Why Your Internet Speed Slows to a Crawl

Think your Internet connection is especially slow? You may be right — especially if you log on during peak hours. Find out why it happens.

Do you regularly pound your desk over the snail-like pace of your Internet connection? If so, you are not alone.

New data is helping researchers identify ISP interconnections with poor performance.

In research released this week, Measurement Lab — which provides Internet performance data — highlights six regions of the United States where certain Internet service providers’ interconnections have had notable problems during the first half of 2015.

Such problems can result in slowed Internet speeds for the ISPs’ customers, especially during peak use hours.

M-Lab noted that these issues occur across the United States, but highlighted four notable instances of degraded performance:

AT&T over GTT in Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles

While AT&T users experienced “the most consistent patterns of congestion-related degradation,” it was most notable over interconnections with GTT in these three cities and “most extreme” in Chicago and Atlanta. Comcast did not experience the same issues in these cities.

CenturyLink over Tata in Seattle

CenturyLink clients received consistent speeds throughout the day with Cogent but not with Tata during peak hours. Comcast did not experience the same issues over Tata in Seattle.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon over GTT and Tata in New York City

Customers of the first three companies all saw degraded performance when connecting across GTT and Tata, especially Comcast and Verizon customers connecting across GTT.

None of the Comcast, Time Warner or Verizon customers experienced the same trouble across other ISPs, like Internap and Zayo.

Verizon over GTT in Washington, D.C.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable customers also experienced degradation across GTT here, but to less of an extent than Verizon.

Why do the slowdowns occur?

CNN Money explains:

Internet service providers (the companies we buy Internet access from) have interconnection deals with so-called tier-1 networks that serve the Internet’s content to the world. But when the broadband companies feel that the tier-1s are using up too much bandwidth, particularly during peak Internet usage hours, Internet service providers often ask tier-1 networks to pay a toll for all the traffic they’re sending.

When they’re unable to reach an agreement, broadband companies will often refuse to broaden the pipe for tier-1s, resulting in extremely slow speeds during peak hours.

Frustrated with your ISP’s performance? Sound off in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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