Does Cable Internet Work During a Power Outage?

This is whether cable internet works during a power outage.

A major power outage can leave you without internet for hours.

So if you want to know how to keep your cable internet working during a power outage, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right in!

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Will cable internet work if the power goes out?

It seems that network stability is often more important than speed.

Especially if you’re working from home, you want to make sure that you have a consistent connection with no unexpected interruptions.

And, while there are some things you can do to ensure network stability—like a switch to an ethernet cable—some situations will be out of your hands.

One of those situations is a power outage. 

A major power outage can leave you without internet for hours but, surprisingly, you might be able to still have a connection if you play your cards right.

Let’s see how this works and how you can manage this issue.

The Internet Inside and Outside Your Home

To understand how all of this works, you need to know a bit of the internet’s infrastructure, from the ocean cables to your modem and router.

We all know that the internet is decentralized: there is no place where it’s stored, regulated, sold, or governed. Your connection, along with all the connections in the world, makes the internet what it is.

That being said, some key elements of the internet’s infrastructure without which getting a connection wouldn’t be possible.

The first of those elements is the internet backbone: a set of major data routes that connect the internet’s core routers. 

These data routes traverse our entire planet and carry data throughout continents. 

Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) likely has an agreement with one of the companies that created (and now) manages these data routes.

ISPs are also essential links in the chain. They provide the local, national, and regional infrastructure to get the internet to each individual home. 

To do this, they have routers, switches, towers, and other hardware and software elements.

Then we have the data centers that store all of the information you can find on the internet. 

In other words, Instagram has its own servers that store your pictures, the pictures of your friends, and all other content. 

To consume any content on the internet, you access these servers daily through a cable connection.

Finally, there’s the equipment you have in your house: router, modem, cable, and anything else you might use to access the internet.

Does the Internet Need Power?

Why did we go so deep into the infrastructure of the internet?

Because most of these elements need power to work. 

Data centers, routers, switches, routers, modems—all of these are connected to a power source. They would stop working instantly if there was a power outage.

So, generally, the internet can’t work without power. 

All of the major links in the system need it to operate properly. 

Suppose there is a major power outage in an area that affects data centers and some of your ISP’s infrastructure. In that case, you most likely won’t have an internet connection.

There are also the BTS (Base Transceiver Stations) towers that play a crucial role in facilitating communication between your equipment and the internet. 

Base transceiver station for telecommunication.

These need a power source as well. That’s why you’ll sometimes notice that when there is a regional power outage, you don’t even have a good cellular signal.

That being said, most ISPs have generators to prevent a total loss of connection to whole blocks and neighborhoods. 

Unless it’s a major structural issue with the power lines (e.g., a tree fell onto the wires), the supply of internet data to your house won’t be interrupted.

Does Cable Internet Work During a Power Outage?

But, here is the key question: will the internet work in your house?

In other words, if your ISP has a generator and their infrastructure provides an internet connection to your home, is that enough for you to connect to your WiFi with your smartphone?

Girl using phone during power outage with candles.

As you might have noticed, the answer is usually no. That’s because you might not have a generator to power your router and modem—and both of these devices need power. 

You can tell that by the flashing lights on the case!

Here is a more detailed explanation:

The modem gives your home a connection to the internet. Think of it as your internet hub that modulates (therefore, “modem”) digital signals from your devices into analog signals that can be transmitted through coaxial cables, and vice-versa.

The router is a device that routes this connection to all the different devices and lets them use the same connection simultaneously. 

Given that both of these devices need a power source to do their job, you won’t have an internet connection when there’s a power outage.

However, some modern routers do have batteries or other alternative power sources that keep them working during an outage.

If they don’t, you can purchase a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to provide these devices power when the main source is out.

Will Other Types of Internet Connections Work During an Outage?

First, let’s see which types of internet connections there are.

  • DSL (Digital Subscriber Line): This type of connection uses your phone line to deliver the internet to your house. Depending on your ISP, it can typically achieve speeds of up to 45 Mbps.
  • Cable: Often ordered in a package deal with a TV service provider, cable internet uses coaxial cables to deliver the service. It’s capable of achieving much higher speeds than DSL: up to 1 Gbps. That’s enough to download a video game in a few seconds!
  • Fiber: The fastest internet there is. This type of connection can provide a whopping 10 Gbps download speed. Want to download that game? Blink. It’s been downloaded before you open your eyes (note: this is a joke and it will still likely need a few seconds for your PC/laptop/console to communicate with servers etc.). The only issue with fiber optic is that it isn’t as widely available as the other options.
  • Satellite: This type of connection uses the satellites in outer space to provide you internet access. Since the signal needs to travel such a large distance, satellite connections are slower, but they can still reach up to 150 Mbps download speed. This connection’s main advantage is that it can be installed in rural areas where there are no telephone or cable lines.

So, can all of these connections work during an outage?

Providing that your ISP isn’t affected by the outage (or has generators) and you have a USP device, then yes!

Those are your two main questions, really:

  • Is the power outage local or regional?
  • Do you have an alternative power source in your home?

UPS Devices: How Do They Work and Which One Should You Get?

If you want to have an internet connection during a power outage, you’ll need a UPS machine.

Uninterruptible power supply with blue background.

It provides emergency power to your devices in case your primary power source fails. It operates similarly to a generator, with one big difference: a generator has a power gap. 

The power first shuts down, you turn on the generator, and the power is back up.

Even if you have a generator that turns on automatically, there will still be a brief interval before it kicks in.

There is no gap with a UPS, which means all your devices get instant backup power, and you can safely shut them down to avoid damage. 

When idle, these devices use power to stay charged and provide you with that power as soon as you’re out.

They range from large UPS machines that can power an entire server room (which Facebook likely has in its data servers) to smaller household devices. 

In fact, if you weren’t tech-savvy, you would be forgiven for mistaking them for desktop computers.

What Are Your Options?

To supply a router or a modem, you don’t need too much power. This means that a more minor UPS will likely do the trick, so you don’t have to splash the cash on industry-grade options.

Here are some UPS devices you should consider purchasing—they vary in terms of power, size, and price!

  • APC UPS BE600M1: Popular on Amazon, this device comes with a USB port that lets you charge your devices (beneficial during an outage), seven power outlets, and management software. It’s also under $100 on Amazon when it is a small price to pay for safety!
  • Tripp Lite SMART1500LCDT: This device allows you to “survive” a power outage for up to 90 minutes. It has 10 outlets and an LCD display with various information (most importantly, how much power you have left). It’s a little more expensive than the last one but still worth paying for if you want to have internet during an outage.
  • Tripp Lite SMART1500LCD rackmount UPS: This one comes with eight power outlets, a USB port, and an LCD screen. But the best thing about it is that you can easily mount it on a rack if you use one for your machines.
  • Shanqiu FX5-12 8800mAh mini UPS device: A mini backup that provides a lot of power for its size. It might not pack the power that the devices above do, but don’t be fooled by the looks. It still provides more than enough power to supply essential equipment like a modem or a router.