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How to Maximize the Free Internet In Your Apartment

Published on April 9th, 2014
By Jennifer Oppriecht

Free Internet is a nice perk for renters, but how do you make a good thing even better?  To find out how you can improve the speed and reliability of your Internet access, we checked in with Dan Romens, Customer Service Representative for ResTech Services.rtlogo

ResTech Services provides Internet, digital voice, and TV services for apartment buildings and condominiums in the Madison area. Romens is quite familiar with issues regarding free Internet service in apartments.

As a quick review, Internet service is typically offered in speeds ranging from 10 megabits per second (mbps) to 100 mbps. The 100 mbps is today’s gold standard, and will easily accommodate most users.  In Madison apartments where free Internet service is offered, it is usually shared by a number of residents via a wireless router, which can affect the overall speed and signal strength of your network connection.

 

Typical Issues That Affect Wireless Internet Signals

Dan provided us with the typical issues that can affect your free Internet, if you’re relying on a wireless signal in your apartment, as well as some solutions.  Let’s start out with the typical issues that affect your wireless signal:

  • Access points in common areas.  Unless an apartment company explicitly states that free wireless is available within your unit, it’s use is generally intended for common areas.  Apartment owners create “access points” within these common areas, using hardware that looks more like a smoke alarm than your basic Internet router.  The common area usage isn’t suitable for use as your primary connection – more for surfing the web or checking social media and emails.
  • Too many people connected.  If you’re in an apartment building and you’ve got a lot of people streaming videos or downloading materials, then the amount of available bandwidth will shrink, wireless connection or not.
  • Your wireless card on your computer is weak.  Some computers, such as Macs or iPads, have internal wireless cards that operate at lower signals.  Check your computer to ensure your using a card that’s up to snuff.
  • Conflicting signals from other wireless devices.  If you have a number of different wireless devices on the same frequency, they could cause interference.
  • Inferior routers.  A quality router can make a huge difference.  Dan notes that Belkin routers seem to cause a lot of problems, and that a more reliable model such as Netgear or Linksys could improve your signal.
  • The weakest link.  A wireless access point will compensate its signal for the person farthest away.  The added boost may take away from the signal you’re receiving.
  • Old routers.  Some of the older routers simply can’t keep up with today’s faster Internet.  Check the age of the router – it may be time for an upgrade.
  • Slow websites.  If you find a website loads at a ridiculously slow rate, then it doesn’t matter how fast the wireless connection is.  The website server that company or person uses simply won’t allow it to load quickly.

 

How can I improve the speed of my free Internet while still using a wireless connection?  

Now that we’ve touched on some of the typical problems, here are some of Dan’s solutions.

  • Check with roommates to see if you’ve got a hog.  Make sure none of your roommates are doing things like illegal downloads, which can really suck up bandwidth.  You may have to alter usage times if this is the case.
  • Purchase a router.  A second way to improve the speed but maintain the wireless capability is to purchase your own router.  Dan recommends using your own router (you can rent one from ResTech for $9.99 a month, which includes support) because you’ll be able to add security by password-protecting access.  If you’re interested in renting a ResTech router, call 877-479-3868, or send them a message.
  • Place the router in a central location.  The router shouldn’t be in a corner of an apartment.  It should be centrally located for all the users.  You especially don’t want it in a locked room, as you may need to access it and reset it on occasion.
  • Plug in directly.  The easiest way to improve your speed is to connect directly and not use the wireless option.  That does defeat the purpose of wireless, but a direct connection of the signal means you’re not doing battle with other devices for signal strength.  Most apartments have a wall jack. Use an Ethernet cable and plug into it for a direct connection.
  • Upgrade your service.  This depends entirely on the speed you’re being offered in your apartment building.  In Lucky, residents enjoy free Internet with speeds up to 100 mbps, while in other apartments the standards might be 5 to 10 mbps.  Upgrading your free service will cost more, but you’ll enjoy faster speeds.
  • Add wireless repeaters.  If you’re dead-set on using the wireless signal and you’re encountering chronic signal problems, then a wireless repeater might be a solution.  It helps boost a wireless signal.
  • Reset your router.  Sometimes a computer will lose the wireless signal.  By resetting your router (turning it off and on again), you can retransmit the signal to your computer.

Like any technology, Internet access will have its quirks, especially when you convert it to a wireless connection.  Hopefully the tips in this post will help you strengthen your connection and/or trouble-shoot any connectivity issues you might have.

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