How to fix internet outages

Lisa Iscrupe

May 28, 2021 — 4 min read

It always seems to happen at the most inconvenient times. Get the lowdown on frequent outages and what you can do about it.

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You flip open your laptop, ready for a productive day. Or, you power on your smart TV to watch Criminal Minds with your CBS All Access free trial. But instead, you’re met with an ugly error message telling you there is no internet connection. 

Whether the internet at your home goes out once a month, or once a week, it’s never a good time to have your online plans derailed. No matter when a Wi-Fi interruption strikes, we’ll show you what might be causing an internet outage in your area and how to troubleshoot it.

Common reasons your internet is down

If the internet or Wi-Fi isn’t working at your home, check these typical offenders off your list before deep-diving into more complicated solutions. Remember that Occam’s razor states “of two competing theories, the simpler explanation of an entity is to be preferred,” or in other words, the most simple solution is typically the correct one. 

Here are the most likely reasons your internet isn’t working:

  • There’s an issue with your internet equipment. 
  • Your Wi-Fi signal is compromised.
  • The website you are visiting is down.
  • Your internet service provider (ISP) is experiencing an outage. 

Remember, the most simple solution is typically the correct one.

Troubleshoot your internet outage

Keep in mind that each of the issues above may be caused by multiple factors, so you might have to try more than one fix before finding the issue with your internet connection. Here are our suggestions for how to fix several different types of internet outages.

  • Internet equipment issues: Equipment is the most common cause for an internet outage. Solving an issue with your internet equipment may be as simple as rebooting your modem or checking to make sure your power cords are securely plugged in. To reboot your modem, simply unplug the modem, wait a few seconds and then plug it back in. You’ll see the lights on your modem switch on to green after a few minutes to indicate your modem is properly connected to the internet again. 
  • Poor Wi-Fi connection: A poor Wi-Fi connection might be solved by disconnecting extra devices overloading your home internet bandwidth or by moving your Wi-Fi router to a new physical location. For instance, if you aren’t using your smartphone or tablet, you can just switch your Wi-Fi off on those devices to help boost your Wi-Fi connection for those devices you are currently using. 
  • The website you are visiting is down: Your internet is working, but the website you want to visit is having technical difficulties, such as a 500 Internal Server Error or a 504 gateway timeout error.  If this happens, try refreshing the page or try re-visiting the page in a couple of hours. 
  • Your ISP is experiencing an outage: If you have tried all the steps above and you still have no internet access, then the issue might be with your ISP. It is worth calling your provider’s customer support team to find out what the issue is and how long it will take to get you back online.

Why is my internet service provider down?

An internet outage at your home may be a direct result of an issue with your ISP. Though rare, here are the most common problems that can affect your internet supplier.

The top five reasons your ISP might be experiencing an internet outage:

  1. Standard maintenance 
  2. Bad weather/natural disasters
  3. Network congestion
  4. Regional power outage
  5. Human error/cyber attacks (hacking)

Most ISPs have a way to notify you if the internet is out in your area. Of course, you may only be able to access that info through your smartphone’s data plan, so it’s a good idea to download your ISP’s app ahead of time. 

It may also be helpful to check local message boards, such as Nextdoor, to see if your neighbors are also experiencing internet issues. Or, you can type in your provider at downdetector.com for real-time updates on reported outages. 

And if you are having frequent outages in your area, it may be time to shop around for a more reliable internet provider in your area

When to call customer service

If you’ve gone through the troubleshooting list above and your internet is still not working, or if you suspect the problem is with your ISP, then it might be time to contact customer service. You may even be eligible for a bill credit depending on which internet provider you use and how long your internet connection has been down.

Life hacks for when your internet is down

Have a report that is due ASAP and don’t have time to troubleshoot? We’ve all been there. If you need internet access like yesterday, here are a couple of speedy solutions to get you connected again instantly. 

  • Use your smartphone — Connect to your mobile network using your data plan (rather than a Wi-Fi signal). Most websites are mobile-friendly nowadays. So, just switch off your phone’s Wi-Fi and start getting things done on your mini-computer, aka your cellphone. 
  • Turn your smartphone into a mobile hotspot — If it’s necessary to use your laptop to complete your online activities, your cellphone can still be your saving grace. Many cellphone plans include a mobile hotspot option already. Follow these steps to turn on your mobile hotspot
  • Find a public hotspot — Save the troubleshooting for later and get to another location where you can connect to Wi-Fi. Use this hotspot guide to see where your ISP offers free hotspots, plus other public spots that typically offer Wi-Fi access.

Check back to the Resource Center for more internet tips and tricks, or sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Erin Gobler

Written by:

Erin Gobler

Erin Gobler is a personal finance writer based in Madison, WI. She writes about topics including budgeting, student loans, credit, mortgages, investing, broadband and insurance. Including Allconnect.com, her wor… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Read bio

Lisa Iscrupe

Written by:

Lisa Iscrupe

Writer, Broadband & Data Content

Lisa uses years of experience in sales and customer service for internet-TV providers to inform her writing on broadband. Her work has been referenced by CNN and other national sources. In Lisa’s Words: Ever… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Read bio