remote learning

How to Share the Internet When the Family's All Working at Once

Experts say some internet providers may offer a tracking tool to monitor how many devices are connected and how much data is being consumed

NBC Universal, Inc.

As more students head back to school remotely soon and join parents who are still working from home, the WiFi can be severely strained.

Your home WiFi has a lot in common with your plumbing. If you run all the faucets 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 information will flow.

"I went from an empty house all day to a house with five power users connected to the internet all day long," said Trevor Arp, Regional Senior VP for Comcast, which owns NBC.

Arp said it's important to manage your home WiFi and your internet provider may offer a tracking tool.

Comcast offers the xFi app, which will help you keep track of when family members are logging on.

"Through that app, you can personalize and control your entire WiFi experience," Arp said. "You can see how many devices are connected, you can assign them to individual users, apply parental controls, you can monitor data consumption by device, troubleshoot any connection problems and you can even pause devices which comes in handy when you've got kids in the house like I do."

Other ideas to try and get the most out of your home internet include making an inventory of every device connected to your WiFi, then disconnecting anything that's not in use. You can also create an internet schedule for the family and try to avoid too many people being online at the same time.

Another idea is to check your WiFi router and see how old it is. Newer models process data faster than older models.

And, keep your router, or gateway, as centrally located as possible in your home to ensure you're getting the best coverage.

"The closer you are to the gateway, the stronger your WiFi signal will be," Arp said. "So if you need to video conference or do anything with higher bandwidth intensity, your best bet is to stay in the same room as the gateway."

Viruses and malware slow down home networks too so make sure your computers are protected.

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Ryan Kalember, Executive Vice President of Cybersecurity with Proofpoint, says it's important to teach your kids email safety like not opening a link without a parent 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 look for and what to trust and not to trust," Kalember said.

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

"The program has been around since 2011," Arp said. "It's eligible for anyone receiving public assistance programs like the national school lunch program housing assistance, Medicaid. And it basically comes with everything you would ever need to get connected to the internet."

Through the end of the year, Comcast is offering Internet Essentials free for the first 60 days for new customers. Verizon also offers discounted internet options through Verizon Lifeline Assistance, for families that meet income qualifications.

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