‘Dude, Where’s My Internet?’

Dear KP Techie: “I work from home on the KP a couple of days a week and my Internet is really slow, which makes it difficult to do my job. Not to mention I can barely stream movies on Netflix or Amazon on the weekends. Why is it so slow and what can I do about it?”

Signed, Kathy in Lakebay.

Hi Kathy: You have a perfectly reasonable question. Most Washingtonians enjoy an average broadband speed of 59.6 Megabytes per second, so why can’t a person in Lakebay work from home or stream a movie without stuttering, lag or a flat-out connection fail?

Let’s start with the landscape of KP Internet service providers (ISPs). According to Broadband Now, Lakebay has 11 Internet providers including three cable, one DSL, one fixed wireless, four mobile and two satellite providers. But I’m going to assume that you’re like mostof the residents in the Lakebay area and have CenturyLink DSL.

DSL, which stands for digital subscriber line, travels through existing phone infrastructure. DSL in Lakebay is theoretically capable of reaching speeds of up to 20 Mbps but that depends on how far you are from the CenturyLink switch. A quick call to the business office will confirm what the max speed at your location should be, and you can then test it at speedof.me to confirm. If your results come back below 5 Mbps, this explains why you’re having problems.

Netflix requires about 5 Mbps, Amazon about 3.5 Mbps and HBO Go about 3 Mbps. If you put them all together, add in the vampires (desktops and mobile devices syphoning off precious bandwidth of a few Kbps), basic math gives us a better picture of what’s affecting your Internet: 5 + 3 + 3.5 = 11.5 plus 1 (vampire est.) and we’re at 12.5 Mbps.

Well, here’s our KP Internet hack of the week, but it’s going to cost a bit of money.

Step 1: Add a second DSL line. While the technician is there, ask him or her to take a look at your existing line to make sure you’re getting reasonable speed where the lines enter the house. It’s worth noting this will work with cable as well, and you can even combine DSL and cable. Satellite doesn’t work so well because of latency, and we’ll cover that later.

Step 2: Add a multi WAN (wide area network) router. A multi WAN router is about the price of a nice wireless router ($150+) and is simply inserted between your CenturyLink DSL routers (you have two now) and your home (wireless or wired) router. Examples include the Linksys LRT 224 and Peplink Balance 20 and both also act as a firewall, VPN device and multiport router all in one.

Step 3: Bridge mode. Make sure you run your two routers in bridge mode, which will pass the login requirements over to your new multi WAN router. If you’re nice, the DSL technician might even help.

Once these upgrades are done, your router will need some settings adjusted, but speaking from experience I can tell you this will have a measurable impact on your Internet quality and speed.

And finally Kathy, if your Internet is still slow, I can only offer the same advice my parents gave me many years ago when the rabbit ears failed and the TV went fuzzy: “Go outside and play.” And when you get back, add another connection because this also works with more than two (but you’ll need a three-WAN router). Have fun!

Send your tech questions to the KP Techie at editor@keypennews.com

T.S. Dickson works in the tech industry and lives in Lakebay.