With tens of millions of Americans now forced to work from home to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, the toll on the country’s internet infrastructure has never been greater.
While experts say Internet Service Providers (ISP) are equipped in handling the extra load, some families may experience slower connection if everyone is using it to videoconference, stream movies and play videogames at the same time.
“We’re in an unprecedented situation,” said Kyle Malady, Chief Technology Officer for Verizon.
The chaos is also highlighting the digital divide in the United States. More than 21 million Americans do not have access to quality, affordable broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s latest report, some of whom don’t have internet access inside their home at all.
To help with constant internet usage and the economic burden the majority of people are facing due to COVID-19, many ISPs have canceled data overage fees, boosted speeds, made Wi-Fi hotspots available, as well as agreed to not shut off service.
The latest internet usage data from Verizon shows that many people are turning to video games to pass the time. The company’s week-over-week numbers during peak hour usage reported an 75% increase for gaming, 34% increase for VPN, 20% increase in web traffic and 12% increase in video streaming.
Here are some other steps you can take to make sure your internet speed is optimized:
Run a Speed Test
The first thing you need to do is figure out how fast your internet is currently. You can simply type “internet speed test” into a search engine and there are plenty of free tests out there. One of the most used websites is speedtest.net. If your speed is much slower than what you’re paying for, you may want to troubleshoot and contact your ISP.
Plugging in your devices directly to your router is a surefire way to boost your connection. Using an ethernet cable is more reliable than wireless and many factors can affect your Wi-Fi performance.
In an example Verizon laid out for its customers, your tablet’s wireless network adapter might only be able to go up to 30 Mbps (Megabits per second) and your laptop might be able to go 75 Mbps, but your actual internet speed could be a lot faster than that.
Many of the new devices don’t have an ethernet port, and most people probably don’t have ethernet cables (which also have their own speed limits) laying around, but there are adapters you can buy if you need a solid connection.
However, ethernet is not accessible to everyone. Here are steps you can take to make your wireless connection faster:
Check Your Router
Where the router is located in your home can impact your wireless connection. The majority of people will have the unsightly small black box with antennas tucked away somewhere, but experts say it should be set up high somewhere in the center of your home.
Avoid putting the router next to other devices that also emit interference signals such as microwaves. Also avoid thick walls, such as bricks and concrete, and metals.
If you have a router with two antennas, make sure one of them stands up vertically and the other horizontally to match the different receivers in your devices.
You can also make sure your router’s firmware is updated to the latest version. And some people may just need to upgrade their router altogether to ensure the fastest speed.
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