Here are some suggestions to make sure you have a good home Internet experience.
- Regularly reboot your equipment (restarting your modem or router can improve performance and speed)
- Turn off devices and applications you aren’t using
- Connect using an ethernet cable (rather than wireless) to have more bandwidth for better videoconferencing
Evaluating Your Performance
We recommend you test your internet service to make sure you are ready to work. We recommend using the free speedtest.net website or iOS/Android app. This provides an end-to-end test of all the factors affecting your device’s connection: your internet provider, your home network setup, and the device you’re on. When you run Speedtest, there is an option to choose a server to test against — we recommend picking Carleton College, Northfield, MN, which effectively approximates a connection to Carleton. For an illustrated example, see Carleton’s SpeedTest Guide.
For best results, you’ll want at a minimum:
- 15 megabit per second (Mb/s) or better download speed
- 5 megabit per second (Mb/s) or better upload speed
- A ping time of less than 75 milliseconds
Wired or Wi-fi?
Next to the internet provider you use, the most important factor is how you connect to the network within a house or other location. There are two main choices: Ethernet or wi-fi.
If possible, directly connecting to the internet router or access point via a wired (Ethernet) cable will provide the best quality, especially for audio/video applications like Zoom. Carleton has Ethernet cables available for non-contact pickup outside the Helpdesk in the CMC.
- If you connect via Ethernet, you don’t need to worry about wi-fi quality.
If you use wi-fi, the quality of your wireless connection will significantly impact your overall internet quality.
- Avoid having two or more walls or one floor between your computer and your home’s internet router/access point.
- Houses larger than 1,500 square feet or so (depending on layout and building materials) will usually need multiple wireless access points for good house-wide coverage.
- If you’re using the wireless access point that came with your internet connection, note that these often have average to poor coverage.
- Consider installing a newer wi-fi access point, or wi-fi mesh networks that cover your home with multiple access points. Wirecutter from the New York Times regularly tests and recommends WiFi access points and mesh hardware.
- Wi-fi signals are transmitted at two different frequency modes: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. 2.4 GHz is an older technology; it’s more prone to interference and runs at slower speeds. 2.4Ghz, however, travels better through walls and floors than 5Ghz, so in larger homes, it may offer better connection rates.
- Remember that wi-fi is a shared-access medium, and the total number of connected devices will affect performance. Consider disabling unused or non-workplace devices during working hours.
- For best results, and assuming adequate signal strength, make sure your computer is using 5 GHz wi-fi; then, disable (or rate-limit) 2.4 GHz on your router and update other devices on your network to use only 5 GHz.
- If you have more questions about home wi-fi setup, see this guide from ArsTechnica.
Understanding your Internet Connectivity
You may need to consider whether your Internet provider is up to the task. Depending on your city and neighborhood, not all of these options will be available to you.
- Fiber-optic providers (such as CenturyLink or US Internet, Google Fiber, Jaguar Communications Fiber, etc.) generally offer the highest quality connection and will work well for remote work.
- Cable TV providers (such as Charter) may, especially in smaller communities, use a neighborhood feed, which means that the overall bandwidth available to an area may be capped, and you might be sharing with your neighbors. So available connections might be limited depending on the density of users in your area, and you might not be able to reach your advertised speeds during periods of heavy use, though they still may work well enough.
- DSL service is a generally lower-quality service but is the best choice for some rural neighborhoods and homes.
- A cellular hotspot may work, depending on the strength of the cellular coverage in your area, but often restricts how much bandwidth you can consume.
- Satellite broadband (HughesNet, etc.) and dial-up internet options won’t work well for access to Carleton resources.
Additionally, not all residential connections are “symmetrical.” At Carleton, our Internet feeds are symmetrical, meaning that our upload speed matches our download speed, so sending large files to Google or some other destination is simple and fast. Typical home connections are asymmetrical, with upload speeds being a fraction (usually around ⅓) of download speeds. If you work with large files, it may take longer to upload them than you would expect from your time working on Carleton’s network.
Suggestions If You’re Having Problems
- Make sure you have a local password for your home router.
- Most internet providers have tools that allow you to troubleshoot connections issues, so that you can see who all is on your network.