Internet speed

How to boost your internet speed at home in 8 ways, and make sure you're not being overcharged for low speeds

Dave Johnson/Business Insider
Your router can transmit on a variety of different channels, each of which has its own bandwidth space. 
If you're having connectivity issues, open the router's settings (usually through a mobile app or by typing your IP address into a web browser) and change the channel from "Auto" to one of the other channel options. 
You might need to experiment to find a channel that's not already crowded. Typically, channels 1, 6, or 11 will be your best choices in the 2.4 GHz band, and any of the 23 channels in the 5 GHz band should work. 

Cox slows Internet speeds in entire neighborhoods to punish any heavy users

Cox Communications is lowering Internet upload speeds in entire neighborhoods to stop what it considers "excessive usage," in a decision that punishes both heavy Internet users and their neighbors.
Cox, a cable company with about 5.2 million broadband customers in the United States, has been sending notices to some heavy Internet users warning them to use less data and notifying them of neighborhood-wide speed decreases. In the case we will describe in this article, a gigabit customer who was paying $50 extra per month for unlimited data was flagged by Cox because he was using 8TB to 12TB a month.
Cox responded by lowering the upload speeds on the gigabit-download plan from 35Mbps to 10Mbps for the customer's whole neighborhood. Cox confirmed to Ars that it has imposed neighborhood-wide slowdowns in multiple neighborhoods in cases like this one but didn't say how many excessive users are enough to trigger a speed decrease.
Mike, a Cox customer from Gainesville, Florida, pays $150 a month, including $100 for 1Gbps download speeds and 35Mbps upload speeds, and another $50 for "unlimited data" so that he can go over Cox's 1TB data cap. Mike told Ars via email that most of his 8TB+ monthly use consists of scheduled device backups and "data sharing via various (encrypted) information-sharing protocols," such as peer-to-peer networks, between 1am and 8am. (We agreed to publish Mike's first name only but reviewed his bills and confirmed the basic details of his account with Cox.)
Generally speaking, data usage for most households declines significantly during those 1am-8am overnight hours, so a robustly built broadband network should be able to handle the traffic. In any case, Mike couldn't use more than 35Mbps for uploads at any given time because that's the limit Cox always imposed on its gigabit-download cable plan. Mike said his household's daytime and evening use is more like a typical Internet user's, with work-from-home activities during the day and streaming video in high-definition during the evening.
Mike also said his level of Internet usage has been roughly the same for the past four years that he's been using Cox—but it was only in mid-May that the company flagged him for excessive use. This may suggest that Cox is struggling to handle pandemic-level broadband traffic, but Cox says that the vast majority of its network is "performing very well."
Cox provided a little more detail after this story published, saying that the neighborhood-wide slowdowns and disconnection threats sent to individual customers "are two separate initiatives that could cross over in some cases."
“Scheduled for termination”
First, Mike got three calls from Cox including one that left a voicemail saying, "we need to speak with you regarding your Internet usage. Your home is using an extraordinarily high amount of Internet data and adjustments need to be made immediately." The voicemail warned that your "Internet will be scheduled for termination" unless usage reductions are "made within five days," according to Mike.
Mike explained how he responded:
Since I work from home, I naturally was very concerned they would pull the plug on me and I'd be unable to work. Immediately calling the number [provided in the voicemail], I was funneled directly to a department for "questions about your recent Internet speed changes," and spoke with a representative there. He went on to explain that their network is overburdened and since I was an above-average user, I was being targeted to lower my usage or else have my account terminated... I tried to explain that my usage is not out of the ordinary for me. My day-time bandwidth usage is paltry (most of my bandwidth consumption is scheduled from 1am-8am), and that Cox should have been upgrading their infrastructure instead of oversubscribing nodes and pocketing the record revenue. I was told if I did not make a substantial decrease in my upload data usage, my service would be terminated.
Comments in a Reddit thread last month confirm that Mike isn't the only Cox customer being warned to cut upload speeds in order to avoid being kicked off the network. Cox didn't tell Mike exactly how much data he'd have to shave off his monthly usage. There was "no magic number or threshold, just an arbitrary amount of decrease, a Cox-deemed 'good effort,'" or his service would be cut off, he said.
Shortly after that phone call, Mike received an email from Cox with the subject line, "Alert: Action required to continue your Internet service." Mike provided Ars with a copy of the email.
"We've recently tried getting in touch with you about your service—your account has been identified as using an extremely high level of bandwidth, which is causing a negative impact on our network and our other customers across your neighborhood," the email said. Mike's "extraordinarily high" upload usage "is negatively impacting Internet service of other customers, which is a violation of our Acceptable Use Policy, the email said. The policy contains a broad prohibition on transmitting amounts of data large enough to disrupt the network, but it doesn't specify an amount.

Targeted policy needed to ensure governments invests in rural high-speed internet

Telecom experts welcome the federal government’s plan to accelerate investments in high-speed internet for remote and rural areas in Canada but say there needs to be stronger “political will” to ensure that action is taken. 
Rural Economic Development Minister Maryam Monsef said the government is working “as quickly as we can” to fast track projects to ensure Canadians in remote locations are connected to internet services, as reported by the Globe and Mail. Monsef indicated that the government is also planning to launch a website that will help track the completion of broadband projects. 
The aim of the website is to offer more accountability for projects that are currently in motion. 
The federal government hasn’t yet announced how it plans to accelerate the rural internet program.
John Lawford, executive director and general counsel of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said in an interview that the government should put in place policy that will ensure these projects actually get completed. 
“It takes political will to say to Bell or Telus, okay ‘here’s your role, here’s how much [the government] is willing to pay for it and here’s what will happen if you don’t help.’ We just never get to that point because it gets mired in certain hearings to try and figure out how it will work,” Lawford said. 
“And no government wants to take the political hit for facing down the telecos, which is what we need to do in Canada...I don’t know if this [pandemic] will give them the political will to do that.”
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government announced $1.7 billion in funding in budget 2019 to connect 100 per cent of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2030. This would be done through the Connectivity Strategy that would build on existing investments previously announced.
Lawford said the biggest challenge facing the government is connecting the last chunk of Canadians, which he says will never happen unless policy is put in place to have telecom carriers connect the rural areas first. 
Story continues
“You can’t keep saying we’ll do the last five per cent, the last two per cent in the future. You can change the policy and say ‘we’re serving the hardest people first,’” he said. 
“So if the minister says she’s going to speed it up, good luck, because we’ve got regulatory mess, we’ve got lack of political will and we’ve got strong financially oriented private companies.”
Spencer Callaghan, communications and content manager at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, said that the 2030 target the government had is not sustainable anymore when the coronavirus has proved the internet is “the lifeblood of our economy.”
“The number one challenge the government is facing is, and we are trying to help, trying to identify those projects and communities where the need is the greatest,” he said.
CIRA recently launched the internet performance test which lets Canadians test their internet speed and will submit responses to the government.
“Our goal is to help the government identify the areas that could use some expediting of their projects,” he said.
Marc Choma, a Bell spokesperson, said in an email that the carrier is investing in its networks to “close the gap on the remaining” 14 per cent of Canadians that are without internet services. 
As part of Bell’s Wireless Home Internet program, the carrier has connected 137,000 Canadians in April and plans to reach one million rural homes in the future.
“There will always be parts of the country where government funding will be needed,” Choma said. “We’ve partnered with governments across the country on broadband initiatives and area ready and willing to continue doing so.”
Brandi Rees, a spokesperson for Telus, said in an email that the carrier was also expanding and “densifying its rural coverage” to support Canadians. 
“Connecting rural communities requires the joint effort and investment from facilities-based carriers and governments to ensure that all Canadians have access to coverage, speed, and reliability they deserve,” Rees said. 
A Rogers spokesperson said in an email that the carrier has made suggestions to the federal government on how to reach more communities to offer better access to internet services. 
“We know how important it is for Canadians to have to access to high-speed Internet, no matter where they live, and that’s why it’s critical that governments and network builders work together to create meaningful policy solutions that deliver high quality broadband networks across both rural and urban communities,” Rogers said. 
Ben Klass, a telecom expert and PhD student at Carleton University, said in an interview that the biggest challenge for the government will be to ensure the monies put into projects are accounted for and put towards those that have been designed specifically for the geographic location it is intended. 
“Twelve years ago [the government] gave out a bunch of money, which is good...but once the money is out there it doesn’t necessarily translate into the delivery of adequate service,” he said. 
“One of the previous challenges has been following up to make sure that the money is being put into the ground in a way that’s going to provide sustainable benefit.”
Klass also added that the time to wait around for better technology is over and that carriers should use resources they have now to get the rest of Canada connected.
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