As School-From-Home Resumes, Is Your Wi-Fi Ready?

With many students starting class from home in the fall, Wi-Fi networks will be put to the test again. We have expert advice, plus ways to get low-cost or free internet.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Your home Wi-Fi has a lot in common with your plumbing.

If you run all the faucets, toilets, sprinklers, and showers at the same time, you'll probably notice a steep drop in water pressure.

The same limitation applies to wireless internet. The more devices you run, the slower data will flow.

Adriana Arvizo, external communications manager for Comcast -- which owns NBC -- says that's why it's important to have a grip on how you're using Wi-Fi.

"Now more than ever, it’s important to manage your in-home network," she said.

Arvizo says your internet provider may offer a tracking tool. You can use it to identify devices taking up the most bandwidth, and keep track of when family members are logging on.

It can also alert you if the kids are being data hogs, with video streaming or gaming.

"You can easily manage from your phone, or your computer," Arvizo said. "It allows you to see how many devices are connected to your network."

Other ideas you can try to get the most out of your home internet:

  • Take an inventory of every device connected to your Wi-Fi, then disconnect anything that's not in use. Pay special attention to smart appliances, smart speakers, and video game consoles.
  • Create an internet schedule for the whole family. Try to avoid too many people being online at the same time.
  • Start your work and school day later in the morning, if you can. Internet traffic often surges around 9:00 AM, so avoiding the online "rush hour" can make your connection faster and more reliable.
  • Check your router -- how old is it? Newer models run at a swift 5 GHz, while older ones typically process data at around half that speed.

Viruses, malware, and spyware slow down home networks, too. Make sure your computers and tablets are protected.

Ryan Kalember, Executive Vice President of Cybersecurty Strategy with Proofpoint in Sunnyvale, says it's important to teach your kids email safety now -- like never opening an email link without Mom or Dad checking it first.

"It is useful for any student of any age, who’s going to have to engage with email as a communication mechanism with their teacher… to learn a little bit about what to trust and not to trust," Kalember said.

Free, Discounted Internet Options

Most Bay Area homes are hooked up to the internet, but not all. Comcast is offering qualified families a package called Internet Essentials for $9.95 per month.

"It started for students who qualified for subsidized lunches," Arvizo said. "Then, it expanded to seniors, veterans, people with disabilities."

Arvizo said Comcast has also extended free, open access to more than 1.5 million Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide -- through the end of the year. You don't have to be a Comcast customer to connect.

AT&T offers its own low-cost internet option, Access from AT&T. It's $10 per month for families that meet income qualifications.

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