Fact Check: Is Your Internet Slower Because of the Pandemic?

Danika Miller
Danika Miller
Internet & Entertainment Writer

Nearly every U.S. state is closing schools, and millions of people are working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The New York Times, “at least 248 million people in at least 29 states, 79 counties, 14 cities, and one territory are being urged to stay home.” As a result, most people are using their home internet a lot more than usual. 

Those people are also worried about their internet speeds. This past week, search volume for “is my internet connection slow?” spiked, showing that people are actively checking their connections.

However, reports on U.S. internet providers show there’s no need to worry.

Though there has been an increase in internet traffic, internet providers are still operating at steady speeds — even if you’re personally experiencing a slower connection.

U.S. internet speeds hold steady

Ookla, home of the Speedtest, has been tracking the pandemic’s impact on internet performance. Based on widespread user internet speed tests, Ookla reports that broadband performance in North America has only seen a very slight dip in the past month. 

However, the volume of people using Speedtest to check their internet connection soared in March. 

Most providers have reported they will be able to maintain speeds and services. For example, Comcast reported a 32% increase in traffic and that its network is performing well. On Xfinity’s COVID-19 response page, Tony Werner, President of Technology, Product, and Xperience says “We engineer the network to handle spikes and shifts in usage, and what we have seen so far with COVID-19 is within our capacity.”

Verizon also has an updated-daily blog post that maintains the company’s capacity to meet demands.

Other countries have seen some lag 

Concerns about internet speeds may be influenced by what’s happening around the globe. Italy’s nationwide lockdown, for example, saw a surge in internet traffic that led to a few temporary outages early on. 

Luigi Gubitosi, CEO of Telecom Italia, one of the country’s internet providers, told analysts, “We reported an increase of more than 70% of internet traffic over our landline network, with a big contribution from online gaming such as Fortnite.”

Streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV+ are automatically reducing the streaming resolution in Europe to help alleviate the burden. 

So, why does your internet seem slower?

You’ve likely never used your home internet in the way you are now. Video conferencing, streaming, gaming, online course software, etc. are all demanding activities. Now that they’re done more frequently, your current internet package may not have the bandwidth to support the same speeds as before. 

This will be especially true if you also have more people at home, like students back from school. The more devices that tune in, the slower the connection. 

A few ways to improve your speed

There are a few ways you can improve your connected:

  • Check your router location. The distance between your wireless router and the devices connecting can impact the connection. Make sure your router isn’t hidden in the basement when you’re trying to watch a movie in the upstairs bedroom.
  • Buy your own router or extender. The router/modem combos your internet provider rent out are pretty low-tech. They’ll also be on the same frequency as all your neighbors who also rented the same router, which causes congestion during peak traffic times. Buying your own router or WiFi mesh system will improve your connection and open up a whole suite of settings to customize and strengthen your speed.
  • Upgrade your speed. You may simply need a faster internet plan for your new lifestyle. You can upgrade with your current provider, or shop around for a better deal. Make sure you’ve calculated how much speed you’ll need before committing.

About the Authors

Danika Miller

Danika Miller Internet & Entertainment Writer

Danika Miller has been writing for Reviews.com for three years, where she specializes in streaming, internet, and TV topics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in creative and technical writing from Western Washington University.