This is a result of years of experience, hours of research and educated guesses mixed with trial and error. Hopefully this article will save you some time and help to clarify the troubleshooting process.
Internet Service Provider
The internet has become more important than some utilities, yet it still isn’t treated as such by ISPs, with outages, inconsistent speeds and a lack of available competition. As homeowners we are at the mercy of whatever ISP we have access to, which can be very limited and frustrating. If like me, you rely heavily on having access there are some things you can do to improve your odds of staying online.
Paying for business class internet costs a little more but will give you access to a number of benefits.
- 24/7 tech support
- Priority support for on-site technicians
- No data cap on monthly usage*
The short version is, IPv4 is a 32-bit IP address which has 4.3 billion possible IP addresses, IPv6 is 128-bit IP address which has 7.9x10²⁸ possible IP addresses. It may seam like 4.3 billion is enough, but not if you consider how many devices there are in the world. Check if your ISP supports IPv6 and if so, configure your router to allow for it. You’ll want to keep this as simple as possible so if there is an “auto” option, do that, else you will need to research how to configure your router properly with your ISP.
Modem / Gateway
I prefer to keep the Modem configuration as simple as possible, after all there is a reason that I paid good money for a router that is loaded with constantly evolving features.
At least with Comcast, the modem is meant to be a one-stop-shop for all your internet needs. It comes with a built in wireless, network filter, DHCP manager, etc. However since I want to use my own router I don’t need most of those features.
- Disable built-in wireless network to limit radio signal interference
- Enable bridge mode
- Enable DHCP which will allow the modem to reassign an IP address to your router when needed
- Set DHCP Lease to never expire which should lessen the need for having to power cycle and call tech support in order to provision your modem anytime you have connectivity issues
Determine what’s important to you… range, stability, speed, gaming, streaming, etc. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to research…a lot. There are plenty of reputable sources to gather information from and the specs are constantly changing so I’m not going to spend time getting into it here.
If one router will address all of your needs, then hook it up in a central location, away from interference and you’ll be good to go. If you have a larger area that you need to cover you have a couple options. Either some kind of mesh network, or setup a primary router which will act as the DHCP server and other routers setup as an Access Points.
When it comes to what’s within your control, interference will be your biggest enemy. By removing as much signal and physical interference as possible you will strengthen your signal and increase your internet speeds.
Let’s say you’re paying for 100 Mbps, once you hook up a wireless router you can expect a drop of 10–20 Mbps. If your computer is a couple rooms away, or worse a floor you can expect another drop of 10–40 Mbps which means you could be getting as low as 40 Mbps on your computer.
If you have multiple routers, even if they are being used as access points, make sure that each of them are using a different channel bandwidth, typically you should set the 2.4GHz band to the 20 MHz channel and your 5.4GHZ band to either 40 or 80 MHz.
In addition you should also modify the control channels to use non-overlapping channels. The 2.4 GHz band has three non-overlapping channels which are 1, 6 and 11.
The 5 GHz band has 24 non-overlapping channels which can be seen in the graph below.
If you have a wireless router that is only being used by hard-wired devices I recommend disabling the WiFi which will eliminate any radio signal interference coming from that device.
Depending on the number of people that live in your home you may have a slew of devices all fighting for bandwidth. Look for a router that offers controls for Quality of service (QoS). With QoS you can specify which devices take priority and which you’re okay with having slower connectivity, perhaps a printer, smart home device or your child’s game console.
If you’re able to setup your home to be hard-wired with Cat5e or Cat6 you’ll have much more flexibility with home networking. Instead of relying on a wireless network you would be able to have a direct connection to your modem/router without the drop in speed that I mentioned above.
You would not only be able to setup router(s) in various locations throughout your home but you could also use a network switch to connect your entire home with a strong, stable connection.
Internet not working? Before wasting your time on hold with your ISP do the following.
- Plug your computer directly into the modem to verify** that you don’t have internet access. Often times the issue is between the modem to the router, and doing the following steps will usually resolve it but if you understand why it’s happening you may be able to fix the issue permanently.
- Unplug your router(s) and modem for two (2) minutes. This will allow your modem to do a complete reset and be re-provisioned once you plug it back in.
- Once the modem is back online, plug your computer directly to it to verify**.
- Bring your router(s) back online one at a time, beginning with your primary router. Verify** at each stage before turning on another router if applicable.
- If you’re still having trouble connecting, contact the ISP.
*With the prevalence of digital streaming services many internet service providers have added a data cap in the 300–500GB range. When you go over that amount they will either slow your internet speeds or bill you for overages.
**Be sure to run multiple tests when verifying your internet speed to get a solid baseline.