Coronavirus: 3 Ways to Improve Your Video Streaming

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Q. My entire family is home because of the Coronavirus and our Internet has been slower because of it. It’s making it more difficult to watch Netflix and Hulu because our Internet speed keeps going up and down. Do you have any tips on how to make this better? — Claire, Duluth, Minnesota. 

Claire, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans are staying home to avoid catching and/or spreading the Coronavirus, and the increased use of the Internet is causing occasional downswings in speed and reliability. In addition, if multiple people in your household are using your WiFi network at the same time, that can also trigger a reduction in speed.

So what can you do to keep watching your favorite streaming service without picture interruptions? Here are three suggestions:

1. Powercycle your network
What does that mean? Turn off your streaming device (Smart TV, Blu-ray player, Roku, Apple TV, etc.) and unplug your router and modem for 20-30 seconds. Plug in your modem and let it fully power up, and then turn your streaming device back on.

Sometimes, your streaming device, or modem, is causing the picture interruptions because it’s performing slowly because it has yet to complete previous tasks. For example, if you hit the fast-forward button, then the rewind button, and then the pause button, etc., sometimes the device will become effectively clogged with tasks, much like a kitchen sink with too much in the disposal. A simple reset of the entire system can erase the task list and allow your device and/or modem to operate normally.

2. Improve your signal strength
Walls and other electronic devices in your home, or other wireless networks in your immediate area, could be interfering with your router’s wireless signal. Try moving your router to a new location to improve the signal strength. (Closer to your television would be great, if that’s possible.) If that doesn’t help, change the wireless channel your router uses. (If you don’t know how to do that, this might help.) And if that doesn’t work…

3. Stop using the WiFi Network.
Plug your device directly into the router with an Ethernet cord, which offers the best connection. You would be surprised at how much faster your streaming device will run if you plug the modem directly into the device. WiFi systems can slow due to multiple users on at the same time or other issues. So if you can’t afford to upgrade your Internet service, and you notice the streaming picture has frequent hiccups, you might want to try connecting your Internet cable directly into your Roku, or whatever device you’re using to stream to your television.

(Note: This will limit your service to the device where the Internet cable is connected. So if you have more than one person using the Internet in your house, this trick may not be for you unless you are going to use it while the others, such as the kids, are asleep or out of the house.)

You can do that by running an Ethernet cable from your Internet modem to the streaming device. The direct connection will help ensure that you are getting the maximum speed you paid for from your Internet provider because the signal is not being diluted by a WiFi network, which could be bogged down by several other people.

How can you tell if the signal is stronger with the direct Ethernet connection? Most streaming devices have a feature that allow you to test the speed of your Internet connection.

Go to the player’s Menu and look for a Internet Speed Test feature. Try it a few times with the wireless connection and then a few times with the direct, Ethernet connection. The higher the number, the faster the signal.

If there’s a dramatic difference in speed between the two, the direct connection may be the way to go, particularly if you notice that your Netflix or Hulu picture seems more consistent. I won’t guarantee that it will end buffering for good, but the faster speed will certainly keep those annoying interruptions at a minimum.

Claire, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!

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