Why is my internet connection slow?

We know that slow internet interrupts life. Slow internet speed can be caused by a range of factors, which makes it a challenge to pinpoint the exact cause. However, there are some things you can do to get the best speed possible from your service before calling for repair.

 

  1. Check your modem/router
  2. Consider bandwidth and usage
  3. Optimize WiFi setup
  4. Adjust device settings
  5. Check your wiring

 

Think you might have an internet outage? If your service appears to be down completely, get help on our outage page, or search for an outage using Troubleshooter. This page only addresses a slow or spotty internet connection.

Pro tip: It can be useful to run a speed test before troubleshooting for a slow internet connection. Then, after following the steps here, run the test again to see the improvement for yourself.

1. Check your modem/router

Your connection speed depends a lot on how your modem/router is running. (Note: Since your CenturyLink equipment is a combination modem and router, we use both words in this article.) 


Adjust your router position

 

You might be surprised by how much your internet speed can be impacted by where your router sits. You want to find a spot that is up off the floor and centrally located in your home (or in the area of your home where most internet activity takes place).

Illustration showing that WiFi signal is stronger if the router is placed in the open

Place your router out in the open for better connection strength. Avoid closets and crowded bookshelves.

Graphic showing that fridges and fish tanks can hurt WiFi signal strength

Avoid placing your router close to heavy, dense appliances and large metal or glass objects.

Physical obstructions can also be major culprits in slowing down your WiFi speed. Look out for any of these things standing between your router and your connected devices:

 

  • Brick or concrete walls or floors
  • Thick, heavy doors or windows
  • Large containers of water (such as fish tanks) 
  • Large metal appliances (especially refrigerators) 

 

Do your best to move the router or move other items so that these things are not blocking the path between your router and your devices.

Illustration showing how walls, floors, and distance can all weaken WiFi signal strength

Distance, as well as obstructions like walls and floors, can weaken your WiFi signal strength.

Reboot your router

 

Routers can get bogged down after running for a while. The easiest way to fix many connectivity problems is to restart your router. If you find you're needing to restart frequently, it's easier than ever to set up a daily or weekly reboot to keep things running smoothly.

Check for firmware updates

 

Next, check to see if you need to update your modem's firmware. This is key to making sure this essential piece of equipment is free of bugs and running optimally.

As a last resort, you can try resetting your modem. Similar to resetting a smartphone or reinstalling a computer's operating system, this will erase custom settings and return the modem to its factory default status.

Fiber internet service comes with specific equipment requirements to work with the fiber-optic technology. For one thing, with faster speeds, you need to make sure your gateway (modem) can keep up. If your service is connected using a different modem, you may not be getting the performance you expect.


2. Bandwidth needs and usage

How many devices are using up your bandwidth?

Start by understanding internet and WiFi speeds, and how they relate to all the connected devices in your home. The combined bandwidth used by all your devices may be more than you think. And the more bandwidth is used, the less speed you see on any one device. Use a bandwidth table to calculate your household's peak hour usage. Don't forget to include all of the following connected devices (and there very well may be more):  

 

  • Smartphones, computers and tablets
  • Web-enabled cameras or smart home security systems 
  • DVRs, smart TVs,  and video streaming devices
  • Additional routers, VoIP phones, wireless printers
  • Voice assistants and smart speakers (like Alexa and Google Home)
Graphic showing bandwidth usage by various devices

Different online activities use up your available bandwidth. The more devices you have active at the same time, the more you may see slower speeds. 

Many of these devices are always on and may be running updates or backups in the background, which can slow internet speeds down quite a bit. The bandwidth required to upload data can even take away from your download bandwidth. Whenever possible, power off or disconnect devices that you aren't using. This can free up more speed for the ones you are using. You may also want to check device settings to ensure backups aren't scheduled at the same time as your personal use peak hours. 

 

The key is, needs vary widely. One person living alone could easily get by with a 5 Mbps connection, while a large household doing multiple activities may need at least 20 Mbps. Set realistic expectations — depending on your plan speed, you may not be able to have three family members videoconferencing, streaming TV, and gaming online at the same time. Those three activities in particular require substantial upload speeds as well as download, so check your plan.

Special notes related to speed

Peak hours: When the majority of households are online, internet traffic slows down across all networks. This is usually from about 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. You may notice that your internet is slower at these times.

 

Consider the role of various web hosts: Content providers and apps send out huge volumes of high-bandwidth video content worldwide. If a video streaming provider is getting more demand than their bandwidth can handle, this can cause video buffering — meaning it lags or sticks while loading. 


3. Optimize your WiFi setup

What we think of as "slow internet" can sometimes be a weak WiFi signal. Wireless speeds tend to be less than wired speeds on the same network, due to interference and signal loss over distance. But there are ways you can make sure your WiFi is running as fast as possible. 

 

Optimize your router. See #1 above.

 

Reduce interference from other electronics. Other devices in your home can slow down your WiFi connection, including microwaves, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, TVs, wireless security systems, baby monitors, garage door openers, and more. If you have a newer modem, opt for a 5 GHz frequency signal to get a stronger connection and avoid some congestion from surrounding devices, many of which use the 2.4 GHz band.

Signal range and strength for 2.4 GHz versus 5 GHz wireless

5 GHz will give you more signal strength and faster speed over a shorter range, compared to 2.4 GHz.

Protect your WiFi network with a good password. If you don’t have a strong password, anyone close to your home can access your WiFi network and cause it to slow down. There are other ways you can ensure a secure network as well.

Consider a WiFi extender. If your service is weak in parts of your home that are farther away from your router, a WiFi extender can increase your signal coverage in more distant areas.


4. Check your device settings

Your network connection and your WiFi are only part of the speed equation. The devices that you connect to your internet also play a role. To get the best performance, make sure devices, apps and software are up to date, free of malware, and not being overloaded.

 

Run antivirus scans on all devices

 

Antivirus protection is essential for good performance. Viruses and malware can slow down your whole system, including internet speed performance. Make sure every device is healthy by installing well-rated security software, keeping it updated and running security scans at least weekly. CenturyLink internet subscribers can get McAfee protection for free on two devices.

 

Update your browser

 

Your web browser (Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox, etc.) plays a major role in your experience when you are online. Make sure yours is running smoothly.

  • Update your browser. Make sure your browser software and all plug-ins and extensions (like Java, Silverlight and others) are up to date. You can use a third-party website to do a browser check, and visit the support site for each browser to download any needed updates or get additional help.

  • Clear cache on a regular basis. Your browser saves data from most websites you visit, which over time can slow everything down. Look in your browser settings and tools for "Clear cache, cookies and history" or a similar option, then follow the prompts.

Check device speed and wireless adapters

 

Many devices have WiFi connectivity built in, like cell phones and newer laptops, smart TVs and other smart devices. Others, like desktop computers and older laptops, may need a wireless adapter to access WiFi. Whether you’re using a wireless adapter or a device with built-in WiFi, it’s useful to understand what speeds you can expect from that device. Some devices (including newer WiFi devices) may transmit data over WiFi at a slower speed than your router. You can look up speed specifications by doing a web search or going to the device manufacturer website. The speed will be shown in Mbps (Megabits per second).

Graphic showing how the age of your devices can impact speed

Older devices can slow down your performance, even on a fast internet connection.

Adjust device settings or usage

 

Devices can get bogged down by too many applications running. Be in the habit of shutting down programs that you're not using to free up memory on your computer. The same is true if you tend to keep several browser windows or tabs active at the same time. This can cause lags or other problems when browsing the internet, so close any extra tabs that you're not actively using.

 

If you have smart devices running around your home, try lowering the screen resolution on any devices with a screen to save even more bandwidth and guard against a slow internet connection.


5. Check your wiring

Finally, checking both indoor and outdoor wiring can help determine if there's a connection problem that needs attention, either with your home equipment or with the CenturyLink network.

Check all cords and cables for damage. Also check to make sure both ends of the cables are firmly plugged in. Sometimes in regular use, they can get pulled loose.

  1. The power cord (often black) should be plugged into a wall outlet and into the power port on the back of the modem. 

  2. The DSL cord (often green) should be firmly plugged into the green DSL port on back of the modem, with the other end plugged into a working phone jack (until it clicks). 

  3. The Ethernet cord (often yellow) should be plugged into one of the Ethernet ports on the back of the modem, with the other end plugged into your computer's Ethernet port. You can try a different port if your modem has multiple ports, as shown in the image.
C4000 DSL port and power
Modem ports

DSL and power ports on the back of the C4000LG

DSL and power ports on the back of the C3000A
The ports will be similar on any box or tower-style DSL modem/router.

You can figure out if there's a connection problem inside or outside your home by testing your service at the network box (Network Interface Device or NID).

Do you have both internet and home phone service from CenturyLink?

If you have both internet and home phone service from CenturyLink, then you will need to put DSL filters on all landline phones in the house. This ensures that your internet signal doesn't interfere with your landline.

Phone plugging into filter (diagram)

Plug the phone cord into a filter and then into the wall jack

Note: If you have cordless phones, you only need to install a filter on the phone base that plugs in to the wall jack; no filters are needed on the cordless units that only plug into an electrical outlet.


Make sure you do not have a filter installed between the modem and the wall jack.

Modem plugging in with no filter (diagram)

The DSL cord from the modem to the jack should not have a filter


If you want to plug both your modem and your phone into the same wall jack, you can use a DSL splitter, as shown in the diagram below.

Splitter to plug DSL line and phone into same jack (diagram)

Use a DSL splitter to plug a phone and a modem into one wall jack


Tried everything and still need more speed?

Once you've gone through the steps above, run the internet speed test to find out your current download and upload speeds. If you want to see what speed you're paying for, check your plan details in My CenturyLink

 

It's a good idea to run the speed test a few times to get an average. For the best view of the network speed to your home, run the test on a computer plugged directly into your modem with an Ethernet cable. It can be useful to compare that result to your speed on different devices, to help determine if there's a slowdown occurring on one particular device.

After running the speed test, which statement best describes your situation? Click below to see solutions.

If your internet is dropping or you are frequently getting slower internet connection speeds than you expect, then there may be a problem with the network connection at your address. There are two things you can do:

  1. Run our Troubleshooter to diagnose issues with your line. If needed, you can open a repair ticket and schedule a technician directly from the program.

  2. Contact a support agent for additional help or to request repair. We are here to help you get the best performance possible for your service.

If you're testing close to your plan speed, but still struggle with lag times and other symptoms of low bandwidth, you may simply need faster service. In this case, you have two options:

Upgrade your service. Check to see if you can upgrade to a faster internet plan. Log in to My CenturyLink online or through the app and check My Products to see whether a speed upgrade is available at your address.  

Add a second line. A popular option is to double your speed by adding a second internet line to your home. The additional line can be used exclusively for gaming and streaming, remote work/learning, or whatever you want. This is a great solution when you've optimized your connection and a higher speed service isn't available in your area. 

Look into rural internet options. Rural areas often get slower speeds than urban centers. If you live in a rural area, read more about using wireless internet through an antenna to improve performance.

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Related topics from our Discover blog

Troubleshoot problems with your home phone or internet service.

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