Updated: Apr 21, 2021
Like many people, I have only considered a change to my Internet plan when I move. Even though I know a better offer is probably out there, the time it takes to research and call and make those changes is a bit daunting when you are short on both time and intel.
In my line of work however, it is important to help my clients consider their best opportunities and costs when it comes to home internet.
So I set out to learn what I could and share the info with you! Special thanks to the info on the internet and from my helpful tech brother-in-law.
Below is a simplified version of what I’m calling Home Internet 101 with a couple disclaimers:
I acknowledge that this info is current as of April 2021 (and technology moves fast, folks!). Also, this info may be a bit basic for some and too detailed for others. Hopefully it finds some of ya'll in the sweet spot and maybe you can break the info down further for your friends & family who could use the help. Or have them call me (414) 235-7237, I can try!
HOME INTERNET 101:
PART 1: HOW THE INTERNET WORKS AT YOUR HOME
The internet is piped into your house by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) through a variety of technologies including fiber optics, wireless, cable, DSL (phone lines), and satellite.
Once the internet is piped into your home, it then is sent to your modem. You’ve probably heard of a modem - but what is it? Consider this analogy - the modem is to your home internet as your key is to your front door. It unlocks the connection that the ISP is sending to your home and determines your level of access (Speed).
From the modem, the internet is sent to your router. To continue with playful analogies, imagine your router is a mailroom. It determines where the information is going. Are you looking for a website? Go to that tube. Trying to print something on your wireless printer, go down this tube. This can be done in a few different ways - be it the wifi connection throughout your house to your cellphone or laptop, or wired directly to any computers or smart tv’s.
All of the parts of your home internet system (modem, router, devices) make up your home internet infrastructure.
PART 2: INTERNET TERMS + INTERNET SPEED
The connection speed of the internet (aka bandwidth) is typically measured in megabytes per second (Mbps or MB/s).
There are two types of internet connection speed:
Download Speed - the speed at which information is received from the internet to your device. This is more commonly used by most consumers when they watch streaming services or view web pages.
Upload Speed - the speed at which information is sent from your device to the internet.
Broadband Internet is high-speed internet defined by the FCC as having a minimum 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. It can be provided through different technologies including fiber optics, wireless, cable, DSL (phone lines), and satellite.
Typically, in our American consumer market - you will see internet available at download speeds varying from 25 Mbps all the way up to 1,000 Mbps (aka “Gig Internet” of “Fiber” as it comes from the new and growing fiberoptic cables).
What internet speed will work best for you? Your need for speed will vary based on how many people are living in your home and how they are using the internet.
Are you and your family streaming movies?
Playing video games online?
Hosting Zoom parties?
All of these at the same time (you have a fun virtual life, my friend!).
How fast is your internet now? Check your speed by googling “internet speed test” and select “Run Speed Test.”
Does this match what you are paying for? If not, join the club (if you’re really bored, read these complaints to the FFC aloud in a British accent) or for something more productive - here’s a helpful article about which companies’ actual speeds are truer to their advertised ones.
PART 3: WHAT SLOWS DOWN THE INTERNET +
TIPS FOR PREVENTING THAT
Your internet infrastructure... ‘Member that? If your modem, router, or devices are on the older end, the internet can only be received as fast as that instrument allows.
Typically your modem is provided by your ISP (‘member that - Internet Service Provider) and it should work functionally, but you may want to consider…
Using your own router. This can can be a two-fold bonus in that:
You can purchase a router system that is equipped for speed and coverage through either a more expensive single device or through a multi-unit “mesh” system that can boost the wifi signal through small wireless devices placed around your location. For example, for a larger home, you may have a router on the first floor and use a mesh device on the second floor to extend the speed throughout the house. Tech brother-in-law recommends ASUS routers as both single devices or ones that extend through Mesh though, most brand name devices are also a great option.
Routers provided by your ISP or sold from a chain store may have vulnerabilities in their security. In this day & age, I know we all pick our battles with regards to internet security and privacy, but this is a consideration for folks.
Is your internet super spotty all of the sudden? Try unplugging your modem and router once a month for their overall health (sometimes we all need to hit re-set!). Add it to your calendar, simplify your life!
PART 4: SELECTING A PROVIDER
Reading all this and inspired to update your internet service? Moving and need to figure out new internet service? Either way, you can start by determining what kind of service is available in your area and from whom.
TIPS: Ask your landlord or neighbors who they recommend and/or join your neighborhood’s Facebook page to ask the question or better yet, see if anybody else already has.
You can also research top known ISPs (Spectrum, AT&T) and see what speed service they might offer in your area. Do the work, make a chart, save some money!
Not enough time to do all this? Cream City Concierge offers area-internet research and facilitation - contact us to find out more.
BONUS: THE CASE FOR UNIVERSAL BROADBAND
As many folks have said before me, to participate in our economic and educational system, one needs access to broadband internet. Providing universal broadband is one way to level the playing field. Here is Brookings’ powerful study on the importance of universal broadband.