- Words by ITV News Westminster Producer Lewis Denison
With the UK locked-down amid the coronavirus pandemic, many people working from home for the first time are now realising their internet speeds are not as fast as they'd like.
After Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered everyone to work from home if at all possible, it is likely hundreds of thousands more people than usual are using their home Wi-Fi during work hours.
Not only this, but after schools were closed, many children have been using the internet to access their work, while the order for people to stay at home will likely see video streaming services used more frequently.
And despite many vocal Twitter users complaining about their internet speeds, broadband companies claim they are coping fine with increased demand across their networks caused by coronavirus.
Openreach, a firm which looks after local network access for 640 service providers, said it was "not seeing any significant issues across our broadband or phone network".
It said there had been a "20% increase in daytime usage" but that is "in line with what we expected and not as high as the usage levels we see during evening peak times".
Despite networks appearing as though they can cope with increased demand, several internet firms have announced they're making changes to the way they work to reduce pressure on networks.
Facebook has become the latest service to lower video bitrates to help prevent internet congestion during the coronavirus lockdown.
The social media giant said it would temporarily reduce the video quality of content on Facebook and Instagram in Europe.
It follows Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube confirming similar moves last week after concerns were raised about the ability of internet networks to handle increases in user traffic as millions stay at home during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Bitrate is the amount of data streamed per second when watching a video online.
Virgin Media, one of the UK's biggest internet service providers, told ITV News that while daytime downstream traffic (the volume of traffic downloaded from the internet) had recently increased by around 50%, it is still "significantly below" levels experienced in the evening peak.
A spokesperson said: "Our network is built to withstand evening and weekend peaks when our customers use their broadband most intensively.
"As such, any usage increase seen in the daytime (caused by more people working from home, for example) will be catered for from our existing network capacity."
Virgin Media said with more people working from home, it had noticed increased network demand during the day, from around 8am.
It also said demand on its landline network had seen "large growth", with people using their home phone 80% more week on week, peaking at 10am with just under 2.5 million calls per hour.
It also said its customers are spending "nearly twice as much time on their landline phones in the early evening", with phone call minutes up by as much as 94%.
Despite networks being maintained, more people using your home internet at the same time means your "signal" is being shared and as a result, so is your internet speed.
But there are several things you can do at home to improve your internet speed:
- First, identify the problem - check your internet speed
There are various reasons behind why your computer could be running slowly, so don't spend ages trying to improve your internet speed when something else could be the problem.
There are dozens of websites offering to test your internet speed for you, such as speedtest.net, but the easiest way to do it is by searching Google.
If you search "test internet speed", Google will ask you to click a button that says "run speed test".
If the result is "your internet speed is slow", then you should carry on reading this guide.
- Contact your internet service provider
Again, don't waste your time with the following techniques before checking with your internet service provider whether there is a problem at their end.
You can do this by phoning them up, however many providers also have this function on their website.
If you search the name of your internet provider, followed by "service status" you should find a web page that asks you to enter your postcode and in turn you'll be told if there are network problems in your area.
If there are no problems in your area, try the following steps.
- Reboot your router
The age-old quick-fix is back; if something isn't working, switch it off then turn it on again.
While it may be a running joke among IT people, restarting your internet really does work quite often, according to BT.
Make sure you wait at least five seconds before switching your box back on.
If that doesn't work there are other things you can try.
- Find the best place for your router
To get the best out of your internet connection you should make sure your router is not being obstructed by anything.
Keep it in an open location in your home.
Virgin Media says you should keep it "out of cabinets, next to the telly (not behind it), and away from baby monitors and fish tanks.
"These objects can block and slow down your Wi-Fi signal".
You should also make sure your router is stood up the way the provider has intended.
Don't sit it on its side to save space and even put it on a table or shelf rather than the floor.
Your microwave can also reduce your WiFi speed, so try not to use it when on video calls or while you're doing something important online.
- Identify Wi-Fi 'blackspots'
One reason your internet may be running slowly is that you could be working in a Wi-Fi 'blackspot'.
According to BT, "it’s often an area that is too far away from the router or separated by thick walls".
A simple solution to this is to work in a different room, closer to your internet router.
Even opening the door in the room you're working in could help improve your connection.
Alternatively, you can buy a "booster'" from your service provider for around £30 that should improve your coverage.
- Move to a wired connection
While it may not be ideal, using an Ethernet cable to connect your device is the best way.
This way, according to Virgin Media, your device will "get the fastest speeds, whilst freeing up your Wi-Fi for other devices".
"For people working from home and sharing large files, connecting their laptop with a wired connection will help them get the best speeds," the firm said.
"It’s also worth connecting devices which use more data – like games consoles and Smart TVs – with an Ethernet cable."