WSAZ INVESTIGATES | Improving your internet connection

A home under construction in Lawrence County, Kentucky prepares to be wired for cable and...
A home under construction in Lawrence County, Kentucky prepares to be wired for cable and internet services.(WSAZ)
Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 7:34 PM EDT
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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to work from home for the foreseeable future. One of the biggest issues people are encountering during this transition is poor internet speed.

Modem and router are two key words. The main difference between the two is that a modem lets you connect to the internet, while a router sends that connection to different devices like your phone or computer.

We visited a new home under construction in Lawrence County, Kentucky, where the homeowners are laying out what kind of connections they need and where they want them.

“It's really important to consult with someone that understands internet services,” said Steven Lycans.

Lycans is the general manager of Lycom Communications. He's helping a customer set up their new home with a hardwired connection, which allows internet access to pass directly from an access point to a device, like your TV.

“When we want to do wired it gives you a better experience and it gives you a more robust experience,” Lycans said.

Wi-Fi uses a wireless connection to pass data between the router and device, while a hardwired connection uses an Ethernet cable. It is typically faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi and will help you handle the full speed of your internet plan.

“In some homes we're not going to be able to wire those devices up,” Lycans said. “We're going to have use a wireless solution.”

One common issue people point out -- I can only get a good signal in certain rooms of my home. That's where Lycans says "mesh" networks are a good solution. It’s a group of devices that act as a single Wi-Fi network, so that there's multiple sources of wireless internet around your home, instead of just a single access point.

Lycans says you can get these at electronics stores. They run anywhere from $100 to $600 -- but can make a tremendous difference in making sure you have a good connection, no matter who your provider is or where you are in your home.

“It helps those systems communicate to give you the maximum amount of benefit from your wireless access provider or ISP,” Lycans said.

We've heard from many of our viewers that they rent their routers from their internet providers for about $10 to $15 a month.

Some say they're being given older equipment. Lycans recommends replacing or upgrading them every three to four years. If you buy your own router, it can cost anywhere between $100 to $250 up front but could save you money over time.

Actually buy this solution and install yourself,” Lycans said. “A lot of times their tech support will guide you and help you set this up.”

Placement of your router can also make a big difference in how and where you see Wi-Fi coverage. The typical range of a standard Wi-Fi network can reach up to 150 feet in open air.

However, buildings and walls can impact the strength of the signal.

Lycans suggests a central location in your home. While you may be tempted to try to cover it up, you’ll want to make sure its elevated and out in the open as much as possible.

Not sure how effective the location of your router is? There's an app for that.

“So a lot of advanced systems now offer apps that help you along,” Lycans said. “You don't need expensive meters, you don't need expensive equipment to install this because it's automatically in the system. When you're looking at these, they help you actually position those devices to get the best bang for your buck.”

You can also track and see usage, what devices and programs are logged into the Wi-Fi, and which ones are using the most bandwidth -- sort of like when you're working from home and realize your child has been streaming YouTube all day.

“These advanced Wi-Fi networks in your home will help you utilize that connection better by using technology within these devices that is basically a traffic cop, saying stop and go to multiple devices in the house,” Lycans said.

Overall, if you're looking for ways to boost your signal, test your speeds regularly. Make sure router is in a central location of your home and that it's in a clear, elevated spot. Check the model and serial numbers to see how old it is. Also find out what is using most of your internet signal and cut off any Wi-Fi leaches.