Why Is The Internet So Slow? Service Outages Across The Country Have Everyone Mad

We all knew the internet was going to turn into a glacially paced mess, but we didn’t think it would be happening so soon. On Dec. 18, everyone got a nasty little preview of a slow-internet world, when outages across the country brought everyone’s service to a stuttering halt. So if you’re wondering why the internet is so slow, that’s why. It’s a buffering nightmare.

UPDATE: A representative of CenturyLink, the parent company of Level 3, said via email that reports that their network was suffering an outage were inaccurate. "The CenturyLink network is operating normally. We are aware of Downdetector reports about our network," D. Nikki Wheeler tells Elite Daily by email. She cited Downdetector’s disclaimer which notes that it collects Twitter reports of issues, but does not itself make judgements about outages.

EARLIER: On Monday afternoon, two major “backbone” internet service providers (ISPs), Level 3 and Cogent, were hit with huge outages, according to Slate. ISP monitor Downdetector showed the outages hitting basically every major metropolitan area in the United States, including the Boston / New York / Washington D.C. chain, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas. There were also smaller hot (or, more accurately, not) spots in the areas of Miami, Houston, and Minneapolis. So basically, a whole lot of people were feeling the pain.

Because of the interconnectedness of the internet, though, you might have been hit with limited access or slower service even if you don't recognize either of these names as the one that shows up on your wifi bill. Customers who use Verizon or Comcast could feel the effects too of the outage, Slate notes.

People were not happy.

By the evening, it appeared to have cleared up (somewhat) — by around 7:30 p.m. ET, many of the bright red spots had faded to orange, or even yellow. So, you know, just regularly lousy service. Not the spectacularly bad service that everyone was moaning about.

Adding to the irony, of course, is the timing.

Only four days before, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality in what many called a blow to a free and open internet. One of the things that opponents of the repeal were most worried about? Slow internet service, throttled bandwith, and lack of accessibility.

So the outage was pretty ironic.

On Dec. 14, the five member FCC voted 3-2 to repeal Obama-era guidelines on net neutrality, which laid out regulations on how ISPs could provide service. The regulations required that ISPs treat the internet as an equal playing field, and prohibited them from blocking or slowing access to sites or apps, or favoring certain sites or apps above others. The rules, which were put in place in 2015, labeled high speed internet as a public utility similar to phones.

Many advocates of net neutrality were concerned that without the rules in place, ISPs would create a tiered internet in which consumers would have to pay extra to access certain sites or features, and in which small or underground players would be disadvantaged. Maine Senators Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an Independent, wrote a joint letter on the day of the scheduled vote calling on the FCC to delay it. The letter read in part,

The proposal removes basic oversight over broadband practices that would impede the internet’s ability to serve our democracy, empower consumers, and fuel economic growth ... The open internet has fostered a dynamic digital economy, connected communities, and provided small businesses and startups unlimited opportunities to create and develop content and technologies that have improved lives all across the globe.

Of course, the rule repeal didn't immediately go into effect, so it's pretty unlikely this is about net neutrality. (Neither Level 3 nor Cogent immediately responded to Elite Daily's inquiry about the source of the outages.) It's far more likely to be just your generic crappy service. But it's pretty ironic nonetheless.

When everyone said the internet's days were numbered, we didn't expect it to be quite this fast, after all.