Internet

Four Mistakes You’re Making That’s Slowing Down Your Internet

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It’s maddening when your internet service isn’t working properly. And it’s hard to figure out what’s wrong.

It could be your internet company’s fault, your home hardware buggery, or your neighbor’s late-night Call of Duty intrusion. And sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

Try to overcome these four mistakes that can make your home Internet worse.

1. Do not confuse modem and router

Confession. I made this mistake just this week.

A modem is the box that brings the Internet into your home. It is usually plugged into your wall cable outlet.

A router connects to your modem by wire and connects your devices online, usually via WiFi. (Some of you may have a combination router and modem.)

If you’re the type to use your WiFi 6E network, bless your heart. Normal people just want our internet to work.

The difference between modems and routers is important because of #2.

2. Don’t hide your WiFi router

It’s okay to stick the modem under a pile of books. But your router should be treated like a Fabergé egg.

Your WiFi works best if your router is in the heart of your home, not on a bookshelf, parked under a metal table, or stuck behind a TV or fish tank.

I understand why people, and I am one of those people, hide these gizmos out of sight. Routers vary in appearance from “duh” to “get that creepy UFO out of my house”. (Free business idea: awesome gear to cover up our ugly routers).

And the farther your devices are from the router, the harder it will be to get a solid connection.

Beware of interference from walls, metal, water and other obstacles that block beautiful internet rainbows from reaching your bedroom TV.

Carl Leuschner, senior vice president of the company behind the Spectrum Internet service, said customers frequently interfere with connected doorbells like Amazon’s Ring. The exterior wall of your home is in the way, and the doorbell is often far from your router.

If you have patchy WiFi, even a slight router move can make a big difference.

Can you place your router on top of your TV stand instead of a shelf, or move it from your living room floor to the top of a cabinet? For doorbell issues, Leuschner says Spectrum suggests people move their routers closer to the door or buy a device that extends WiFi into difficult corners.

Washington Post technology columnist Jeffrey A. Fowler wrote a wireless troubleshooting guide where he offered mostly free solutions. (Tip: Start by unplugging the modem, wait 10 seconds, and plug it back in.)

3. Don’t buy that high speed internet

ISPs dazzle you with service plans that promise BLAZING. FAST. SPEEDS:

But in the 2019 Wall Street Journal the projectResearchers have found that most people use a fraction of the Internet speed they paid for. The quality of the video stream did not improve much for people watching on faster connections.

I’m not saying you’ll be fine with 1990s dial-up Internet. But most households will be fine with a basic high-speed plan from an Internet provider that offers download speeds of 50, 100, 200, or 300 Mbps. (Many Americans can’t access speeds even that fast or allow service. Internet access is a huge problem.)

Download speed measures the maximum speed at which online data can be transferred to your home. Will you actually get the 300Mbps speed you signed up for? It is not necessary that.

Sacha Meinrath, a professor of telecommunications at Penn State University, says that providers’ download speeds are often adequate for most households, but upload speeds, a measure of data moving from your devices to the Internet, can be a bottleneck.

Slow upload speeds can be a problem if your Zoom call freezes while your teen is running her TikTok creations. But upload speed is usually overlooked in internet companies’ marketing pitches.

It’s worth starting with the lowest tier plan from your provider. If your internet is molasses, you may want to consider an upgrade. But first try moving your router and other fix attempts from Jeff’s column.

4. You don’t have your router from your internet company

Most ISPs will provide (or make you pay for) a modem or router. You should consider buying them yourself, although I want to buy and rent from an internet company.

Some providers charge an additional $5 to $15 per month to use their router or modem. You’ll save money by buying your own. Follow your ISP’s installation instructions. (Here are modem guides from two major providers, Xfinity: and: Spectrum.)

With your own kit, you replace your modem and router when you want, not when your ISP chooses. If your router is more than two or three years old, it’s worth considering a new one. Modems usually last longer.

But there are advantages to accepting your ISP’s modem or router. The company should update your software, make sure your hardware can handle the internet speed you’re paying for, and help you with problems.

I buy my own router and modem, but that’s not true for everyone.

Whether you choose to rent or buy your internet equipment, make it a well-considered choice and not something your internet provider decides for you.

Related reading: How Internet and TV providers get rid of charging your bill

Your ISP charges you for the router. Or making you pay a premium to use your own? Look at your internet bill and email me about it shira.ovide@washpost.com.

If you have a relatively new model With the Amazon Echo home speaker, it can add WiFi dead zones in your home.

For people who also have Amazon’s Eero “mesh” WiFi system, which is essentially a router and mini enclosures to place around your home to spread WiFi around, Echo devices can double as WiFi signal boosters. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

My colleague Chris Velazco tried the Eero and Echo combo and found it to be nothing short of miraculous.

But he said the Echo plus Eero combo can help if you have a spot where your WiFi is a little wonky. Maybe it’s the bedroom in the corner of your house or the Internet dead zone in Chris’s kitchen.

Read more from Chris. Some Amazon Echos can double as WiFi range extenders. It’s not a perfect fix.

And Jeff wrote about network WiFi. Consider this update to fix your internet dead zones.

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