What to do if your internet goes down while you’re working from home

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Photographer is my life./Getty Images
  • If your internet goes down while you’re working from home, the first thing you can do is turn your smartphone into a WiFi hotspot as a quick, temporary backup.
  • If you’re concerned about keeping a stable internet connection while you’re working, you and your employer may look into investing in a dedicated mobile hotspot rather than your smartphone to serve as a backup.
  • Wireless carriers are helping to keep their customers connected during the coronavirus pandemic, when they need a data connection the most.
  • There’s very little indication that the “work-from-home” surge is causing any negative impact on the internet in general.
  • It’s worth double checking that you’re not just seeing an issue with a single website or service. Visit other websites to make sure your internet connection is actually down. If it is just a single site or service having issues, a mobile hotspot won’t help you.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Assuming you’ve tried to connect to a variety of websites to confirm that your internet is actually down, the first thing you can do when you need a connection fast is to use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot, at least as a temporary measure.

With all the disruption coronavirus is causing, including the shift for many Americans from offices and schools to homes, it’s easy to blame every blip on the pandemic.

But the companies and analysts I’ve spoken with so far haven’t shown any concern at all about a widespread internet crash caused by the sudden shift. There’s very little that suggests “the internet” is being affected in any major negative way by the societal effects of coronavirus. Data from Ookla, the company behind the Speedtest.net website that tests internet speeds, shows that speeds and performance have barely faltered – if at all.

Still, wireless carriers are adjusting their plans in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and are trying to make things easier on their customers.

Check out how carriers are helping out, as well as a longer term backup solution than your smartphone’s WiFi hotspot:


If you’re experiencing issues with a single website or service, maybe it’s not your internet or WiFi that’s down.

It’s entirely possible that a specific website or service can become overloaded during the great “work-from-home” influx. Specifically video-conferencing services – like Skype, Google Hangouts Meet, or Zoom – have the greatest chance of becoming overloaded because an influx of people are looking to video conferencing instead of in-person meetings.

So, it’s worth double-checking whether the rest of “the internet” is working if you’re facing a connection issue to a specific site or service. If it’s that specific site or service that’s having issues, it’s up to the company behind the website or service to issue a fix, and there isn’t much you can do.


If it’s not the website, your service could be down. The first thing to try is the usual “unplug and re-plug” dance on your WiFi router. If you don’t have time for that, using your smartphone as a WiFi hotspot is a quick and dirty, temporary fix.

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How to connect a device to your Personal Hotspot.
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Lucy Yang/INSIDER

Using your smartphone as a WiFi hotspot is quickest method with the highest likelihood to get you back on the internet right there and then.

On iPhone, here’s how to set up a mobile WiFi hotspot.

For most Android phones, you can swipe down the notifications shade from the top of the screen and look for an icon that says “Mobile Hotspot.” Tap and hold that icon and you’re brought to a menu where you can change the password for your phone’s WiFi hotspot feature.


All the major carriers are abiding by the FCC’s pledge to keep Americans connected by easing some of the financial strains of staying online.

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Reuters

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and several regional and smaller carriers are participating in a pledge drawn up by the FCC to “Keep Americans Connected.”

The pledge means that for the next 60 days, a participating carrier should:

  • Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic
  • Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them

T-Mobile is going the extra mile and offering its customers more data.

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

T-Mobile is giving all its customers, as well as Metro by T-Mobile customers, unlimited data for the next 60 days.

It’s also giving its customers, including Metro by T-Mobile customers, an extra 20GB of mobile hotspot service for the next 60 days.

T-Mobile’s Lifeline discount service for low-income househols are getting an extra 5G of data per month free for the next 2 months.

The company is also increasing the data allowance to schools and students using T-Mobile’s EmpowerED digital learning program to at least 20GB of data per month for the next 60 days, free of charge.


While you’re connected to your phone’s WiFi hotspot, you can try to troubleshoot your home router’s issues using the usual steps.

If your WiFi router needed a simple unplug and re-plug treatment, then great!

It that doesn’t work, it could mean your internet service provider is facing an outage of some sort. You can try calling them, but don’t expect too much help. The company is likely aware of an outage and is working to fix it.


For the longer term, you might consider getting a dedicated mobile hotspot device as a backup to your regular home internet — and you can ask your employer to compensate you for it.

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Netgear/Amazon

Working from home is unusual for most people, so it calls for unusual circumstances and backups. Carriers offer dedicated hotspot devices that basically act the same as your phone’s WiFi hotspot feature.

By using the same 4G LTE networks as your smartphone, these mobile hotspots broadcast a WiFi network that your devices can connect to. They do require their own SIM cards and data plans, on top of your smartphone bill – which means mobile hotspots can cost a pretty penny.

Propose to your employer that they compensate you for an unlimited wireless data plan and a mobile hotspot, at least during the time you’re working from home. If a constant connection is important to you and your employer, it could be worth the investment from both parties.


In any other time, I’d suggest going to a library, a coffee shop, or anywhere else you can find a temporary WiFi connection, but a lot of public spaces are closed right now. Plus, we should all avoid public spaces as much as possible to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

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MARKKU ULANDER/AFP/Getty Images