The Covid-19 pandemic is having huge effects. But whilst our government is focused on using thermal imaging to detect cases of the disease and seeking to limit the impact on our local economy, many of us are grappling with a more mundane problem: working from home without throwing our computer out of the window.
Slow internet speeds are annoying at the best of times, but a choppy NetFlix connection is much less important than the ability to download crucial email attachments for your employer. For this reason, many people are only now realizing that their home internet speeds are not those that they were promised.
But fear not. In this article, we’ll give you some quick tips on speeding up your home internet.
Speed up your satellite internet
Let’s get the most important point out of the way first: the best ways to speed up your internet will depend on the type of internet service you use. For many people in Alaska – and especially those living in rural communities – that will be satellite internet.
Satellite internet is often overlooked in guides to improving web speed, which assume a broadband connection. In order to speed up your satellite internet, the best place to start is therefore to do some research so you understand how satellite internet works.
Once you understand the basics, you’ll immediately recognize that there are a few simple tricks to improving the speed of your connection:
Start by looking at your satellite dish. If it’s obscured by trees or plants, or could be covered with snow in the winter, move it (or, less ideally, cut down the plants).
You can also add an in-line amplifier to your setup to boost the signal between your dish and your home, or simply move your dish closer to your home if that is possible.
If you still have slow satellite internet speeds, contact your provider. It could be that your dish is no longer pointing in the right direction, or that the satellite you are using is not the ideal one for your location.
Speed up your broadband connection
For more “traditional” internet connections, the steps you can take to improve speeds are slightly different:
It goes without saying that different broadband providers offer different speeds of connection, so you should check the speeds that are claimed by your provider and upgrade your plan if necessary.
Second, you should look at the way that your router is configured. Some routers have entertainment settings that prioritize bandwidth for streaming videos and gaming, and if you are not using these services it’s probably best to turn this off.
You can also consider changing the WiFi channel used by your router. 5 GHz routers offer 23 non-overlapping channels, for instance, which can significantly improve speeds by limiting the amount of crossover in the traffic you are exchanging with your router.
A more technical step, but one that can be effective for many people, is to set your RTS threshold to a lower number. Request to Send (RTS) is a system where data transmission channels are cleared before accepting new traffic requests, and in crowded environments such as apartment blocks this system can slow you down.
Boost your WiFi signal
A more fundamental way to improve your internet speeds is to improve the connection between your WiFi router and the devices you are using. You are probably already aware that the strength of your WiFi signal is different in the different rooms of your house, and you might even be moving around to get a better signal. Instead of doing that, take a minute to look at where you’ve placed your WiFi router. Here are the best tips for that:
Verizon rightly points out that WiFi signals weaken when traveling through walls and ceilings at an angle. The best approach, if your router allows you to, is therefore to have one of your antennas vertical, and one horizontal.
You should also move your router to an effective place. If your router is on the ground, it will be wasting a lot of energy sending signals directly into the floor. Instead, if you have a two-story house, move your router to the second floor. You should either place your router as close to the center of your house as possible, or (if it is still slow) next to the desk that you work on most often.
A Wi-Fi repeater is also a worthwhile investment if you are lucky enough to live in a large house. These small devices will take an incoming WiFi signal, amplify it, and then send it out again. You can even keep the same network name and password, so you will not have to mess around with multiple WiFi networks.
Of course, there is only so much you can do to improve internet speeds by yourself. If you’ve carefully worked through all of the steps above and your internet speeds are still slow, it’s time to contact (and perhaps complain to) your internet service provider.
This might not feel like the ideal time to do that, of course. You probably feel you have enough on your plate already, what with working from home (and potentially looking after your kids at the same time). However, sorting out your internet connection now will pay dividends for the future, because many firms are looking at the plans to re-open the state and concluding that remote work will be a feature of their business plans for a long time to come.
And if you do manage to speed up your internet, don’t forget who told you how: please consider making a donation to support local journalism, and to keep quality stories coming throughout this crisis.
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