Saturday, September 19, 2020

How to solve bad internet speeds on Comcast Xfinity / Charter Spectrum / WOW! / etc

 For the last three years I've been working with my city to possibly get a municipal fiber network installed so our residents have a choice between sub par overpriced DSL and sub par over priced cable internet.  We like many communities have no competition and the providers have driven costs up like mad.  We've gotten to a step where we got a survey of the residents and were shocked how bad it was   I've had a few indications I need to write up this article this week.  

I've had a few indications I need to write up this article this week.  First I've been working with my local government to attempt to bring municipal broadband to my community.  We have a full third of the community reporting speeds of 30mbps or less even though our cable company offering a lowest standard speed of 200mbps.  Secondly a friend of mine called me with internet speed issues where she was only getting 30mbps and that was affecting her three kids who are all in virtual classrooms and their ability to attend school.  In her case she not only had a very old 802.11b router she had been talked into a slow internet plan so the cable company could give her a cheap double play TV and internet package even though she only needed internet.  Finally knowing how many people assume cable equipment is good for years (and lets face it many of us have had cable boxes older than our children) aren't used to the fact that this equipment needs more frequent replacement than we knew.

With everything going on many people are finding out they don't have access to the speed of internet they thought they had.  In many cases they're simply overwhelming the system that was built decades ago to handle TV.  In many cases however the network outside of their homes was upgraded, but the homeowner never upgraded their modem or router assuming they were good with what they had.  Never knowing that every so often this equipment would need an upgrade.  Before you blame your cable company let me run you through some steps that will make the process easier to identify where your real bottleneck is.

1)  Check your bill / call your provider.  What we are looking for here is the speed of your internet package.  If your bill doesn't have a specific speed listed call them up and simply ask.  You like my friend might have a slow plan that was either given to you to keep costs low, or you might have a grandfathered plan and are paying way too much for slow internet.  Call and ask.  If you're getting under 50mbps ask what the standard speed is now for your provider.  Check their website and confirm what they are saying to you.

2)  Use your computer to go to  Run the speed test (It's a big green button) and verify that the download and upload speeds match what you've been told.  I'd give a little room for slop or high traffic times.  If your paying for 100mpbs download and get 80 your equipment's probably fine.  Your provider needs to upgrade theirs.  Best to complain to them and encourage your neighbors to do the same.  If the test comes back with what you're paying for you don't have a problem with your equipment.  However if you are experiencing issues with multiple video streams in your house (We're all working / schooling remote) you might need to upgrade your plan to a faster speed.  However if you get really low numbers say 30mbps when you pay for 100mpbs or better read on.

3)  If you got a really low number in step 2 you have a problem in one of three places.  Your router, your cable modem, or the cable from the pole to your home is bad.  Lets start isolating out equipment.  First off take down the model number from the wifi router and cable modem and look them up on google.  We can save you some testing here by checking these facts.

a)  If your router comes up as 802.11 a,b,g, or n you should simply replace it now.  It might still be working, but they were never really made for multiple video streams at home.

If you've never had signal problems in your home this would be a great replacement device:

However if you've always had some dead spots in your home it's time to upgrade to a mesh network.

b)  If your cable modem has markings for DOCSIS, DOCSIS 1.1, or DOCSIS 2.0 it's time for a replacement.  If you rent your modem or are provided one free by your cable company request a replacement.  If you own your own it's time for a replacement.  Here is an excellent one.

In many cases if one device needs replacement both probably do.  In that case consider a combined device with wifi and modem in one box.  It reduces unsightly wires and saves you shelf space.

4)  If you want to start testing out the root cause of your speed issue disconnect the wire between your cable modem and your router and unhook the power from your router.  Hook your computer directly up to the cable modem and then run the website again.  If you get the speeds you pay for then your router is in need of replacement.  However if you still have speed issues the problem could either be your cable modem, or the cable to your home.

5)  Call your cable provider and ask for tech support.  Let them know you want them to "Test the signal my cable modem is seeing."  They don't need to send a tech out to do this as the modem reports this information to them on request.  This is where things get a little confusing.  If the modem is seeing enough signal or the tech reports it's good you probably have an outdated modem that needs replacement.  If it wasn't getting enough signal you probably have a bad cable from the pole to your house or too many cable splitters.  Let the tech know you're having speed issues and that you're hooked directly to the cable modem without a router.  In most situations the tech will simply send out a new cable modem for you to install or schedule a service call. Let me be clear, anyone can swap a cable modem.  There are literally three wires that go to them (ethernet, coax, and power).  All you need to do is call service and read off the serial number off the device to get it running.  Most cable providers make this process easy.

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