What can you do when an internet outage occurs?

There’s been an internet outage and it feels as though you have fallen upon dark times, back into the Prehistoric Ages.

Imagine this scenario. You’re sitting in your house or office, surfing the web on your phone. Your laptop is streaming Netflix and your tablet is streaming funny Youtube videos. You’re having a nice, relaxing time, when all of sudden, it all stops. Your movie stops playing. Google won’t load. Your cat videos are paused right before the funny part.

You don’t know the first thing about troubleshooting, so you call your internet service provider who explains that the outage is a major one, effecting not just you, but a wider area and a bunch of people.

So, what does one do when the Internet is out? Pick up a book? Go outside and admire the Sun? Smell some flowers? Twiddle their thumbs? Or maybe these options;

things to do when internet is down

In this new age of technology, it seems we are all so wired up and plugged in, that the slightest disruption to internet service causes us to lose track of the world around us. And with more and more people plugged in, Internet outages seem to become more common.

What are some causes of major internet outages?

Some of the worst internet outages in the San Francisco Bay Area have occurred when vandals deliberately cut fiber optic cables. As of July 1st, 2015, fiber cables have been cut 11 times in the area, which has caused the FBI to join the ongoing investigation.

san francisco bay area internet outage effected areas map

As the perpetrators are yet to be found, their motivations are unknown. What is known, is that this outage caused massive issues to homes, businesses and internet service providers alike.

“Pretty much everybody who has a large network in the Bay Area” was affected by the vandalism, said Peter Kranz, CEO of Unwired Ltd.

Though this is just one example of many (natural disasters, etc). Internet outages can be caused by a variety of issues.

What are the main reasons for an internet outage?

  1. Network Congestion: The most common issue. Network congestion is caused when there are too many people trying to access a network at one time, in a certain area. During this time, your circuit quality may gridlock or deteriorate. It is the easiest type of outage to solve while also being the most preventable. Outages caused by congestion are more common in college dorms, public libraries, and wireless networks.
  2. A failed link to your service provider: This occurs when the link between your device and the server is interrupted and cannot connect. Often times failed links to your service provider can be caused by storms, downed wires, or even animals.
  3. Speed fluctuation from Internet provider: This can be caused by congestion, but sometimes the lines from your provider are not as optimized as they should be. You may be paying for a specified rate, but receiving a slower rate of service, which can easily cause service interruptions.
  4. Equipment failure: Not properly grounding your equipment and protecting it from surges can leave your equipment susceptible to frying, damaging the circuit. Furthermore, lockups and overloads can also cause equipment failure. This technical issue can be resolved quickly with updated and well configured hardware.
  5. Operation error: Whether it’s incorrect IP addresses, improper wiring, or an incorrectly configured firewall, operation errors can occur when an internet connection is not installed properly.

As you can see, there are many reasons for connectivity failure and Internet outages. With these problems also come a myriad of solutions.

Troubleshooting internet connection issues

First of all, you want to rule out connectivity issues by plugging your computer directly into the port used by your Ethernet cables.  Then you can proceed with the following troubleshooting options.

  • The first solution to fixing your outage or connectivity issue (after making sure you’ve paid your bill) is to check your modem. You can solve most issues by rebooting your modem. Try unplugging it, waiting thirty seconds, plug it back in, and wait two minutes before trying to re-open any websites. This tends to solve most problems, but not all.  If this works, you can identify the problem as an issue with one of your home network components.
  • If that doesn’t seem to work, your second option is to refresh your computer’s Internet signal. This is your IP (Internet Protocol) address. It’s usually a different address each time your computer connects to the Internet. This type of reboot can change depending on the type of system you may have, Mac or Windows. If you happen to look on your modem and the light is flashing, you can guarantee that the issue is in regards to your cable company and your home setup.
  • When all else fails, pick up the phone, call your technician, and just wait it out.

If you want to monitor your connection closely, there’s help to diagnose problems with a range of tools that will tell you when your internet connection is down. As a B2B provider, we use Nagios to monitor our entire IT infrastructure and customer circuits.

How often should internet outages occur?

Internet outages aren’t uncommon. Depending on your network, various service providers experience rolling outs intermittently. Sometimes these black outs are scheduled, to provide downtime and updates. Other times they are unexpected.

Not just an issue for home internet users

Internet black outs don’t just effect home users. They can happen on a much wider scale, causing issues across a state or the country.


For example, in 2007, a San Francisco data center lost power, thus taking down big named websites like Craigslist, LiveJournal, Yelp, Adbrite, and many more. What was deemed to be one of the most reliable servers in the United States, simply stopped working. What made things worse was that the back up power generators also failed.

Though power was only out for about 45 minutes (a lifetime in this day and age), websites were not fully visible and functional until hours later. Hundreds of thousands of visitors simply expecting the sites to work were left with error messages. This resulted in huge losses of business and revenue.

Outages can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere

Whether you’re a large-scale data center or a small home user, you’re not immune to Internet outages. These first world problems occur for a variety of issues, but for every issue, there is a solution.

The next time you find yourself without the Internet, try solving it yourself. If that fails, call your support technician. If they are unable to resolve the problem, they should be able to provide more information as to what has caused the issue, offer regular updates and hopefully an ETA for a return of service.

But in the meantime, go out and enjoy some fresh air. The Sun won’t kill you.