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Why is my Internet so slow?

Outdated software, multiple devices, and too many people online can all slow down your Internet connection.

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We offer up some ideas on what's gone wrong with your Internet and how to fix it.

5 reasons for slow Internet

Most of the time, a slow connection is due to network Internet congestion. The cables that make up the NBN have limited capacity, like lanes of traffic on a highway. The more connections you have at the same time – or cars on the highway – the slower everything moves.

During peak hours, when large numbers of people are online at once, your connection will slow down simply because other people are clogging the network with their uploads and downloads. Beyond congestion, other things that can cause slow Internet are:

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Distance to your modem

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Old or damaged equipment

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Low bandwidth

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Background applications

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Too many devices

While there are plenty of potential causes for slow Internet, you don't have to sit there and accept it. There are a lot of ways to address slow Internet, which we'll cover in detail down below.

Compare plans for faster Internet speeds

What if I'm on ADSL?

If you have an ADSL connection and are experiencing slow broadband, this might be due to the limits of your connection type. ADSL generally won't exceed 10 or 12Mbps no matter how good your hardware is. If you're already getting around that, these tips probably won't improve your connection. Sorry!

How slow is my Internet?

To find out how fast your Internet connection is right now, you can run a speed test. This will give you an idea of your average download and upload speeds in Mbps.

The next step is to compare this to the average or expected speed for your specific connection. If you know what NBN speed tier you're on, you can compare it to the ACCC averages or your provider's typical evening speed for your plan (which should be published on its website or provided with your plan).

If you aren't sure what plan you're on, it should be listed on your most recent Internet bill or your online account with your provider.

What is a slow Internet speed?

Once you have your actual connection speed and your expected plan speed, compare the two. If your actual speed is significantly lower, try the steps in the next section to fix it.

This table gives a rough idea of what can be considered good or bad speeds for different NBN speed tiers.

NBN speed tierPoor speedsAverage speedsGood speeds
NBN25 Basic II0–15Mbps15–22Mbps22–25Mbps
NBN50 Standard0–30Mbps30–40Mbps40–50Mbps
NBN100 Fast0–60Mbps60–85Mbps85–100Mbps
NBN250 Superfast0–110Mbps110–150Mbps150–250Mbps
NBN1000 Ultrafast0–250Mbps250–500Mbps500–1,000Mbps

6 ways to improve your Internet speed

Just as there are many causes for a slow connection, there are plenty of possible fixes. Here are a few steps that might help:

#1: Check your hardware

Run a speed test on several devices in the same room to see if all of them have the same issue. If only one of them is having problems, then the issue is likely with that device. See our device-specific fixes further down, though you could always try turning your modem on and off again as a hail mary. Quick resets help sometimes.

#2: Consider if you need a new modem

DLink DVA2800If the Internet is slow on all your devices, the problem could be with your modem. First, look for any damaged cables or loose connections in need of replacement. Second, consider whether your modem might require an upgrade.

Older modems might not be capable of processing signals fast enough for modern connections. Similarly, not all NBN-capable modems support all speed tiers. For example, your modem might work just fine with an NBN 50 plan but struggle mightily with an NBN 100 or NBN 250 connection.

#3: Try improving your Wi-Fi signal

These days, most people connect to their modem via Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi can be a pain to deal with, so here are a few ways to improve your signal:

Move your modem or device
Wi-Fi signals weaken rapidly with distance. The further you are away from your modem, the weaker your signal is. Make sure you position your modem as close to your devices as possible. You also want to make sure you have the clearest line of sight possible. Walls, ceilings and doors will all weaken your Wi-Fi signal as it passes through them.

Reduce interference
Wi-Fi signals weaken rapidly with distance. The further you are away from your modem, the weaker your signal is. Make sure you position your modem as close to your devices as possible. You also want to make sure you have the clearest line of sight possible. Walls, ceilings and doors will all weaken your Wi-Fi signal as it passes through them.

Change your Wi-Fi channel
Wi-Fi signals weaken rapidly with distance. The further you are away from your modem, the weaker your signal is. Make sure you position your modem as close to your devices as possible. You also want to make sure you have the clearest line of sight possible. Walls, ceilings and doors will all weaken your Wi-Fi signal as it passes through them.

When all else fails, connecting your device with an ethernet cable will get around your Wi-Fi woes, since you'll be connected straight to the source of your connection rather than relying on Wi-Fi signals floating around. It'll also improve your connection's reliability.

#4: Give device-specific fixes a go

When your connection is running slowly on a single device, try doing these:

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Close background apps or programs

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Check for viruses

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Update your drivers

#5: Contact your provider

Sometimes, the problem isn't at your end but your provider's. Contact your provider and let it know what your issue is. It could be a faulty line running into your house or an issue with the way the network is configured at its end.

Either way, it may be able to fix the issue, provide advice or at least identify the problem for you.

#6: Change your DNS (if you're experienced!)

A Domain Name System (DNS) server effectively translates domain names like "finder.com.au" into IP addresses – numbers that your device can actually use. If your provider's default DNS server is struggling or has been hacked, it can drastically slow or break your connection.

  • It's recommended not to mess around with your DNS settings unless you're comfortable with technical settings or are desperate. In many cases, fiddling with your DNS won't improve much and some Internet providers may lock you to their DNS for a variety of reasons.

    On Windows 10, you can change your DNS server by going to your network connections, selecting "Properties" for the one you're using, then double-clicking on "Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)". Select the radial option reading "Use the following DNS server addresses".

    You can enter any DNS server you want, but there are a couple reliable ones. Google's has a good reputation: enter 8.8.8.8 (primary) and 8.8.4.4 (secondary). Cloudflare also has a decent DNS server at 1.1.1.1 (primary) and 1.0.0.1 (secondary).

    If you feel like you've done all you can, consider upgrading to a higher speed tier on the NBN. This should improve your average connection speed. Compare plans from different providers below to get the best one for your needs.

    Promoted
    Tangerine NBN offers unlimited data & 21Mbps typical evening speed for $49.90/month.

    Compare NBN plans for a faster Internet connection

    Want faster speeds? Look for plans with higher typical evening speeds than the result you got from your speed test. You can use our filters to only show the speed tiers you're interested in.

    Why is Australian Internet so slow?

    The way the NBN was implemented in Australia means that the majority of broadband connections still incorporate outdated copper wire. This older technology simply isn't capable of handling speeds much faster than what an ADSL connection can deliver, significantly lowering Australia's average Internet speed.

    At the time of writing, Australia's average speed ranked 62nd on Speedtest's global list, just behind Uruguay but ahead of Montenegro.

    Frequently asked questions about slow Internet

    Why is my Internet so slow at night?

    More people are online at night time than at any other time of the day. With more people online, Internet congestion gets way worse – think of rush hour on a road. Network cables have a limited capacity, so the more users there are, the slower everyone's traffic moves.

    In Australia, peak hours are between 7pm and 11pm, so you can expect your connection to slow down between those times. Why these hours? They're around when people are getting home from work or school and settling in for entertainment or study, using the Internet in the process.

    Does resetting your router make it faster?

    It can, but there's no guarantee. Resetting your device by turning it on and off again is a generally good quick tech fix to try, since it's easy to do.

    Do Wi-Fi boosters increase Internet speed?

    Not necessarily. All a Wi-Fi booster does is extend the range of a modem's Wi-Fi signal. This can improve your Internet speed if there's a good distance between you and the modem or there are lots of walls and such in the way. It may also help boost a signal from a modem that has extremely poor signal output.

    However, if you're not that far away from the modem and your modem has an okay signal to start with, a Wi-Fi booster probably won't help.


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    2 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      ChristopherFebruary 20, 2016

      Kind of useless, my ISP has acknowledged the congestion and just said that there are no plans of an upgrade. They’re just leaving it as is, only problem is. the congestion isn’t just peak hours of the night its from about 8am-2am through the week, and pretty much all hours of the weekend. I’m on the maximum priced 100/40 plan and their offer to fix it, is to discount me $20 from one bill….

      • Default Gravatar
        BrodieFebruary 24, 2016

        Hi Christopher,

        Sounds quite frustrating. What kind of speeds are you seeing for uploads and downloads? If you can’t reach a solution past a $20 credit with your provider I would recommend contacting them via their Facebook or Twitter. You’re much more likely to get a speedy response, and hopefully, resolution that way.

        All the best,
        Brodie

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