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6 ways to speed up your home internet connection

As we all hunker down with video chats, streaming and online games, home internet for many households struggles to keep up with demand. A Carleton computer scientist has some tips to avoid internet bottlenecks.

Tips from a Carleton University computer scientist

Many of us are relying on video-streaming services to learn and work remotely, but home internet connections are struggling to keep up. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

For many of us, our homes became offices and classrooms overnight. 

And the demand for reliable internet, to power our Zoom meetings and Google classroom chats — never mind Gem, Netflix, Crave and online gaming — has never been higher.

The result for many is choppy connections and frustrating lag times. 

Thomas Kunz, a professor at Carleton University's department of systems and computer engineering, specializes in Wi-Fi and cellular networks. 

While the promise of modern network infrastructure and 5G are still on the horizon, for now, we have to make do with what's available. That means getting creative, he says.

Here are some of Kunz's tips on making the most of your home internet:

1. Divide and conquer 

Try to come up with a schedule that avoids simultaneous video chats within the home. If more than one meeting has to happen at the same time, find out if both really need to have a video component.

If not, just use audio. Hearing is more important and requires less bandwidth than video. 

2. Experiment with different programs

Find better applications that work for you.

Zoom is great for multi-party chats but Google Hangouts could work better when it comes to smaller groups and one-on-one conversations. Skype audio calls could do the trick in many cases and they also require less bandwidth.

3. Use your phone to free up demand

Cell phone connections are often more stable than Wi-Fi.

One option, if you have plenty of data, is to use your cellular phone for some meetings, especially if your home Wi-Fi is being taxed at the same time. That relieves pressure for others on your network too.

Relying on a single home internet connection could be a good time to teach kids about internet etiquette and ways to share so no one ends up frozen on Facetime. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

4. Avoid wireless if possible

Plug directly into your modem when you can instead of using Wi-Fi, says Kunz. It's also a good idea to speak with your internet provider about getting a newer modem or router if yours is getting old.

Newer modems will hunt for the connection with the least traffic, whereas older modems might stay locked on a Wi-Fi channel shared with several other homes in your neighbourhood. 

5. Shift your hours of use

This might seem obvious, but try to avoid peak usage time. After dinner has become a popular time to video chat with family members, so consider a later start time in the evening or early in the morning.

6. Create a teaching moment for your budding streamers

If you have kids at home and they're watching videos or playing video-rich online games, have a chat about internet etiquette.

Just like you wouldn't talk while someone else is speaking, it isn't good to download that big movie file while mom is having a video meeting with the boss. 

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