If your Netflix is refusing to let you watch your 16th episode of SVU today, it's likely not because the company wants you to go outside and get fresh air. Apparently, holiday lights can disrupt your wifi connection, setting you adrift from the Internet just in time to make small talk about fantasy football tournaments with your Uncle Randy. That's right — the very same string lights that make a home so holly jolly (or, if you're a college student, add just a little hygge to your dorm situation) are also capable of slowing down your Internet to an infinitely buffering crawl. It's a cruel world we live in, folks.
According to The Sun, Post Office Telecoms says recently that placing Christmas lights near your router can interfere with its signal, slowing down the connection significantly. But holiday string lights aren't the only culprit. Electronic devices like baby monitors and televisions, or even just leaving your router near a window, can disrupt the connection as well, as The Sun reported. So while your interior design may be on point, you may find that the crackling Yule log video you found on YouTube spends more time buffering than actually playing.
It can all be traced to the way wifi routers work. Basically, a wireless router plugs into a physical Internet connection through the wall. Using radios and antennas, it broadcasts the landline's signal on certain frequencies, where the signal is then decoded by whatever device you're using to connect to the Internet. The catch is that the router has to compete with other electronic devices, like the aforementioned baby monitors and holiday lights, for a frequency on which to broadcast.
In 2015, UK communications regulator Ofcom reported that as much as 20 percent of slow wifi connections were the result of other electronics in the home messing with the router. But rather than try to fix the problem, the report found that people tend to just buy new routers instead.
So what's a girl supposed to do — choose between a fabulously decorated home and a fast Internet connection? On the one hand, no Christmas tree is complete without a string of lights twinkling adorably from the leaves. On the other, nobody cares about how cute your Christmas tree is unless you post it on Instagram, which requires a Internet connection. (Is this a particularly first world problem? Yes, yes it is.)
The good news is that you may not actually have to choose. According to CNN Tech, simply moving your router to a different spot can fix a particularly slow connection. Keep it away from microwaves, speakers, holiday lights, and any other electronic devices that might emit a wireless signal. Walls, floors, furniture, and power cables can also interfere with the router's transmission, so try to keep it off the floor (read: on a table) in the center of your home. Placing it near a window risks wasting some signal by sending it to the outside world, so avoid keeping it by the window if possible. Oddly enough, even fish tanks can destroy your wifi; wireless signals don't transmit easily through water.
Overall, to get the fastest Internet connection available, the router should be placed on a table in a windowless room in the center of the house or apartment, away from other electronic devices and any holiday lights. All this might make wifi routers sound more persnickety than a grandmother trying out a new restaurant for the first time, and that's pretty much true. But if you want speedy, speedy wifi to entertain you as your house fills up with distant relatives this holiday season, it's time to get to shifting around those holiday decorations.