Speedometer in green on green background with How to Get Fast Reliable High Speed Internet

How to Get Reliable, High-Speed Internet at Home

Summary: Working from home requires a reliable, high-speed internet connection. From knowing what to ask your internet service provider — like what are data caps and asymmetrical upload and download speeds — to troubleshooting in your home, here’s how to make sure you stay connected to everything you do online. 

A reliable internet connection is no longer a luxury, and it’s not as simple as asking someone to get off of the phone so you can hop online. Having a reliable high-speed internet connection is critical for working, schooling, and socializing from home. According to a Stanford University Economics newsletter, 42 percent of U.S. employees worked remotely during summer 2020. That’s a lot of people trying to connect to the web. We’ve compiled a list of things you need to look out for when choosing an internet service provider and plan, as well as a few steps you can take to up the ante on your current plan.

What to Ask Your Internet Service Provider

What Internet Speed Do I Need?

Generally, you hear that the faster your internet, the better. But the speed you need actually depends on your household, your devices, and your online habits. You can use a calculator to get specific, but there are also some general guidelines to consider. For households that are video conferencing, playing online games, or streaming movies (but not simultaneously), 40-50 Mbps is probably enough. However, for households who use the internet more heavily, or are connecting to multiple high-data activities at a time, 100 Mbps or more will likely be necessary. Having a higher internet speed can help prevent a bottleneck. 

One important thing to remember is that cable internet speeds can slow down during high-traffic hours. This is because multiple households share the same connection, rather than using a dedicated line like fiber internet.

 

Because fiber internet has a dedicated line and uses light to transmit data rather than electricity, it is able to provide much faster speeds than cable. 

What’s the Difference Between Upload and Download Speeds? 

Most types of home internet actually function with asymmetrical speeds, meaning your download speed is faster than your upload speed. In general, more people need to download content than to upload it, but if you’re often sending large file attachments, uploading videos to the web, or videoconferencing, you might experience upload lag. (That discrepancy is why you can still see people on your video conference, but they can’t see or hear you.) Symmetrical speed — download and upload speeds being the same — is one of the major benefits of high-speed fiber internet. 

What’s a Data Cap? 

If you’ve been keeping up on tech news, you’ve probably heard talk of data caps. Essentially, a data cap is a limit that some providers put on how much data you can consume in a month.  While limits vary by provider and plan, if you do have a cap and reach it in a month, internet service providers can slow your speed until the next billing cycle or charge you a hefty fee.

The amount of data you use isn’t directly linked to time online. It’s a measure of how much data you’re receiving and sending. Daily activities like streaming, gaming, working, and video chatting plus your smart home devices all add up and get you closer and closer to the data limit on your internet. For example, streaming in high definition will use more data than streaming in standard. You can always check if your internet use is restricted and how much data you’ve used by checking your online account or your bill. 

There are still internet service providers who have no data caps, so if you’re in the market for a new plan, take that into consideration. 

 

Tips to Get Reliable Internet infographic

 

How Can My Current Internet Run Faster? 

Sometimes you don’t need a whole new plan — you just need your WiFi to run at its full potential. There are a few possible explanations for why your internet is slow but we’ll start with how to resolve basic issues on your own.

Reboot Your Equipment

In other words: turn it off, wait 30 seconds, and turn it back on. It’s important to remember that it does take a few minutes to fully reconnect, so be patient. Once you’re back online, you can perform a speed test to see if that fixed the problem. You may also want to note if it’s just one device that’s running slowly, which could indicate it’s a device issue, not an internet problem. 

If a simple reboot doesn’t fix your issue, make sure you’re not due for any software updates. (Newer routers do this automatically, but older models require manual updates.) If you’ve rebooted and you’re up to date but still dragging, it may be time to consider upgrading your modem or router to a newer model.  

Make Sure Your WiFi Signal Isn’t Blocked

WiFi functions on radio waves, so just like when you’re stopped at a red light and your radio becomes staticky, things in your house can block, or absorb, your WiFi signal. Common construction materials such as concrete, brick, or wood walls in your home can make it tough for WiFi signals to get through. Your best bet is to place your router in an open area with airflow (so it doesn’t overheat). If you live in an apartment complex, your neighbors’ connection could actually be blocking your access to high-speed internet. Before you go house-hunting, there are boosters you can install to strengthen your connection

Take Proactive Steps

There are several things you can regularly do to make sure your internet is running as efficiently as possible.

One easy step is to clear your cache and cookies. A cache is a temporary data storage used by online pages, while cookies are what save user choices and preferences such as passwords. Both are intended to make your browsing experience faster and more personalized, but when you have too many, it actually slows down your internet connection. How to clear them depends on your device and browser, but doing this on a regular basis could make a noticeable difference to your speed.

If you’re someone who has a ton of smart home devices you never use, make sure you’ve turned those off. The same goes for any gaming systems, old phones, or pieces of tech you keep around but don’t regularly use. If it’s connected to WiFi, it’s still taking up bandwidth — even while tucked away in a drawer. 

You also want to ensure a sudden WiFi outage never undoes hours of hard work. Taking some proactive steps, like backing up your data or working on a cloud-based service, can go a long way for peace of mind. You can opt for automated file backup or you can take the DIY route and invest in an external hard drive. If you’re going the manual route, make sure you’re backing your data up on a regular basis. Otherwise, you might still lose your progress in an unexpected outage or crash.   

If you’ve taken the steps to clean up your current home internet connection and things still aren’t running smoothly, it might be time to switch plans or providers. If you want service you can depend on, no data caps, and reliable high-speed internet, look no further. 


What Are Data Caps?

Summary: What are internet data caps all about? They limit everything you do online from streaming to learning. EarthLink takes a look including why you want a home internet service provider with no data caps.

From work to school to entertainment to keeping connected to family, the internet helps us do it all. What was once a fun luxury now feels like an absolutely essential part of life. In fact, according to a Pew Research study, 53% of Americans say the internet has been essential to them in 2020 — with 34% more describing internet access as important to them. 

Then why do some internet service providers (ISPs) try to limit how much you can use your home internet service by tacking on data caps? You may hear it’s to help keep access and pricing stable across ISPs, but how we all use the internet varies. So, while charging heavy users has become a common practice, it’s now become pretty unappealing for many consumers who’ve seen their usage increase significantly this year.

Let’s take a look at how data limits work, and why you want an internet service provider without data caps.

What Are Data Caps on Internet Use?

A cap is a restriction on how much data can be sent over your home internet. It’s not how much time you’re spending on the internet, but rather how much information you’re sending or receiving. That includes sharing photos, streaming video, playing games, emails, video calls, using your smart TV, the devices on your WiFi, and more — whenever you’re online. If you hit that cap in a month, your ISP can limit your access until the next billing period or charge fees to access more data. 

Most providers give you an allowance on how much data you can use each month. But what happens when you overspend that allowance? You might get hit with a huge overage fee — up to $100 per month — for using your internet your way or watch as your internet slows down for the rest of the month.

Why Are There Data Caps on Home Internet?

Adding data caps or throttling down your internet speed are ways that some ISPs control your internet use and discourage usage levels that they decide is too much. 

The internet is powered by data. We know because, as internet pioneers, we were there when the Information Superhighway was building its on-ramp. It quickly became — and still is — where we turn to learn more and get answers. So, why would an ISP want to limit your access to it?

What Is the Average Data Usage for Home Internet?

Watching a TV show or a movie on your favorite streaming service uses roughly one GB of data per hour for standard definition (SD) video and up to three GB per hour for high definition (HD)  video. By the way, whether you’re downloading or streaming, you’ll use about the same amount of data to access that show or film. So, if you are binging that cool new series in HD, you could be looking at 30 gigs of data for roughly a season. And that doesn’t include data for video conferencing for work, sending grandma the latest photos, or having virtual classrooms for school. 

Let’s face it: we’re using more data than ever. In fact, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the average household’s internet data usage had jumped 38 times in ten years to 344 GB in 2020 according to DecisionData. By the third quarter of 2020, the average data consumed was up to 383.8 GB — an increase of nearly 40% from last year. 

 

A cap is a restriction on how much data can be sent over your home internet.

 

In the first few weeks of March 2020, there was an 18% increase in in-home data usage compared with the same time in 2019, according to Statista. They also found that 29.7% of U.S. social media users were on the platforms an additional one or two hours per day in the same timeframe. In March 2020, the in-home data usage of smartphones rose by 34%. 

A Horowitz Research COVID-19 study found that 61% of U.S. households had added new users who were working or studying at home this year — including 60% of households in May 2020 alone.

We’re using home internet more and to do more things. 

What’s Using up All of My Home Internet Data?

Frequent use can burn through your monthly data allowance quickly, but how do you know what your family is spending that data on? Here are a few of the most common things that use a lot of data:

  • Video conferencing or video calls
  • Streaming services for TV and movies — HD video uses triple the data of SD
  • Gaming
  • Some software or device updates
  • Transferring large files like photos to cloud-based storage

When you add up the usage for everyone and their devices connected to your service, you’ll get a better idea of how much internet you need.

How to Keep Track of Your Internet Data Usage

If you have data caps with your current internet service provider, look at your account or contact their customer support team to find out where to find this information on their site. It will let you see how they’re monitoring your internet usage as well as how close you’re getting to going over your data limit on a regular basis.

How Much Internet Data Do I Need?

That’s an important question to ask as you consider high-speed internet service providers in your area. Start by considering how much data you are currently using each month. Are you frequently going over your limit? Do you plan to grow your usage or will it change in the coming months?

We hope this article has helped you gain a deeper understanding of what data caps are, how they impact your internet use, and why you should avoid them for your home internet service provider.

Just so you know, EarthLink doesn’t have data caps. We think making the right connection with your ISP is essential, and you should be able to use the internet how you want. Find out more about EarthLink’s residential HyperLink internet.

Seven awesome things you can do with no data caps i- infographic.


Why Is My Internet Slow?

Summary: What causes slow internet? From data caps to internet throttling to limited bandwidth on shared cable internet, there are several culprits that could be ruining your speed. Let’s take a look at how you can hit the gas on your high-speed internet to move from slow to go-go-go.

Why is my internet slow snail on a rocket

With more of us working — and schooling, gaming, scrolling, and relaxing — at home than ever before, the internet has become a key connection to the outside world. Whether you’re working on a school project, finishing a presentation for your job, or trying to have a family game night over Zoom, a lagging connection can leave you feeling disconnected.

But how do you know if you’re experiencing blocked WiFi signals, internet throttling, data caps — or you just need better high-speed internet service? Let’s take a look at how you can test your internet speed and determine what may be slowing you down.

Is My High-Speed Internet Slowing Down?

If you’ve started to see lags in your downloads and uploads, start by running an internet speed test, and compare it to what you’re supposed to be getting with your high-speed internet plan.

You’ll want to test your devices in different rooms of your home and at varying times of the day. If the test indicates that you're getting half (or even less) than the speed you get when you're close to the router, you’ll want to boost the signal in that area. If the test indicates that things are still slow when you’re standing next to your router, then you should call your internet service provider. Your internet should be at least 95% of the speed you signed up for. If you’re not sure what speed you signed up for, you’re in good company: 42% of American adults don’t know their download speed.

Troubleshooting Slow Internet

There are a few reasons your internet speed could be slowing down — and not all of the solutions require calling your internet service provider. Let’s take a look at several ways you can troubleshoot slow internet once you’ve run a speed test.

Did You Turn it Off and Back On?

Start with your hardware. Is everything plugged in properly and working? If so, resetting your modem and router might do the trick. Take a moment to also check that all of your devices are feeling the need for speed, and it’s not just one computer. If turning things off and on again doesn’t work, you can consider upgrading to a newer modem or router to ramp up your speed.

Is My WiFi Signal Blocked?

While you might be using an ethernet cable for your desktop, it’s likely that you’re primarily using WiFi to connect to the web. Depending on where your internet hookup is, your signal might be getting blocked or absorbed, making it hard to stream videos in certain parts of the house.

Concrete, brick, or wood walls in your home — even a nearby stack of books — can make it tougher for WiFi signals to get through. And, if you live in an apartment complex, your neighbors’ high-speed internet could actually be blocking yours. Instead of rearranging your furniture, there are two boosters you can install yourself to make your internet work better for you.

WiFi Extender

First, you can use a WiFi extender to amplify the signal from your router (no matter where you have it plugged in) and extend it. The extended signal may not be as powerful as the original one, it’ll be stronger than it was before.

Pros Cons
More affordable You have to manually switch between the two networks
Good for apartments or smaller homes May slow down the system
Performance is geared toward speed Software requires updates

WiFi Mesh Network

However, depending on the size and layout of your home, a WiFi mesh network could be a better option. WiFi mesh uses multiple access points — called nodes — that you place around your house to envelop it in a wireless network. With a mesh system, you can cover almost every corner of your home by adding more nodes.

Pros Cons
Nodes can be easily added as needed You’ll need to keep routers plugged into outlets in multiple rooms of your home.
Performance is geared toward range Network types are less customizable
Fewer dead zones Can be expensive to implement

Do I Have a Data Cap?

Some high-speed internet providers have data caps — a restriction of how much information can be transferred over the internet. Your daily activities like streaming, gaming, working, video chatting plus your smart home devices all add up and get you closer and closer to the data limit on your internet. If your internet provider does have a cap and you reach it in a month, they can slow your speed — that’s the internet throttling you’ve probably heard about — until the next billing cycle or charge you a hefty fee.

Data caps vary by ISP and plan, but you can always check if your internet use is restricted by checking your account online or your bill.

Do I Need Faster Internet?

The way you use the internet has likely changed over the years, so if you’ve got a strong signal and have ruled out internet throttling and data caps as the culprit for your dragging speed, it could be that you simply need a faster plan.

If your entire household is now doing everything from home rather than heading off to work or school, you might have too much data traffic for your bandwidth — and that’s slowing your connection. Trying to participate in a Zoom webinar while your roommate plays a video game online will likely lead to lags, buffering, and frustration for both of you.

The right internet plan for you depends on two things: how many devices you have in your home, and how you’re using the web.

For example, if you just use your phone and your laptop, and you mostly browse social media, check emails, and stream TV, 25 Mbps is probably right for you. But, if you’ve got a smart home and family members with a dozen devices gaming online, streaming in HD, and video conferencing, you’ll probably need closer to 500+ Mbps. The plan you had before might be cramping your current lifestyle, so find the best internet plan that’s right for you right now, where you are.

We hope this article has helped you discover what’s disrupting your internet connection and find a solution. If you’re realizing you need to upgrade your internet plan, or even change your high-speed internet service provider, remember that EarthLink gives you options for internet without data caps. We want you to have the internet you deserve at the price you want.


woman sitting on the floor with her laptop with a better internet connection

EarthLink's Response to COVID-19

Connection is integral to who we are as human beings. From our very first moments, we have searched for those around us to connect to, in good times and bad.

Now, as we navigate our world affected by the COVID-19 global pandemic, connection only grows more important. Taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your loved ones, and fellow humans can take a toll on our need to connect with each other.

Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and safety of our employees, their families, and all those helping to protect citizens from such a serious illness. But this pandemic affects everyone, whether seen or not.

Some of our older neighbors, and those who live alone are some of the most impacted people from this pandemic. Not having connection to the outside world can be an isolating feeling, and now more than ever these folks need our help.

EarthLink has already pledged to help “Keep Americans Connected” through this difficult time. We have never capped your connection and never will. Your email and personal information stay secure, and we are always available to help if there’s ever an issue with your service. This way, you can always video call, message, play games, or just check in on those you love.

We encourage everyone to reach out to one another while in this situation together. If you can’t go visit someone who may be quarantining alone, try starting a video call with them, or inviting them to a virtual happy hour—we have had a few ourselves so far!

There has never been a more important time to remember we are all human, and all in this together. Stay connected with one another, and please remember to follow all health guidelines and do your part to stop the spread of this virus.

If you have been economically hurt during the pandemic, EarthLink is happy to provide assistance and to keep you connected. We stated last month we will not be ending, pausing, or capping any residential or small business service due to an inability to pay. We are also not charging late fees for any missed payments. Weare continuing to work hard to find ways to help support our residential and small business customers during this time.

We’re looking forward to the other side of this pandemic, days where we can enjoy a meal with our close friends, a walk through the park, or just simply connecting face to face. We are committed to doing our part to help during this time, and we hope everyone stays healthy. We will get through this, together.

Stay safe out there


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Social Media Privacy Checkups

Summary: While you might be cautious of “oversharing” on social media, that doesn't mean your apps aren’t sharing your information. We discuss how to strengthen your privacy settings on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

 

People spend time catching up on social media and finding out what's happening in the world more than any other method of communication. 

The social media apps we use are each tracking our private information and selling our data including habits, likes, actions, and location. Because of how these apps work, it is important we conduct a privacy checkup of our accounts regularly.

If you're a parent, your children will follow your example, which is why mastering social media privacy checkups will make it easier for you to ensure your kids are safe and protected on their favorite apps too. We’re going to look at privacy check-ups for some of the most commonly used social media apps today:

 

What Is a Social Media Privacy Checkup?

A privacy checkup lets you review, verify, and edit who or what can view, share, or download your content on a social media site. 

 

Facebook

A Facebook privacy checkup will help you go over who can see what you share, how to update who can see your future and past posts, and review who you’ve blocked. It will also help you update your password if you want it to be stronger, turn on alerts to help let you know if someone is trying to log into your account, and finally, manage your data sharing settings with other companies on Facebook.

  • Click on the “question mark” icon at the top of any page on Facebook. You can find it on your profile or your homepage if you are in a web browser as it is an icon that’s part of the toolbar. 
  • Next, click “Privacy Checkup” to begin the process. Facebook wants you to feel comfortable using their app, which is why they now make it easier than it used to be.
  • Follow the prompts and make the changes that best fit your privacy preferences. 

 

Instagram

Facebook is also the owner of Instagram, the second most widely used app in the world today. Instagram enables you to set profiles to private if you do not want content shared with the general public. To check your Instagram privacy settings:

  • Go to your profile
  • Click on the gear icon next to settings
  • Select Privacy and Security
  • This will bring you to a slew of options. From there, you can manage your account as you wish.
    • If you want to set your account to private, for example, tap on Privacy, Account Privacy, and then tap next to Private Account to set it to private.

 

Snapchat

To check your Snapchat privacy settings:

  • Click on the gear icon on the profile screen.
  • Scroll down to the “who can” section and tap an option.
  • Tap on the black button to save your choice.

You can edit who can contact you directly, who can send notifications, who can view your story, who can see your location, and if you can be suggested to people you don’t know but have a mutual connection with.

  • Under the My Account section, click Connected Apps, to see what apps are tracking your Snapchat activity.
  • Next, go to the Additional Services section and click Manage.
  • Go through Permissions, Ad Preferences, Lifestyle and Interests, and Maps to limit sharing of your private information to other organizations.

 

TikTok

TikTok is one of the most popular apps for kids today and plenty of adults have joined the TikTok party.

  • From the app, tap on the profile icon, then tap the three dots at the top right of the screen.
  • Spend some time going through the Privacy and Safety settings. Here, you can make your account private and determine how much data the app can collect and share about you and your usage of TikTok. 
    • Once private, you can also manage who follows your account by removing or blocking followers at any time.

Make sure your children use private accounts that share only with friends and family. Show your kids how easy and important a privacy and safety checkup can be and they’ll start doing it for themselves. Walk through other apps you use to conduct a privacy checkup with your kids. You may (or may not!) be surprised at how much of your information is being shared with the world. 

Take the time to engage in a social media privacy checkup today — you probably need it!

 


How To Make Sure Your Home Internet Stays Fast, Safe and Secure

How To Make Sure Your Home Internet Stays Fast, Safe and Secure

Today, more and more households are relying on having multiple devices connected to their high-speed internet at the same time but does that mean you have to sacrifice safety or upgrade your internet speed with your provider? Are there other ways to optimize your internet experience?

Here are 8 things to think about to help you ensure that the technology in your home stays fast, safe, and secure for everyone involved.

  1. The speed you need depends on how you use the internet; the number of people and devices that use the internet at the same time can change your speed needs.
  2. 50 Mbps might be enough speed for a household to use video conferencing, play online games, post pics, stream HD movies, and more. Families who are heavier internet users, serious gamers, 4K binge streamers, etc., will need closer to 100 Mbps or more to make sure the internet connection will not be the bottleneck.
  3. If you have a smart TV – but watch TV and movies over cable or satellite – your usage needs will be lower because that content doesn’t come over the internet.
  4. Use a bandwidth or speed calculator to help assess your particular situation. Enter your household’s number of people, devices, and online activities and the calculator will recommend how many Mbps you need.woman sitting on the floor with her laptop with a better internet connection
  5. WiFi signals are like light: some objects interfere with it, while others let it through. It doesn’t matter how fast the internet speed coming into your house is, if the WiFi signals are being blocked or absorbed, or if they have to travel too far, you’re going to have internet dead zones.
  6. Use the right tools. Leveraging advancements in WiFi technologies will allow you to take advantage of the speed you’re paying for and greatly improve the overall internet experience by getting that speed to all the right places. There are two types of boosters to fix the problem: WiFi extenders and WiFi mesh networks.
  7. Address your concerns about privacy and security: does your current service plan include features for real-time protection from malware and viruses? What about identity theft protection?
  8. Consider all of the available parental controls to protect your kids’ usage as well as tools to block unauthorized access to your camera. Check with your provider to learn more.