This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
If you’re experiencing frustratingly slow internet speeds, the culprit could be an outdated router or a less-than-ideal router location. Your connection issues could require an easy fix, like upgrading to a mesh network or simply restarting your modem and router. But if you’ve already attempted many of the tried-and-true methods and your internet speeds are still subpar, the issue might be due to something your internet service provider is intentionally doing: bandwidth throttling.
Yes, you read that right. Your ISP could be making your Wi-Fi slower on purpose. Resulting from the 2019 Supreme Court decision declining to hear an appeal on net neutrality, ISPs can still legally stifle your internet, limiting your broadband if you’re streaming more TV than they want and serving slower connections to websites owned by their competitors.
One solution to slow Wi-Fi (if it is caused by internet throttling) is a virtual private network
. Basically, ISPs need to see your IP address to slow down your internet, and a good VPN will shield that identity — though it comes with some limitations and downsides, which I’ll discuss below. We’ll walk you through how to tell if throttling is to blame and, if not, what to do about fixing your crummy Wi-Fi. (You can also learn more about how to get free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world.)
Read more: Best Internet Providers of 2022
First, troubleshoot your slow internet connection
So your Wi-Fi is slow and you think your service provider is throttling your connection. Before you jump to those conclusions, it’s important to run through the usual troubleshooting list: Check that your router is centrally located in your home, reposition its antennas, double-check your network security and so on. If you want to read about more ways to optimize your Wi-Fi, check out our suggestions.
If you’ve run through the laundry list and your Wi-Fi is still chugging slowly, move on to the next step.