Got slow speeds, or worse - no internet connection at all?
Before you pick up a phone, try these simple tips and tricks from former internet service provider/current problem solver, Chip Spann, and the Town of Prosper's tech expert and IT whiz, Leigh Johnson. These tips may help get you back onto the information superhighway in a flash.
How Things Work… and Why They Sometimes Don't
No Connection, No Problem
The Number One Fix for Internet Issues
More often than not, the problem can be corrected by "power cycling" your devices. Start by unplugging the power from your broadband modem, waiting about 60 seconds, and then plugging it back in. If this doesn't work, continue the process with your wired or wireless router and then your desktop or laptop computer.
What Does My Modem or Router Look like?
The modem connects to your Internet Service Provider and converts the signal into one you can use. The router splits or "routes" the internet signal to the devices in your home. Both will be plugged into an electrical outlet and have one or more green lights on them. The router often has an external Wi-Fi antenna.
These are what some commonly-used routers and modems look like:
Check the Lights on the Router
When operating properly, the device should have green lights signifying that the signal is working. Look closely-the router has notations indicating what each light means. If one is not green, note the issue. There is typically one signifying Wi-Fi, another showing that there's a connection to your provider (DSL, cable, fiber, or fixed wireless), and another may indicate whether the provider's network is connected to the internet. If you've unplugged it and plugged it back in and either light is not green, you've might have an issue.
I'Ve Got My Colors down. Now What?
Call your provider. Now you're able to tell the customer service rep what the problem is and that will mean getting your internet back much quicker.
The Second-Most-Common Fix for Internet Issues
Make sure your Wi-Fi is turned on. Most PC-based laptops running Windows have a button or switch on them that toggles this off and on. It's equivalent to putting your phone in and out of airplane mode. Some laptops may enable and disable Wi-Fi using the Fn key and one of the function keys (F1-F12).
On a Mac product, locate the Wi-Fi icon in the main menu at the top of the screen. Click the Wi-Fi icon (or) in the menu bar. If the icon is just an outline of the Wi-Fi symbol, it is turned off. Click the icon and if the Wi-Fi is off, choose "Turn Wi-Fi on." Then, choose your preferred Wi-Fi network from the list and enter the password.
Forget Your Wi-Fi Network
Occasionally, it may be necessary to have your computer or mobile device "forget" the Wi-Fi network. This can especially be necessary if any of your Wi-Fi network settings have changed. On a Windows device, click the Wi-Fi icon in the system tray and expand the available networks. Right-click on your network and choose Forget. On a Mac, click the Wi-Fi icon in the main menu, Open Network Preferences, choose Advanced, select your network and click the minus button to remove it. On mobile devices, go to the Wi-Fi settings and select the network and choose Forget. Once it has been forgotten from your respective device, select it again from the list and connect as if it was a new connection.
Your Router May Be Set up Wrong
Most companies provide the router and set it up for you. But, if you set it up yourself, then go back to the instructions and check that you followed every step to the letter.
Your Wi-Fi Router Is Too Old
If you have a Wi-Fi router that's more than 5 years old you may need to replace it. It's a general recommendation that you upgrade Wi-Fi routers every 3 to 4 years. Wireless specifications are constantly evolving.
Wi-Fi on Desktop Computers
Wi-Fi adapters are also available for desktop computers. The Wi-Fi button mentioned above is not available with most desktop computers. However, there is the possibility that the Wi-Fi adapter itself (e.g., an external version, like a USB Wi-Fi adapter) has an On/Off button or switch. If there is no button or switch, it's because it has an internal PCI expansion card or the Wi-Fi adapter is built onto the motherboard. Alternatively, you can disable and enable the Wi-Fi adapter through the Windows "Device Manager."
Is There an Outage in Your Area?
Prosper is booming! You've probably seen the construction of homes, businesses and roads everywhere. That can sometimes mean a cut fiber optic line that needs to be repaired. After troubleshooting with these tips at home, call your provider. They can tell you if there's a regional outage and how long it will be until service is restored.
Other Things to Look for
- Outside - look for downed lines
- Inside - check the cable that connects to your router and computer/wired devices
- Is it loosely connected, damaged, frayed, or maybe been chewed by a pet?
Internet at the Speed You Want
Check the Speed of Your Router
Make sure you know what connection speed of your router can handle. Put the model number into Google and request the specification or contact your provider.
What's the Speed I'm Paying for?
This is a question your internet service provider can answer. Call them or check your bill. The speed is often listed on your statement.
How Many Devices Do You Have?
Every device you add to the system uses up a portion of the speed and can slow it down. It's similar to trying to take a shower when the washing machine, dishwasher, and sprinkler are running-you might get a trickle of water or no hot water at all.
How Your Device Is Connected
A device wired directly to your router will experience faster speeds than those connecting wirelessly.
The Devices You Use
As smart homes become more common there is more of a demand on your in-home internet service. Devices that may be connected to your Wi-Fi router can include, but are not limited to, cell phones, laptops, iPads, TVs (Roku or similar services for over-the-top streaming Internet service), Nest Thermostats (for controlling temperatures and lights), Alexa devices, music streaming speakers like Sonos, smart appliances (which can be internet-enabled), gaming products (PlayStation, Xbox or other gaming consoles), and more.
How Can You Check for What's Being Used?
This one is pretty technical. Most of us get our routers from our internet service providers, so the best advice is to call them and ask. However, if you bought and installed your own router, check the manual or Google the router manufacturer number for how to do this.
How Speed Is Divided
If you have 100 Mpbs available and four active devices (browsing on your cell phone, your spouse on a desktop computer, your son gaming, and your daughter watching Netflix), it does not mean each one gets 25 Mpbs. It's not an equal division.
What Are Your Devices Doing?
Is someone downloading 200 songs at once, a new game on Steam, or playing Call of Duty with a host of online friends? When you're downloading items, watching Hulu or playing video games, it's like drinking from a fire hose. But, when you're uploading, it's more sipping like through a straw.
The Speed You May Need to…
- 1 Mbps
- Casually browse the internet
- making a video call - teleconference on Skype of Facetime
- send email
- browse and post to social media
- 3 Mbps
- streaming music
- 5 Mbps
- gaming or online multiplayer
- streaming high-definition video (e.g. Netflix)
- distance education courses
- 10 Mpbs
- download files
- for students doing homework and research projects
- 5 to 25 Mpbs
- 25 Mbps
- 4K and/or ultra-high definition streaming
- 100 Mbps
- 3 or more family members using multiple devices
Improve Your Device's "Speed Usage"
- Check for malware or viruses. If you see unwanted pop-up advertising (or pornography) on your computer, you've probably contracted a virus or are infected with malware. You'd be surprised how much of your internet service that will use up and how affect your other devices are when attempting to access the Internet.
- While there are several "free" antivirus programs available please be reminded of the old adage "you get what you pay for." In this day of hacking, attacking and ransoming of computers, it's better to be safe than sorry. Invest in a reputable antivirus software that can be installed on laptops, tablets and handsets. You'll be glad you did!
- Check your settings. You can adjust a Roku, Fire TV, Ring doorbell, Nest Thermostat, or gaming headset to have quality without being aggressive on the data consumption. You can generally find how to do this online or on the manufacturer's website.
Are Other People Using Your Internet?
Older routers, out of the box, defaulted to open-access, meaning anyone could use it. If you have an older router, be sure to add a password to protect your network. If you already have a password-protected network, make sure the password is not easy to figure out.
Is Your Cable Too Long?
If you use DSL (conventional internet over older, copper phone lines), and the telephone cable you use to connect to the DSL modem is too long or of poor quality it won't carry a good digital signal. Three to ten feet is optimal. Engineers refer to having too much cable which decreases the strength of your signal as "line loss."
Got Gigabit Internet Service but Only Megabit Speed?
Before you call your provider to complain, check your computer's network card. Many older computers come with network cards that could only handle up to 100 Mpbs. You may need a gigabit-capable network card. If you're using a wireless device plugged into a USB port, double-check the speed it can handle. If either can't handle the speeds you've got, then you won't get the speeds you are paying for.
Can Provider Congestion Play a Role?
Network congestion can sometimes slow speed, but it's typically limited to types of technology rather than actual congestion. For instance, fixed wireless may be limited by line of sight, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) may be subject to distance, and mobile wireless works better outdoors than indoors.
Note: We were surprised to learn that as well. According to Chip, mobile networks are designed for the outdoors. That's because there's no way for engineers to determine refractive index for the style of windows in your home or other building materials (such as brick, stucco, wood, aluminum siding, etc.) that may impact in-home connections.
That's Not All You Should Know
What to Look for When Buying Your Own Router
Wireless specifications are constantly evolving and that evolution in the speed of routers is noted by numbers and letters. 802.11 refers to a family of specifications for Wireless Local Area Networks (LANs) like the Wi-Fi network you have in your home. These have evolved over time and now the notations are moving toward easier-to-understand terminology such as Wi-Fi 6-which is the next generation. Below is a list of what 802.11 numbers currently mean:
- In 1997, the 802.11 standard was introduced and offered speeds of up to 2 Mbps
- In 1999, 802.11a and 802.11b were offered speeds starting at 6 Mbps
- In 2003, 802.11g came along with improved speeds of 54 Mbps
- in 2009, we were amazed to hear that 802.11n would deliver 288 Mbps
- In 2013, the introduction of the 802.11ac standard delivered a blistering 346 Mbps.
- Recently, 802.11 ax hit the market with gigabit-capable delivery speeds
You've Heard of Latency. What Is It & Will It Affect You?
Latency is basically measuring the gap between your request and the response (this can be to the internet or to a mobile network). It's measured in milliseconds. You may notice latency on your cell phone during drive time (5 pm to 7 pm) or during big events. At home, you might notice this while downloading files during high usage.
What's Good and Bad Latency?
Your internet request sometimes has to hop from tower-to-tower and down a fiber optic before bouncing back. If your latency is at or below 100 milliseconds, it's great. In comparison, satellite communications can take 700 milliseconds, which is about a 3/4 of a second delay. That's still high-speed internet.
My Computer Takes Forever to Boot up
It's a computer issue, not an internet issue. You made to run a virus cleanup program or upgrade your computer.
Why Some Speed Tests Are Unreliable
An online speed test portal can be a good tool. However, the results may vary, and may not be accurate. That may simply be because of on how far the server is from your home and how many devices the request has to travel through. But, it can be a helpful benchmark to gauge whether or not the speed you're seeing is close to what you subscribe to.
Internet Service Provider Contact Information
The following are the largest ISPs that service the Town of Prosper. Please let us know if we need to update this information with updated contact numbers or additional companies by emailing Chuck Springer. All numbers listed here are for customer support.
- AT&T - 800-288-2020
- Comcast - 800-2662278
- DirecTV - 877-653-5405
- Grand Communications - 866-247-2633
- Grayson Collin - 800-867-2887
- Spectrum - 855-707-7328
- Speed of Light - 866-599-7652
- Suddenlink - 844-769-2814
What's That Mean?
How Fast Is High-Speed Internet?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines the basic broadband speed at 25 Mbps download/3 Mpbs upload.
Commonly Used Terms
- Bandwidth - the width of the band, the amount of data measured in bits per hertz, a range of radio frequencies used to transmit a signal
- Broadband - high-speed internet (these terms are interchangeable)
- DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) - it's the family of technologies that are used to transmit digital data over older copper telephone lines
- Ethernet Cable - a commonly used category 5 or 6 cable, consisting of 8 copper wires, used as part of a wired network
- Gigabit - one gigabit is 1,000 megabits
- Gbps - gigabits per second
- ISP - Internet Service Provider
- LAN (Local Area Network) - a group of computers and peripheral devices that share a common communications line or wireless link
- Modem - this device connects directly to the internet
- Mbps - stands for "megabits per second"; it's the amount of data that can be transferred within one second and is most commonly used to quantify internet speeds
- Router - this "routes" the internet signal to computers and devices in your home
- Wi-Fi - a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless network connectivity