coronavirus

Slow Internet? No Internet? Broadband Help for Families During Virus Crisis

Working and learning from home can put a strain on your home internet -- or leave you in a bind if you don't have online access. Help is available.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

As millions of Californians are studying and working from home, that surge in online traffic can lead to slowdown for everyone in the household. It can also pose a serious challenge for families that don't have any kind of internet access at home.

The NBC data team, which works closely with NBC Bay Area, studied high-speed internet access rates nationwide. It found the San Francisco Bay Area has some of the best broadband availability, with more than 80% of households enjoying top-tier online speeds.

Even the fastest internet connection will buckle with too many devices trying to access video, documents and interactive apps. To alleviate some of that slowdown, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission recently shared some tips to speed up your pipeline:

  • Create an internet schedule. That might mean limiting the kids' streaming, gaming, and big downloads to non-working hours.
  • Unplug unused devices. Check what's using your WiFi -- phones, tablets, smart TVs, appliances, and gaming consoles. Disconnect or turn off the WiFi function when you're not actively using those devices.
  • Check your router. Even if you're paying for a top-speed connection, an older router can slow you down. The FCC says 5 GHz models process data faster than older 2 GHz models.
  • Check your plan. Ask your provider what it will cost to upgrade to a higher tier, at least temporarily. Then, hold them to it -- check your speed before and after, to make sure you're getting what you pay for. Google offers a free, easy-to-use internet speed test you can find here.

If you don't have high-speed internet access at home, there are options available to you. During the virus crisis, Comcast is making its Xfinity WiFi hotspots free to everyone. Just search for "xfinitywifi" on your device, and connect. You can also check this map to find hotspots near you. (Comcast is the parent company of this station.)

Comcast is also offering low-cost internet to qualified families. You can learn more by clicking here, or by visiting internetessentials.com.

If you're not in the Comcast Xfinity service area, you can find other low-cost internet options through EveryoneOn and Lifeline.

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