Why Would Wireless Internet Work in the Morning & Not in the Evening?
By Josh Fredman
There is little else so uniquely frustrating as a slow or broken Internet connection. Usually when your connection breaks you can reboot your modem to fix the problem. Otherwise, a broken connection tends to stay broken until someone fixes it. But sometimes you may experience a distinct pattern of Internet service interruptions, such as evening disruptions. Periodic service disruptions are often the result of network congestion—not on your personal home network, but on the Internet company’s network in your neighborhood.
Nationally, personal Internet usage peaks three times a day: in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. The evening peak tends to be the biggest of the three, and therefore the likeliest to result in network congestion. Local circumstances vary, but if your circumstances are typical then you can expect more congestion in the evening than at any other time. When you try to use a congested network some pages and files will load slowly, or simply won’t load at all.
The morning and afternoon Internet usage peaks occur mainly on corporate networks as people use the Internet at work. The evening peak, however, occurs mainly on residential networks as people use the Internet at home. Residential networks tend not to be as robust, which makes congestion problems likelier and more severe.
Internet service providers often sell more service subscriptions than their networks can physically support. Their gamble is that customers won’t use all of their bandwidth at the same time. Cutting corners like this saves the providers money on infrastructure development costs, but it means that network congestion will be worse. When you bought an Internet service plan, the provider probably advertised a connection speed to you, such as 10 Mbps. Think of that number as a speed limit. That is as fast as it gets. Now think of your Internet connection as a car on a congested freeway during rush hour. On residential networks, evening is the big rush hour. If your provider doesn’t have a robust network, then during the rush hour you probably won’t hit the speed limit. Since network congestion can cause webpages not to load at all, you might network congestion for a broken connection.
Depending on your circumstances, there may be other reasons to explain why your wireless Internet connection doesn’t work during the evening. Some local electronics, such as microwaves, cause interference to wireless signals. If you have too many people in your house using wireless Internet at once, your personal home network may be suffering from congestion. Neighbors and other locals may piggyback on your Internet connection if you use an unsecured network, which can also cause congestion on your personal network. If you use wireless Internet over a smart phone, your connection has to compete for access to the local cell tower, and if you live in a residential area that tower may be more congested during the evening. There may also be any number of technical problems.
Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.