Tips for Faster Internet Speeds
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many folks to work, attend school and appointments, and communicate with loved ones from home. With more folks using the same in-home Wi-Fi connection, it has never been more crucial to have fast, reliable, and affordable internet. You should not have to worry about missing telehealth appointments while someone else is streaming a TV show or doing their homework online/in a Zoom meeting. Fortunately, there are several effective ways to improve your internet connection at home, many of which come at little to no cost at all.
Power-cycle your router
One of the oldest and simplest tricks in the book, turning it off and on again! Most routers come with an on/off switch, but if not, simply unplug it, wait about one minute, and plug it back in. In some cases, this method can automatically update your router to the newest software and potentially clear any built up data/clear its memory.
Put your router in a central location away from any obstructions or inside any enclosed spaces
In order to reach those far corners of your home, the more central the location of your Wi-Fi router, the better. Since Wi-Fi signals are sent out from the router, it is best to not hide it behind any doors, walls, or furniture. If possible place it higher in the room than any obstructions around it. Just like the observation deck atop the Prudential Tower, your router’s “view” should be unobstructed. This also helps you stay as close as possible to the router, which will help ensure your device is getting the best signal possible.
Disconnect any devices you don't need or aren't using
Similar to how Storrow Drive gets backed up during rush hour, the more traffic a router encounters, the slower the speeds will be for devices in use. If you have any old computers, smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, or other tools that you no longer use or do not need an immediate internet connection, disconnect them! Doing so is typically very easy, as you can turn off your device’s Wi-Fi connection under “Settings,” or simply turn off the device.
Connect your device to the router with a cable
Some devices are able to have an Ethernet cable plugged into them that gives them a direct link to the router, bypassing the need to use Wi-Fi entirely. This will eliminate moments of randomly dropped signals, making your internet experience much more consistent. Now, this might not help your Bruins-themed smart toaster, but a laptop, desktop, or game console will see considerable speed increases. This might require some zip-ties and cable hooks to keep everything neat and orderly.
Make sure your Wi-Fi is password protected
Even if you’ve done the previous steps, it will not help much if your neighbor is connecting to your network and hogging your data. Websites will grind to a halt like the Green line coming into Park Street! A strong password is essential to getting the most out of your connection. The best practices include using at least 20-characters, mixing upper-case and lower-case letters with numbers and symbols. The password should be easy for you to remember but hard for anyone to guess.
Get rid of the bandwidth-hungry apps on the devices you use
Now that you’ve taken care of all other devices on the network stealing your speed, the time comes to look inward. Apps like Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix all use a consistent, high amount of bandwidth. If you need to squeeze every megabyte from your connection, it can help to minimize the use of non-essential programs on your device. Like shoveling in the middle of a snow storm, it might not be the most comfortable, but you’ll be thanking yourself when you need to check the mail.
Make sure your router is using Smart Connect (or Band Steering)
When you think of your home network, it can be visualized as a road with multiple lanes and cars driving down it. We need some kind of traffic control to make sure everyone travels safely and efficiently. In the real world, this looks like dotted lines, stop signs, and the like. Your router uses something called Band Steering (sometimes branded Smart Connect or related language). This makes sure all the data flowing through your network isn’t crowding one lane, creating unnecessary traffic like when people won’t merge from the onramps of I-93N. This setting should be enabled by default, but sometimes things go awry. You can look up your router’s documentation and ensure all related settings are set the way they should be!
Upgrade your router/modem
Sometimes things just need a replacement; there’s always a construction project somewhere in Boston, and it might be time to start one in your network! Older routers often use outdated network standards, and might even have hard limits on the amount of speed they can pump out. There are many different styles of routers that can give your network the boost it needs. Check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to make sure that you’re using the latest-and-greatest router they give to customers. If you want to go with a third-party router, make sure it is compatible with your ISP.
Buy a Wi-Fi extender
A new router should certainly deliver some observable increase in speed, especially if you employ the previous steps. Unfortunately, high speeds won’t help much if your device has a weak signal. Even with the router in a central location, your device’s connectivity could still get blocked by walls, floors, and furniture. In that case, it might help to pick up a Wi-Fi extender. These come in kits of different sizes that you can set-up depending on the amount of living space you have.
Increase your internet speeds
Depending on the number of active devices in your home, there simply might not be enough bandwidth to go around. In this case, the best course of action would be to upgrade your internet plan, getting more usable speeds available for your network. Now, upgrading your plan does not always mean an increase in price. For those who qualify, the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can help you save $30/month on internet service for the foreseeable future. For more information and to see if you are eligible, check out Boston’s ACP webpage!
If none of these options seem to help, the problem may be deeper than you can solve alone. Call your ISP and get in touch with customer service–they might want to send a technician out to diagnose further.