TECHNOLOGY

Home internet jammed up? Try these steps before upgrading

Mar 27, 2020, 5:52 AM | Updated: 5:57 am
FILE - In this June 19, 2018, file photo, a router and internet switch are displayed in East Derry,...
FILE - In this June 19, 2018, file photo, a router and internet switch are displayed in East Derry, N.H. With so much of the U.S. workforce, and their families, now cooped up at home to combat the spread of coronavirus, it's not a huge surprise that home internet is showing the strain. Will there be a bandwidth problem with all the devices going at once? (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

With so much of the U.S. workforce — and their families — now cooped up at home to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, it’s not a huge surprise that home internet is showing the strain.

If you’ve had a business videoconference stutter while your teenagers play Call of Duty online, or found yourself unable to stream the news while your spouse uploads huge data files for work, you’ll have a good idea of the problem.

IS THERE A BANDWIDTH PROBLEM?

The internet’s core is managing the spike in traffic just fine, experts say. It has massive capacity to handle Netflix, YouTube, Zoom and other streaming services.

True, Netflix recently throttled down its video quality in Europe at the request of authorities there. But the company already stores its programs on servers close to users’ homes already, and there’s no evidence that it’s clogging networks.

IF THE INTERNET IS SO STURDY, WHY DOES MY HOME CONNECTION STUTTER?

The problem partly lies in the so-called “last mile,” the link that connects your home to the ultra-high-speed internet backbone.

Most U.S. homes get their internet from cable companies and thus connect to the broader network via coaxial cable, a legacy of the cable TV era. These connections provide faster “downstream” speeds to your home than “upstream” speeds back to the internet. Since videoconferencing sends equal amounts of data both ways, simultaneous sessions can clog the upstream channel and disrupt service for the entire household.

If that happens, one quick solution is to have some family members switch to audio-only, which conserves bandwidth. This also applies to anyone in multiplayer online games, where — per a wag on Twitter — the banter between players often resembles conference calls with occasional shooting.

You could also order a service upgrade, although that might not be strictly necessary. Some providers are temporarily offering more bandwidth, particularly for families with school-age children, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Others have dropped service caps that charge extra when data usage passes a certain threshold.

The relatively few U.S. households with their own direct fiber-optic connections have the same bandwidth in both directions and shouldn’t experience serious hiccups.

DOES MY HOME NETWORK NEED AN UPGRADE?

It might. Start with your internet modem, the device that most likely has a coax cable connecting it to your wall. Your internet provider often rents the modem to you.

If it’s several years old, it’s probably time to ask your provider if upgrading the modem’s internal software, or replacing the modem entirely, will help. Older modems often can’t deliver the full bandwidth you’re paying for to your household.

Next up is your Wi-Fi router. If you have cable, it may be built into your modem. If you haven’t already, try moving it to a more central location in your home or apartment; that will ensure bandwidth is distributed more equally.

Or you can add more access points and distribute Wi-Fi with a “mesh” network. Newer routers let you add several satellite stations that boost your signal throughout the house, though you might have to arrange that with your provider.

One more possibility: You can connect some devices directly to the router with ethernet cables instead of using Wi-Fi. This may improve the performance of videoconferencing.

Today’s Top Stories

Technology

In this image provided by NASA, the Earth and its moon are seen from NASA's Orion spacecraft on Mon...
Jackie Wattles, CNN

NASA’s Orion reaches record-breaking distance from Earth

NASA confirmed that Orion had reached the midpoint of its uncrewed mission around the moon — about 270,000 miles (434,523 kilometers) from Earth.
1 day ago
Former US President Donald Trump's Twitter account has been reinstated on the platform....
Clare Duffy and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Elon Musk restores Donald Trump’s Twitter account

Former US President Donald Trump's Twitter account has been reinstated on the platform.
11 days ago
With employees with the company, the future of Twitter is in uncertain. Photo credit: Justin Sulliv...
Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

Inside Twitter as ‘mass exodus’ of staffers throws platform’s future into uncertainty

With employees leaving the company, the future of Twitter is uncertain.
12 days ago
NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen on Nov. 12 at NASA...
Jackie Wattles, CNN

Historic moon mission troubleshoots fuel leak issue hours before launch

The Artemis I mission to the moon could finally take place this week.
15 days ago
FILE - A Tesla owner charges his vehicle at a charging station in Topeka, Kan., Monday, April 5, 20...
Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN Business

Tesla officially makes its charging standard available to other companies

Tesla has invited other automakers to build cars with charging ports that can work with Tesla's charging format and for other charging companies to add Tesla-style plugs to their chargers.
18 days ago
Former US President Donald Trump's Twitter account has been reinstated on the platform....
BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology Writer

Twitter Blue signups unavailable after raft of fake accounts

Blue checkmark "verification" was unavailable for purchase Friday after the social media platform was flooded by impostor accounts approved by Twitter.
19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Home internet jammed up? Try these steps before upgrading