the customer service arena and who can provide you with the best value for your money.

You may experience problems with your ISP every once and a while. It's when those problems happen on a continual basis for extended periods of time that you need to take action. Sometimes in the end, if you've exhausted every other option, the best solution is to simply look for a new ISP.

When comparing ISPs we recommend taking a good look at customer reviews. Because the industry is competitive and there doesn’t seem to be a perfect internet solution that never waivers, ISP reviews vary widely and typically skew negatively. However, these reviews can still provide valuable insight, especially into customer service, which can be a deal-breaker for whether or not an ISP is worth your time and money.

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