Select Page

There’s nothing better than a good movie and a big blanket on a rainy day, but if you are one of the more than 90% of Americans who use a streaming service for your favorite movies, you may have a hard time taking advantage of the bad weather day. As it turns out, if you find yourself watching the buffering screen on a rainy day, you probably aren’t alone. 

How the Internet Works

Most people check their emails, connect with friends on social media, and stream their favorite content without ever wondering how it is that their aunt can comment on that adorable baby picture from seven states away. For those who have thought about it, they usually just explain it by blaming the mystical “cloud” and never stop to ask how the content from their machine here on earth arrived up there. 

In reality, the internet is a collection of computers all physically wired together. Even those who rely solely on WiFi only need their wireless signal to go to the router in their home, which is often connected to a modem. The modem talks back to computers at their Internet Service Provider (ISP), who are typically wired directly into the main data lines that we call the Internet. 

Think about your monthly internet bill as the toll you pay to ride the internet super highway, and your ISP is just the gatekeeper to the on-ramp. 

So Why Does the Rain Matter?

At some point, your high school science teacher probably said something about radio waves, and that was probably when you weren’t paying very close attention. Don’t worry, most other people weren’t listening either. 

Many Americans, particularly in rural localities, connect to the internet through either a satellite or a fixed wireless connection. In a fixed wireless connection the ISP broadcasts a signal from an antenna plugged to a wired connection. The end user receives the signal through a wired connection to a receiving antenna, typically mounted on their home. Satellite internet works the same way, but the ISP sends the signal to a satellite hovering somewhere in Earth’s orbit before it goes to the end user. 

Anyone who has ever relied on satellite service for television programming can tell you that it’s not uncommon to experience service disruptions when it rains. This is because these technologies rely on the use of radio waves, which are often, at least partially, absorbed by the rain. In other words, on a clear, cloudless day, customers can receive a full signal from their ISP, but when it rains, the signal that finally makes it to the home is only a fraction of what it was when the ISP sent it. 

Thankfully, in modern America, most internet consumers receive their internet through a wired connection that relies on electricity to carry the data. The most common internet services are transmitted over copper wires or hybrid-fiber coaxial, which is essentially copper with a little fiber optic cable mixed in.  Following the pandemic, ISPs are finding greater demand for fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks, using only fiber optic cable. 

Fiber optic cables are made of glass, and they transmit photons, literally moving your data along at the speed of light. In contrast, the copper line types transmit your data through electrons, which are less stable and more susceptible to disruption from heat, over-crowded networks, and, of course, water. 

As you probably remember from that same science class, water is a conductor of electricity. Anytime the insulation around the fiber or copper wires has even a small break, it allows the water to physically contact the lines carrying your data via electricity. The water disrupts the seamless flow of the electrical current down the line and redirects at least some of the current away from your home and toward the water molecules. 

While your service lines are new, they will likely have fewer breaks in the insulation, but after a few summers in intense heat or a few strong winter freezes, the material that makes up the insulation begins to wear down. Even the cute little squirrels you like to watch outside your window have a propensity for chewing through cables when you aren’t looking. 

Download Before the Downpour 

All that is to say that if you are having a hard time enjoying a good thunderstorm tv binge, it’s not likely that your streaming service is falling down on the job as much as the rain is just falling on your connection. Armed with this knowledge and a solid weather app, you might make a note to download your favorite content when rain is in the forecast — or you could go back to books, as long as they aren’t e-books.

As a result of new advances in technology, we are now able to more easily access the internet from our homes. But what happens when it rains? Many of us may be familiar with the issue of a weakened internet signal during wet weather conditions. Rain can cause interference with the frequency of your internet signal, resulting in slower speeds and poorer connection quality, leaving us frustrated.

The reason your internet signal is affected is due to the fact that rain causes more ‘noise’ on the internet frequency band, disrupting the signal from its normal level. It is this ‘noise’ that affects the speed and quality of your internet signal.

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to protect your internet connection from interference due to rain. However, there are some measures you can take to ensure your signal remains in the best condition possible. It’s important to remember to place your router away from electrical appliances, as this could impact the connection quality. Additionally, orienting the antenna on your router towards the direction of the outside world (not your walls) can also create a stronger signal.

In addition to the steps mentioned above, it’s also a good idea to use a high-quality router and modem which supports faster and more reliable signals. Having more up to date equipment can give you the same signals you would have in dry weather and better coverage.

So if your internet is struggling when it rains, you may want to consider the tips above in order to maintain a good connection and smooth browsing experience.