That frustrating moment when the connection drops in the middle of an important Zoom meeting with a client, or your favourite TV show fails to stream after a long, tiring day. Having a slow Internet connection is a pain we’ve all had to deal with. But why should we?
Many things can affect your Internet speed, but your ISP shouldn’t be one of them. If you’re paying good money for a reliable, quality and secure fibre line, that’s exactly what you should be getting. To ensure your connection quality meets your needs (and debit order every month), here are some ways to test and improve it – or better yet, determine if the fault isn’t actually on your side.
Perform a speed test
Running a quick speed test is always the best place to start. If you’re getting download and upload speeds that are significantly lower than what you’re paying for, you’ll need to start investigating. However, latency (the reaction time of your connection, that is, how quickly your device gets a response after you’ve sent out a request) and download or upload speeds only tell part of the story.
To get into the technicalities, small pieces of data called packets are sent and received when you access the Internet. When some of these packets go off track and fail to reach their intended destination, this is known as packet loss. When these packets are delayed, this is called jitter. Packet loss and jitter can also cause poor connection quality, even if your bandwidth speed seems fine. This results in low-grade video calls with fuzzy faces, robotic-sounding VoIP calls, and terrible-quality multimedia streaming. Here’s a guide on testing for packet loss on Windows.
However, we recommend performing these types of tests with your ISP’s service desk or through their self-help portal.
Check your router
It may seem like a redundant exercise, but any good tech support agent will always ask: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”. And there’s a good reason for this: power cycling. Turning off your modem for a minute and turning it on again is often the easiest and most effective way to flush out various connection problems.
Repositioning your router to a more central location is another simple solution that could make a significant improvement to your connection quality. Plugging your computer directly into the router via a LAN cable gives the best possible connection speed. If other devices are still out of reach, WiFi extenders are usually inexpensive and will sort that out for you. For better integration between your router and the extender, it’s also a good idea to use the same brand or make sure they’re cross-compatible first.
If your router is more than a few years old, replacing it with a new model can also make a huge difference. Be sure to get a dual-band or triple-band router so you can use the 5GHz band. A 5GHz band can carry more bandwidth and usually experiences less interference from other devices. However, if you’re going to buy a new router, be sure to check if it’s compatible with your Internet provider first.
Check for background apps
You might not always be aware of it, but Windows updates or background apps are a
common cause of connectivity issues. You can pause Windows updates temporarily by searching for “Windows Update Settings” when you really need faster Internet, but it’s usually best to keep them on for security purposes.
One of the best ways to find out what applications are sucking up your Internet connection is using the Task Manager on Windows (which you can access easily by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc). In the processes tab, you can click on “network” to arrange your running applications in descending order according to how much they’re using your network.
If there’s a process using a lot more than the others, it’s usually best practice to Google the name of that process before right-clicking and ending it, as it could very well be a vital Windows process. If you’re a bit more tech-savvy, the Windows Resource Monitor can do the same but with a lot more visibility of your running processes.
Reconsider your ISP
If all these strategies fail to improve your connection quality, the problem likely lies with your ISP. Ask whether your line is being capped, shaped or throttled, as these factors directly impact the speed of your connection. They may try to shift the blame to the Fibre Network Owner instead of taking responsibility, which may be reason enough to reconsider your contract with them. If your ISP isn’t coming to the party with solutions and support, then you have your answer.
In today’s connected age, having fast, reliable, and affordable Internet shouldn’t be a struggle. If you’re not getting what you pay for when it comes to fibre, hopefully, some of these tried-and-tested methods will help. If not, perhaps it’s time to consider switching to an ISP you can depend on.
- Matthew Campbell – Head of SME and FTTH at SEACOM