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Slow Verizon Fios? Slow Internet? The Problem May Be DNS

I pay quite a bit to have fast internet, and for the most part, I'm pretty satisfied. Over the last few years, however, I've found that on a rare occasion FIOS inexplicably has problems loading pages. When I try a "SpeedTest" I still see speeds north of 35mpbs! So why can't I load a YouTube video? The answer is simple, because FIOS and many other ISPs by default assign you to terrible DNS servers. They're terrible for two reasons: 1) if you incorrectly type a URL, you get an search result/advertisement and 2) they're often slow and cause pages to not load at all.

There are two ways to fix it, but I'll give you the easiest way first:

  1. Find your network connections in "Control Panel" on Windows, "Network" in system Preferences for Mac OSX.
  2. Go to OpenDNS.com, scroll to the bottom of the page
  3. Select the option to choose DNS manually and enter the IP addresses from the OpenDNS page. Here are some instructions on Mac and and on PC (this is pretty similar in Windows 7 and XP)

The other way is by setting the DNS on your router. The advantage here is that you don't have to do it for every computer on your network.

Explanation of DNS

A DNS service is the way that your computer can turn a website domain into a number called an "IP Address". If your computer can not figure out the number for every website you visit, the site won't load! When you go to a website, the DNS server first looks up the number, and then sends you to the website all behind the scenes. ISP's DNS services are terrible. They focus more on serving you ads for typos than providing decent service. The reason that some websites work, and others don't is because your computer stores its most frequent lookups in a database called a "cache." If your cache were empty and your DNS was not working, then nothing would work at all.

Benefits of using alternative DNS

  • Faster load times
  • Increased security (many providers such as OpenDNS provider protection by blocking harmful websites
  • More reliability (depending on which DNS provider you use, I've had perfect uptime with OpenDNS)