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'The need for speed' | Technology tips for families working, learning from home

The pandemic has forced many families to work and experience school remotely. That means the home WiFi is overloaded. 'Streaming Installers' is offering some tips.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Since the pandemic began, many families have transitioned to working and learning from home, which has led to endless anxiety about needed technology adjustments.

Some of the questions raised by many are:

  • How do I increase Wi-Fi?
  • Where's the best place to put my router and modem?
  • How do I be sure all my software is all up to date?

The owner of a West Michigan internet streaming installation service is offering tips for those of us who are stuck at home and can't seem to get moving on the information highway.

"When people had their internet connection originally set up in their homes, there likely wasn't a pandemic happening," said Dave DeJonge, who owns Streaming Installers, which is an internet installation service based in Grand Rapids. "People just wanted to play games online, surf the web and maybe stream some videos."

But now that the pandemic has forced many families to be sequestered inside their homes all day, the WiFi is taking a beating because everybody is on it at the same time.

DeJonge is offering a few tips that he believes will help people boost their bandwidth.

"You need to find where your modem is in the home," said DeJonge. "When it was first installed, it made sense to stick it in the corner of the basement, hide it in a cabinet, or have it three or four walls away, but that can't happen now."

DeJonge says your modem needs to be out in the open and close to your where the home workspace exists.

"If you live in a house that's 3,000 square feet or less, WiFi extenders will likely work fine," said DeJonge. "But if you live in a larger home, you're going to need a mesh network."

Mesh routers can help eliminate dead zones. Rather than broadcasting WiFi signals from a single point, mesh router systems have multiple access points, which helps the streaming speed.

"Another tip regarding the modem, be sure that it's updating automatically," added DeJonge. "If it's not updating, you'll have to login an force the firmware update to happen."

DeJonge says it's wise to also invest in Ethernet cables.

"A lot of computers nowadays don't have [Ethernet cables]," said DeJonge. "But they make adapters that will plug into a USB port, which then plugs straight into the provider-supplied modem.

"Anything that you can plug into that Ethernet port is going to help reduce that wireless chatter throughout the house."

Another tip DeJonge suggests is to do some tests off of your router.

"Test the router both while connected and wirelessly," said DeJonge. "Then move the computer back to where you work and do the same speed test there again.

"Do these tests in multiple spots throughout the house, and take notes. You should start to see a pattern of whether you're getting the speed you want to get."

Along with purchasing additional bandwidth from your provider, DeJonge also wants people to be sure they don't overpay for what they need.

"You can get a quality mesh network for under $300," said DeJonge. "It will cover the whole house, and it's an investment because all that equipment belongs to you and not the provider."

We live in a time where many families need to be educated on how to get better internet connectivity, especially since there doesn't seem to be an end to the pandemic anytime soon.

"Everybody buckle-up to hang around all winter at home," said DeJonge. "I don't know that many of us are going back [to work or school full-time] anytime soon."


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