Does weather affect Internet speed? If you’ve ever been stuck at home on a rainy day, trying to log on with no success, you’re probably feeling pretty certain that inclement weather plays some role in your ability to surf the Web or play online games. But are rain, snow, and wind really the culprits?
Understanding Your Internet
Most urban American users have some kind of broadband Internet, typically an ADSL or cable connection. ADSL connections are offered by telecommunications providers and use high-end frequencies on regular phone lines to carry digital information. Cable connections, meanwhile, are provided by cable television suppliers and use the same coaxial cable that connects to the back of your television. ADSL offers solid, mid-range performance with very few drops in average speed. Cable offers higher top-end speeds but can be bogged down if too many users connect at the same time. Both connection types, however, share a basic transmission method: electricity over copper wires.
Some providers now offer a newer, faster type of connection: fiber-optic cable. Instead of relying on metal wires, fiber-optic cables use pulses of light to transmit information. This makes them less susceptible to many natural phenomena that affect ADSL or cable lines — in other words, weather.
Rainy Day Blues?
Small amounts of rain, wind, or snow shouldn’t impact the speed of any Internet connection. Large storms, however, can be cause for concern. High winds can knock out power lines, while extreme cold can cause ground heaves, which may break or tear existing copper lines. Cold may also cause problems for electromechanical components of a connection, such as breakers or switches. While copper has no problem conducting electricity in cold weather, other systems at the provider’s end — or your home — may not be up to the task. The result could be a lost connection, intermittent service, or a much slower experience than normal. It’s also possible for copper wires to short out if they’re frayed or broken due to extreme heat or cold. Fiber optics, meanwhile, do not come with this risk since they carry no electricity.
Inclement weather may also be the indirect cause of slow Internet. If no one is willing to venture outside, it’s a safe bet many are holed up in their homes and apartments, trying to watch movies, play games, or download music on the Internet. Higher than normal user demand during poor weather can cause severe slowdown for cable users and may prompt a server overload for ADSL subscribers.
Does weather affect Internet speed? Absolutely. Damage to power, phone, or cable lines can impact your connection, while a high number of concurrent users — perhaps trying to check the weather report — may slow it to a crawl.