Fast Internet but Slow Streaming: What Causes It
It seems like half of what we own these days requires a WiFi connection to work properly. Appliances, sprinkler systems, and even the front door. If you’re a cord-cutter, you can probably add a half dozen more devices to your list. With all those connected devices, it’s important that our homes have fast internet connections. We’re not only competing with other connected devices on our networks for bandwidth, but with our neighbors as well. You’ll need faster connections to keep up. But what if that’s not enough? What if you’ve got fast internet but slow streaming?
Even if you’ve got a super fast internet connection, you could have issues when you stream high-definition video. The most common symptom of fast internet but slow streaming is buffering.
What is Buffering?
Most of us know when our video is buffering but may not know what the device is doing. Quite simply, your internet connection can’t always deliver data at the speeds necessary to stream a movie. To counter this, your device pre-loads the data into a cache, and delivers the stored info at the right rate. If you’re seeing a spinning wheel, your cache is empty, and the device can’t display your video. You’re actually experiencing a problem with your buffering, and not something called buffering. The end result is a less than enviable viewing experience.
Having fast internet but slow streaming usually means your device is fighting for bandwidth with other connected devices. Videos buffering with fast internet is indicative of bigger issues. In order to improve your speeds, you’ll have to find out what is eating up all your bandwidth.
Finding the cause can be maddening. We’ve all been there. We have what should be a very capable connection, but we still buffer half the night away. Fortunately, with a little troubleshooting know-how, you can restore your internet speeds to their former glory. Here’s how to troubleshoot video streaming issues when you should have ample bandwidth.
Troubleshooting Video Streaming Issues
If you’ve ever read the classic business book The Goal, you may be familiar with the theory of constraints. It says that any manageable system can be prevented from working at full efficiency by a small number of constraints. Those constraints are known as bottlenecks, and they slow the system down or otherwise hinder it. If you’ve got fast internet but slow streaming, you’ve got to identify your bottlenecks. You’ve got to find the weakest link. Here’s how to do it.
Run an Internet Speed Test
The first step in troubleshooting internet speeds is to make sure you’re getting the speeds you think you are. Many internet service providers advertise a max speed, which doesn’t represent your actual speeds. Plus, your average speeds could be considerably lower than the advertised max. To find out what kind of speeds you are actually getting, it’s good to run a speed test.
There are a number of websites that provide free internet speed tests. You can find a handful with a quick internet search. The sites will send signals both ways and determine what kinds of speed you’re getting. Make sure to perform your test using a hard-wired connection for the most accurate results. You can follow that up with a WiFi test to see if you’ve got a bottleneck there afterward.
If you’re getting the speeds you expect, but still experience streaming issues, you’ll have to look at your home network.
Restart Your Router
Once you’ve identified the fact that you’re experiencing issues, it’s time to restart some hardware. It’s the first piece of advice I offer for almost all tech problems, and this is no different. Our electrical devices may run for months or years without ever being turned off. If you’ve got fast internet but slow streaming, the fix may be as simple as restarting your router. You’d be surprised how often this solves streaming problems.
If your connection is delivering acceptable speeds and your router works properly, it’s time to tackle the network. Learning the common causes teaches you how to fix streaming problems.
Causes of Fast Internet but Slow Streaming
When we deal with fast internet but slow streaming, we want to find out where our bandwidth is getting lost. Better management of our connected devices can be an easy fix. Take inventory of your usage. See if any of these common situations are affecting your speeds.
Too Many Connected Devices
The concept of a completely connected home was made a reality recently. It was a cool enough idea that it drove millions of consumers to fill their homes with internet-connected outlets. Turns out, we don’t need to turn every lamp in the house on or off from our phones. If you’ve got a lot of devices that are constantly connected, they can cause video streaming issues. Disconnecting a few of them could increase your streaming speeds. Luckily, that doesn’t mean unplugging everything in your home.
You can log into your router through the online portal to see what’s connected. While you’re there, you can usually disconnect some of them right on the spot. They may have odd names, however, which can make it hard to identify which is which.
A simple way to whittle down your list of connected devices is to change your router password. If you go this route, you’ll get the added benefit of improving the security of your home network. It’s a win-win.
Streaming Videos at High Resolution
All the new 4k offerings on streaming services look great. You can see every detail in extraordinary clarity. Unfortunately, streaming 4k videos uses up a lot of bandwidth. Lowering the resolution could make a big difference, especially when multiple people are streaming at once.
Full HD also looks incredibly clear, and it requires a fraction of the bandwidth to stream. And if you don’t have a 4k TV, you likely won’t notice the difference anyway. Reducing your resolution helps solve the issue of videos loading slowly, and allows you to stream on multiple devices simultaneously.
Problem with Particular Streaming Services
Sometimes, if you’ve got fast internet but slow streaming, it’s due to the app itself. If you have a tendency to watch one more than others, try switching it up. If one continually buffers while another streams seamlessly, it’s possible the buffering app needs a reboot.
If that particular app continues giving you trouble, try uninstalling and reinstalling it. Sometimes those apps get bogged down by data that gets stored in the background. Uninstalling and reinstalling frees the device of that data and allows it to operate more efficiently.
You can also try streaming on one of the more popular services to identify whether or not you have speed issues. If you experience YouTube videos buffering with fast internet, you know something is up.
Other Apps or Programs Running in the Background
If your streaming video keeps stopping, fixing it could be as simple as closing an app or two. That’s because when your device is working in the background, that energy is taken away from your streaming video. When we’ve got too many other apps or programs open, they can impact our streaming speeds. Close anything that runs or refreshes in the background.
Competing Activities that Use a Lot of Bandwidth
If you do a lot online that uses considerable bandwidth, hold off until later in the day. If you and your family stream most of your video in the evenings, perform other activities later. Activities that require considerable upload speeds are especially important to hold off on. If you are uploading videos or sharing large files, try postponing until late night or early morning. Fewer people in the neighborhood will be streaming, and you’ll get the fastest possible speeds.
Make Sure You Have Enough Bandwidth
Once you’re finished troubleshooting streaming video issues, you’ll want to compare that with what you need. Having enough bandwidth is key to avoiding fast internet but slow streaming. But do you know how much that is? Each service will have the recommendation to go along with each level of bandwidth.
For instance, different video resolutions require different amounts of bandwidth. If you stream in SD, that video only requires about 1 MB/s. If you upgrade that to full HD, you’ll need 5 MB/s to play that same movie or show. 4k will require a substantial increase to 20 MB/s.
Make sure you have enough bandwidth to handle all your streaming, plus everything else on the network. Having a little extra headroom will help you handle the additional draw from visitors and prevent streaming problems.
Choose a Great Provider
Sometimes the solution to fast internet but slow streaming is a new service provider or increased service level. Your home network can only work with what it gets, and you need to make sure that’s ample. Make sure your speeds are fast enough to handle your typical usage, and then some. If your provider can’t supply the speeds you need, it’s time for an upgrade.