Think the winter weather might be shutting down your internet? Here’s what to do

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As a lifelong resident of Carolina, I have seen severe weather, although my experiences pale in comparison to a blizzard or severe thunderstorm in other parts of the country.

Even with relatively mild conditions here, bad weather has been to blame for temporarily losing my internet connection on more than one occasion. Snow, ice, rain and even heavy cloud cover can interfere with you internet servicedepending on internet connection type you have

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Satellite internet most vulnerable to service disruptions due to weather conditions. But fixed wireless or 5G home internet connection may also experience weather-related internet issues. Cable, DSL and fiber internet connections are more reliable, but a particularly bad storm has the potential to cut power internet in your area and in your home.

Before internet outages rain down on your parade, it’s important to know what to expect from your service in the run-up to bad weather and what preventative measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of problems. (We also have a guide How to disconnect from your home internet providerand How to determine if your Wi-Fi router is in the wrong location.)

Satellite Internet is most vulnerable to bad weather conditions

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you’ll experience service interruptions due to snow and ice, heavy rain and thick cloud cover. satellite internet.

Satellite signals must travel far enough from an orbiting satellite — often about 22,000 miles or more above Earth — to reach your home. Any obstacles along the way, such as rain or heavy cloud cover and the accompanying signal-shattering water droplets, can disrupt your internet service.

Not only that, but the food itself can get mixed up with snow and ice, which, while less of a problem than heavy rain or cloud cover, can still affect your service.

Satellite dish covered with snow on the roof

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What to do with snow and ice

The rain and clouds will eventually pass, but snow and ice may linger for days or weeks in some areas. A light dusting of snow or a thin layer of ice will probably have little or no effect on your internet service, but a significant accumulation of an inch or more (an inch really matters here in the South) can cause problems.

When snow or ice builds up on your satellite dish and affects your internet service, you can remove it yourself, as long as you can do so safely. It’s not uncommon for satellite dishes to sit on a roof, deck railing, or other hard-to-reach location, which can make access and cleaning difficult and dangerous, especially in icy conditions. Do not attempt to remove snow or ice from your food if you cannot reach it safely.

If you can safely reach your container, try to remove the snow by hand or with a soft-bristled brush such as a hand broom. Be gentle and try to avoid pushing or moving the dish, as this can dislodge the dish even by a few centimeters and reduce the signal quality or lose the signal altogether. Additionally, you should avoid using anything that will scratch the surface, such as a windshield scraper, to avoid damaging the bowl.

In the case of ice buildup, applying a little warm water will usually solve the problem. For best results and to avoid dislodging the pan or damaging any internal components, use a spray bottle until the ice is gone or internet service is restored. Again, you’ll want to avoid using anything that might damage or move the bowl, like an ice cube.

Won’t pot warmers or covers do the trick for me?

It is often said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I don’t know if the satellite dish heaters and covers are fully stocked, but they are worth a shot.

You’ll probably get the best results with a pot warmer. Starlink pans come with a built-in heater (very nice). cold weather cats might be tempted to turn your dish into a personal oasis), but you can buy HughesNet or Viasat online for a few hundred dollars. Note that they will also add a bit to the electricity bill, but most units have a temperature gauge and automatically turn on when needed to prevent snow and ice build-up, helping to keep energy consumption low.

Satellite dish covers are a cheaper option, but they are usually less effective. You’ll have no problem finding cookware for under $50 online, but the results may be short-lived. Dish covers can collect dirt, dust and pollen, creating a prime surface for snow and ice, so you can still clean your dish by hand even with a dish cover.

Heavy rain and cloud cover are satellite kryptonite

Installing a rain shield to protect your satellite dish may seem like a simple solution to prevent temporary outages, but unfortunately, it can’t be helped.

Because satellite signals must travel miles to reach your home, they can encounter service-disrupting conditions anywhere along the way, not just near your dish. Therefore, even if it is not raining or cloudy above your house, you may experience weather-related internet outages. A rain shield will not help prevent connection problems. If anything, installing a solid surface on or around your food can also block the signal, causing even more service disruption.

So, in the event of an internet outage due to rain or cloud cover, there’s not much you can do except wait for it to pass and service to resume. It’s not all bad news, however, as satellite providers have made improvements in recent years to minimize the impact of bad weather on your internet connection.

Design and technology improvements HughesNet and Viasatfor example, smaller, smoother dishes and stronger internet signals have helped reduce satellite internet’s vulnerability to rain and cloud cover. You will also be introduced to innovative satellite technology Starlinkone with features improved container design along with low-orbit satellite technology helps reduce weather-related disruptions. while also significantly improving speeds, latency, and overall performance. This does not mean that weather-related service interruptions will not occur with satellite Internet; they are not as common as they might have been in the past.

Fixed wireless and 5G internet is not entirely clear

Over-the-air Internet services, such as fixed wireless Internet and 5G home Internet, are susceptible to many of the same service disruptions as satellite Internet, but on a smaller scale.

With both services, internet signals travel shorter distances, typically 5-10 miles at most, so there’s less chance of encountering bad weather along the way. Additionally, the fixed wireless and cell towers used for 5G are not miles above Earth, meaning heavy cloud cover should not affect service.

Heavy rain can be another matter. Fixed wireless internet works by transmitting internet signals between the tower and your home in a straight line or fixed position. Anything that interferes with this signal, such as a seasonal shower, can disrupt the signal and therefore your internet connection.

Like rain, 5G creates fewer problems with home internet services T-Mobile or Verizon because unlike fixed wireless internet, 5G works by sending signals in all directions. Even if some signals are blocked or rerouted due to rain or snow, the signal may not be as strong, but others still have to reach your equipment and keep your internet going.

Snow and ice are also less of a concern with 5G because there is no external receiver. Fixed wireless service requires the installation of a dish or receiver (often smaller than a satellite dish) that can collect frozen precipitation. For fixed wireless equipment, heatsinks and covers are harder to come by, so you may need to manually remove any buildup that is blocking your internet connection.

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Charter’s Spectrum cable service is the third-largest cable service in the U.S. by subscribers — it’s also CNET’s favorite cable Internet provider overall.

Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

What about cable, DSL and fiber?

Cable, DSL, and fiber lines run directly to your home, so they’re not as vulnerable to weather disturbances as over-the-air delivery methods like satellite, fixed wireless, and 5G. Rain, snow, and cloud cover will not affect your internet service, except in extreme cases where exposure damages the line over time.

The biggest threat to your cable, DSL, or fiber internet during inclement weather is a power outage. Losing power to your home will likely disable your modem and router, meaning that even if an internet signal still reaches your home, you won’t be able to use your equipment unless it has battery backup.

And if a power outage hits your provider, you’re out of luck. Severe weather can knock out the ISP’s servers or systems that provide the Internet, resulting in widespread outages. So even if your home doesn’t have a power outage, bad weather can still affect your internet connection. Worse, there won’t be anything you can do about it except wait for service to be restored.

There is also a small possibility of power surges carried by high-conductivity copper cables interfering with cable or DSL internet signals and affecting your connection quality. The chances of this happening are higher on older DSL networks than on newer cable Internet systems, but the risk is still relatively low for both types of service.

How does weather affect the internet FAQ

Can I use weatherproofing sprays on my satellite dish?

It is not recommended to use any type of chemical coating on your satellite dish, including weatherproof or protective sprays, cooking sprays (to prevent snow from sticking), or anything else not intended for use on a satellite dish. In addition to potentially damaging the surface of the food, many sprays can attract dirt, dust, and pollen, creating a surface that is more prone to snow or ice accumulation.

Should I clean my satellite dish?

Cleaning your bowl is often not necessary except to maintain attractiveness. As mentioned above, cleaning your pan of dirt and other deposits can prevent snow and ice build-up, but it usually won’t improve performance.

If you decide to clean your satellite dish, do so gently with a soft sponge and warm water. Do not use any cleaning products other than mild dishwashing detergents, as harsh chemicals can damage the surface of your pan. Ideally, you wouldn’t want to clean your bowl with anything you wouldn’t use to clean your TV screen.

Will excessive heat affect my internet service?

As with bad thunderstorms, extreme heat has relatively little effect on internet signals, but it can affect the systems that carry them. Increased energy demand during a heat wave puts extra strain on power grids, which can affect internet service in your home or down the road.

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