Web Pages Load Slow, but I have Fast Internet. Why?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Paul H. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I recently upgraded my Internet connection speed through my Internet Service Provider, and I now have 60MB broadband service. As I expected, I have really fast downloads and web pages load lightening fast. However, some websites are considerably slower than I would expect, even slower than before the upgrade. Any ideas why that might be? "

My Response:

There are many reasons why some pages don't load as fast as others, even if you upgraded your broadband. The most important point to understand is that even though you have a fast connection, everyone and everywhere else you're connecting to (including websites and services) are still operating at the same speed as they were before you upgraded.

In other words: if you are trying to access a slow website that is half way around, that slow website is still going to be slow even if you're on a fast connection. Reasons for a slow website include: distance between you and the site (network latency), the web server hardware, network congestion, packet loss, website server load, and the website infrastructure and optimization.

I'll explain a few examples in detail.

Slow Internet: Network Latency

The further away the website is to you, the slower the response will be due to the distance between both points. This is referred to as network latency. Even if you had a perfectly straight line with no interruptions between you and the destination website, the time to travel from point A to B depends on the length of the line, even if you're traveling at the speed of light (fiber optic). If the line was only 10 meters, it would be a quick response with almost no latency. If the line is 5,000 kilometers long, the latency would be much higher.

Slow Internet: Web Server Hardware

If the web server you're connecting to is running very old hardware, that will also affect how quickly it can process requests. If the server is old and many users are accessing the site all at once, then it will take longer to produce a page than a server that is running with new hardware and that has more resources available.

Slow Internet: Network Congestion

If you're trying to access a popular website that has hundreds or even thousands of visitors a minute, it will have an impact on how quickly it can process requests. Every visitor hitting the site sits in a queue, and each request is processed in order. Another reason for network congestion can be due to service providers. If your Internet Provider's network is inundated because everyone in your neighborhood is using it, this may impact how quickly you will receive data from any site you visit. If the congestion is high, then less data will be able to make its way through to you because due to limitations. The same can be said at any point between you and the site or service you're connecting to.

Slow Internet: Packet Loss

Whenever you send a request to a website or service, the request is cut up and sent as network packets. Packets bounce through the Internet from various points, until they reach their destination (website or service), where they are reassembled in order to complete the full request. Depending on network congestion and the hardware which handles the requests (routers and switches), packets can be dropped or lost. This is referred to as packet loss. As such, the packet or entire request be resent again, which causes a delay in the connection, which then causes the page to load slowly.

Slow Internet: Website Server Load

Server load refers to how many requests a web server can handle at any given time. Some websites operate on multiple dedicated servers and are able to distribute and share loads (and requests) efficiently. Other websites operate on "shared hosting" where many websites are pooled together on one server; oftentimes the pool is overpopulated and processing is very sluggish. Depending on how many resources are available, a server or service may be throttled (programmatically) as to how much load it can handle. If a website receives a lot of traffic at once, this can result in a high load and result in a slower response time.

Slow Internet: Website Infrastructure

Some websites are highly optimized and load almost instantaneously. This not only depends on the Internet connection speed, but also the underlying programming of the website. If a website is programmed poorly and links to many outside resources, this can dramatically slow down page load times. On the other hand, many new websites today are optimized with "mobile first" ideology in mind. In other words, the entire site is created from the ground up for smaller devices (smartphones) first and desktop PCs last, and so as little programming code (as possible) is used to produce pages. This not only delivers content quickly, but renders it quickly on the browser. The same technology is used on desktops and thus produces web pages at seemingly light speed.

All of the examples I mentioned above are just some reasons why a web page loads slowly, even if you have a fast Internet connection. I hope this sheds some light on the subject.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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georgegrimes's picture

Very nice answer to this question. Well done!


stephen3588's picture

Agree! Easy to understand article for the novice or casual user.

Question: Whats your opinion about internet tweaking programs like Ultimate Windows Tweaker that has options for increasing or decreasing packet size?

Thanks Dennis!


ecash's picture

Good points..
I also show people what a trace route is..and how Ping thru different sites can affect what is going on..
There are many things that can affect net access..
From storms on the east coast..causing problems with the backbone..
Going on the net without LOTS of protections..
ISP's restricting access...Hope Net neutrality works..


jeffwhittle's picture

Thank you for that answer, I recently upgraded myself and was getting frustrated.
Your answer was great and hit home for me. Thank you very much!!!!


brianfrederick27's picture

Why is it that when you move your mouse too much the page you are looking at dissapears until you move it back again

stephen3588's picture

Are you using a Mac with Magic Mouse it came with? If you swipe across it will take you back to your previous web page. If you swipe the other way it should do the opposite. The same as the forward and back arrow buttons your probably used to using. If you don't like the feature you can turn it off in settings under the mouse icon.