PORTLAND, Maine — It used to be that when families were hunkered down at home, the most precious commodity was privacy, a space of one’s own. That’s still desirable, but now there’s something else that’s needed: a good internet signal.
If you’re on a Zoom call…and your son’s on another one…and your daughter’s on a third, it just might be that no one’s getting a good signal. What to do? 207’s tech guy, Rich Brooks of Flyte New Media, has some ideas on how to improve your connectivity. Here’s the Q and A he laid out for us.
What are some ways in which we can enjoy office-level connectivity when we're all at home at the same time?
It's important to understand the basics; your ISP (often your cable company) provides connectivity that goes into your cable modem which then travels into a router. Routers can provide wired connections through ethernet cables or wireless connections through wifi.
Throughout this process, there can be many bottlenecks.
I'd start with your router. Reboot it if you haven't in a while, and the same goes with your cable modem.
Move your router to the center of your home as much as possible. Try and avoid places where the wifi signal might be blocked. The signal tends to do better higher up, so put it on the top shelf rather than on the floor.
Also, if you've had that router for a while, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer model. When I upgraded a 5 year old router to a new one I saw a huge improvement.
Beyond the router, what other changes can we make?
Wifi definitely degrades with distance. You may have noticed this if you've tried to take a Zoom call outside or in a room further away from your router. You should consider picking up a wifi-extender if you have problem spots in your home. It doesn't speed up your connection, but it does extend it.
For really big houses you might consider a mesh networking kit, which spreads the signal around, but they are pricey.
But the biggest difference maker I've seen is picking up CAT-6 cables and shutting off your computer's wifi. Once I went went wired, my Zoom quality improved to Jetsons level. We can run multiple Zoom calls at the same time with a pair of CAT-6 cables connected to our router.
Where else can we make a difference?
Consider upgrading your Internet plan. You may have a data cap in place, meaning your ISP is purposefully throttling your connection. That's not necessarily some evil plan, if you want more connectivity, you need to pay for it.
Consider adding an ad blocker. Ads can suck up a lot of bandwidth even in the background.
Try and work with everyone else's schedule so you're not all on a Zoom or Skype call at the same time.
Make your kids play outside.