Jim Fisher

My last article dealt with consumers blowing money on “ultra high speed” internet plans from our local providers. A short summary is that many of you are trying to drink water from a firehose when a squirt gun would suffice. Many of those consumers are driven to sign up for those plans because they believe their internet is slow. What they don’t know is that their bottleneck usually isn't in the big pipeline of data that comes into their house, but with the wireless router at the heart of their network.

So let’s say you are, smartly, paying for a minimal plan of 25Mbps from your internet service provider (ISP) but you still have issues with “buffering” while streaming video, or a lag while playing a video game, or perhaps websites are loading slowly. The first step in diagnosis is to connect a wired computer (not wireless) and pull up www.speedtest.net on your computer, run a test, and make sure your internet provider is actually delivering what you’re paying for. If you’re paying for 25Mbps and only getting 10Mpps, then your next step is to call your provider and fuss on someone.

Assuming you are receiving what you are paying for, the next thing to consider is the distance from your wireless wireless router (“transmitter”) and your device (TV, tablet, computer). Wireless signals lose a little bit of strength with each wall they have to pass through. A weaker signal means slower internet. The more walls there are, the worse the degradation. So the solution there is to get as close as possible to your wireless router for best results.

But if your wireless router is at one end of the house, and your device needs to be at the other, you’ll need to purchase some stuff. The first option is a “range extender.” This is a device that you plug into an electrical outlet within range of a good signal from your wireless router. That range extender boosts the wireless signal giving you a good signal on the other side of the house. They are pretty easy to set up. One of the drawbacks is that it will create an additional wireless network such as “YourWireless_Ext” instead of just “YourWireless.”

The last option is a mesh network. These are a bit expensive but worth it for many of us. A mesh network creates one large wireless network all under one name. They install similarly to range extenders by placing 2 or 3 wireless “pucks” strategically around your house. You’ll download an app on your smartphone that will guide you to proper placement of the pucks. I chose a Google Nest mesh network for my home and am extremely pleased, but there are plenty other choices.

Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com