Flurries, Freezes, Ice and Internet
Does winter weather impact your service or speeds?
Cold, snow, ice and freezing temperatures are just a part of winter life in the upper Midwest. Just about everything seems to move a little more slowly this time of year.
But does that mean your internet speeds, too?
The simple answer is no. The winter elements don’t impact internet speeds or the transmission of signals, at least not directly. So, if you’re snowed in and streaming, that’s good news. There is however, a lot more to know about this topic—including some special cold-weather considerations for your mobile devices. So grab a hot beverage, get cozy and let’s dig in.
Impact on infrastructure
Copper and fiber optic wires transmit signals through electricity and light, respectively. Cold weather has no measurable impact on this process. Copper lines are buried underground and kept insulated from the harshest elements, and they generally have no problem conducting electricity and carrying your internet signal. Fiber—which uses light to send signals through tiny glass strands—is not slowed down by cold either.
Internet and telephone service providers maintain many service pedestals throughout a service area for splicing, terminating and distributing copper and fiber service. These pedestals—known more commonly as your neighborhood “cable boxes”—house the connection points for service lines. Fully enclosed, these boxes are corrosion-resistant and require very little maintenance and stand up well to cold weather, ice, moisture and snow. Some of the internal wires housed inside the boxes are coated with a weather-resistant gel that repels water.
Even in the worst of winter conditions, pedestals generally hold up well to the elements, and many function normally, even under heavy snow cover, if closed and secured properly.
Because of the sheer number of boxes across the service area, it’s not possible to keep every pedestal clear of snow, but many are marked with bright flags or poles to keep them from getting hit by snowmobiles, snow plows and other vehicles. Accidents and damage sometimes do happen, however, which requires maintenance and repair.
What about mobile devices?
When it comes to mobile devices themselves, winter weather is a different story, and it absolutely can cause problems in certain situations.
Extreme cold—as with extreme heat—is never good for electronic devices, especially those with a touch screen. Every component from the battery, to internal components and screens, are at risk of damage from extreme cold.
The best way to avoid cold winter weather damage is to avoid extreme environmental conditions altogether—but that’s neither easy nor practical. Most of us carry at least one device with us at all times, and luckily, there are some relatively easy ways—and some cheap technology to keep your device protected from the worst of winter weather.
There are several risks when your smartphone, tablet or laptop is exposed to low temperatures (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit). Subzero temperatures affect the molecular structure of materials, making them more brittle. If you fumble trying to retrieve a phone out of a coat pocket with gloves on, it will be more susceptible to breaking or shattering when it hits the ground. The cold also reduces conductivity, hampering touchscreen capabilities. The device’s battery life can also be prematurely or permanently shortened.
Following are 6 suggestions to protect your device from winter weather.
1. Let your device warm up first (and keep it warm as you go)
If your device has been exposed to cold, let it warm up before you use it. If it heats up too quickly, it risks damage from condensation that forms inside the device. If you have to be outside with your device, keep it close to your body–tucked into a pocket—where it’s warm. Keep your device covered and warm inside a jacket or pants pocket, close to your body heat. If you need to make a call outdoors, use a bluetooth headset while your device is stashed away safely.
2. Don’t leave devices in your car on cold days
It’s best to avoid leaving your laptop, tablet, or phone in the car when it’s severely cold. While avoiding this situation is the best option, there are a couple of things you can do to avoid damage. If you carry a winter safety kit, wrap your tablet or entire briefcase in the safety blanket. No blanket? Sweaters or anything else that can provide insulation is better than nothing. Make sure the devices are powered off (not just hibernating), then wait until they warm up again before trying to turn them on. Restarting a phone or other device when cold can harm or destroy the battery.
3. Protect the screen
Some smartphones have screens protected by Gorilla glass—a thin, light and damage-resistant layer of glass you can attach to your screen. For tablets and older smartphones, buy a rigid tempered glass screen protector. For a few bucks (a tablet protector can be purchased for $8, including shipping), you could prevent the cost of a screen replacement in the event of a cold weather drop.
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4. Carry a backup power source
A large battery brick is likely to be a little more resilient than your phone’s relatively small battery. If you’re faced with a long winter car trip, traveling with a backup power source may save your life in an emergency.
5. Avoid the fumble and drop
Use touch gloves or a stylus to access phone features without taking off gloves. Keep your phone out the shortest time possible, then return it to an inside pocket or take it indoors to warm up.
6. Use an insulating case
Insulated cases are available for phones, tablets, laptops, even cameras. Some cases use thermal layering technology to tackle the issues of heat transfer, radiation and conduction for cold and hot temperature extremes. Before you buy, do your research. Some cases offer too much coverage—enough to degrade the phone sound and picture quality.
Having service issues? Here’s what you can do
If you are experiencing issues with speeds, signals, WiFi, or having problems with a device such as your router, Arvig’s Help Desk is available to assist you at any time. For technical support, call 877.290.0560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For internet issues, Arvig has put together a troubleshooting guide to walk you through some of the most common problems. Read more at arvig.net/support/troubleshoot/internet. If you’re having sudden issues with your internet service, you can check our Maintenance and Outage Map at https://arvig.net/heatmap.