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There was a time when obsessing over internet speed was a niche sport. Just years ago, idle bros were bragging about their Ookla speed readings as a “yardstick of virility,” gamers were trading tips on how to shave milliseconds off their ping rate, and geopolitics wonks were fretting over their country’s place in global internet connection rankings.

But the contest for bandwidth has become more widespread and consequential, with the rise of remote working and homeschooling due to the pandemic. A recent Pew trends survey found that over half of Americans now consider home internet an essential utility. Internet traffic spiked by 25% globally during the early months of the pandemic, but this hasn’t slowed down speeds per se. MIT Tech Review reports that the Covid-19 crisis is driving providers to embark on major infrastructure upgrades to meet the demand. If your internet is still sluggish, the issue may be more local.

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