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Next – Gen Broadband – Optimizing Your Current Broadband Connection (Part 4)

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Where is it?

As we’ve mentioned, broadband isn’t universally available across the entire United States just yet. According to a recent study by Akamai Technologies, 81 percent of country has access to broadband with speeds greater than 2Mbps. That may not sound too bad, but with availability in only 81 percent of the nation, the United States ranks 36th among the countries included in the study, the global average is only 66 percent, which means the United States is decidedly ahead of the curve, but in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and even Bulgaria, broadband connectivity is in the 94-96 percent range. As compared to the previous year, the United States increased its average by 8.6 percent, which puts the country among the fastest growers, but there is obviously still much work to be done if we’re going to catch the leaders.

According to a recent study by Akamai Technologies, 81 percent of country has access to broadband with speeds greater than 2Mbps.

According to a recent study by Akamai Technologies, 81 percent of country has access to broadband with speeds greater than 2Mbps.

If you ask those in the know why the United States trails many other nations in broadband availability and speed, you’ll likely hear three possible reasons: burdensome government regulations, high corporate tax rates, and the relative high cost bandwidth in the country. Solving these problems is going to take significant action on the part of the government and some initiative and cooperation from the private sector, but it appears we are on the path to success, especially as younger, more tech-savvy legislators are elected. The FCC’s Boradband.gov website has details on the Broadband Action Agenda and lists more than 60 initiatives the FCC intends to under-take over the next few years to implement the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, which was introduced in March 2010. One of the goals of the National Broadband Plan is to provide 100 million American households with access to 100Mbps broadband connections by 2020.

Tips for switching ISPs

It’s easier than you think

Switching ISPs is a major concern for some users, but it need not be. Unless you’re locked into a contract with wretched provider or are married to an email address provided by you ISP, switching to a new provider should be painless. We suppose some users may also be forced to use a particular ISP due to specific work at home requirements implemented by their employer, but even then a call to the company’s IT-support department should yield results.

If you’re locked into a contract, perhaps due to a triple play type bundle that links phone, TV, and Internet service, there are still things you can do to switch. Although most ISPs don’t make specific uptime guarantees, there is still an implied level of reliability that needs to be met. If service is subpar, start by logging every outage or problem and contacting your ISP’s support team. Run regular speed tests too, and log every result that falls below your expected performance level. At some point after reporting continued issues, it won’t be cost effective to provide support any longer. Call your ISP, ask for a service manager to hear your case, and you’ll eventually be let out of your contract.

Should your ISP-linked email address be associated with numerous logins online, start by setting up a new account with a free service like Gmail and systematically change all of your login credentials. Also, give yourself some lead time and set up an auto-forward to send emails coming into your ISP-linked account to the new account. And check in with your ISP; many will allow access to the email account via webmail, even after you’ve moved on to another provider.

When or if you do make the switch, assuming you’ve got a router in your home network, connecting the new modern to your router is usually all that is necessary. Worst-case scenario, you’ve got to reconfigure your wireless settings in a new router, and maybe a few IP addresses and forwarding rules, but that’s about it.

Three steps to a better broadband connection

Even your existing broadband service can be made faster with a few simple tweaks

Signing up for a fast broadband connection is an obvious first step to ensuring high speeds while surfing the web. Even with a speedy connection in place though, there are a number of things that can be done to ensure optimal performance and reliability. The routers thrown in when you sign up for service aren’t always of the best quality and many service providers also have wimpy DNS (Domain Name Service) servers, which are easily bogged down under load and introduce tons of latency. These things can be easily averted, however, and performance and reliability can be increased with just a few tweaks and a bit of reconfiguration.

1. Use a quality router

The routers bundled with many broadband service plans tend be low-end, dumbed-down products that provide sub-par wireless coverage and are ill-equipped for numerous connections. If you’ve invested in a fast broadband connection, spend a few extra bucks on a high-quality router, as well. A good router will be outfitted with a faster processor, more RAM, and a better network switch. It will likely offer better wireless coverage, too, and provide faster, more reliable service, even if there are multiple devices attached, all sucking down gods of data.

The Asus RT-N66U is a powerful wireless broadband router, with an integrated gigabit switch, that will outperform most of the routers bundled with residential broadband service.

The Asus RT-N66U is a powerful wireless broadband router, with an integrated gigabit switch, that will outperform most of the routers bundled with residential broadband service.

2. Position your modem and router properly

For the best possible connection, your broadband modem should be located as close to the incoming feed as possible. For example, if you’ve got a cable modem, and the cable line coming into your home has been split numerous times before the modem is attached, the signal quality to the modem will be degraded. For the best performance, the cleanest signal should be fed to your modem, which means connecting it to the main line, as close to the initial split as possible.

Router positioning is also important if you have devices that connect wirelessly. If your router has omnidirectional antennas (and odds are that if you haven’t replaced the stock antennas, it does), it is best to position the router as close to the center of the area you’d like covered as possible.

3. Switch DNS servers

Every time you type a URL into your web browser, a request is sent to a DNS server to obtain the corresponding website’s IP address. If that server is bogged down or just plain sluggish, it can be slow to resolve addresses and introduce unwanted latency. Try running the DNS Bench utility available at www.grc.com to ascertain the fastest DNS servers in your area, and use those in lieu of your ISP’s. you can designate which DNS servers to use in your TCP/IPv4 properties in Windows on each machine, or enter them into the requisite fields in the WAN section of your broadband router’s setup utility.

Using the fastest DNS servers available in your area can significantly speed up web browsing.

Using the fastest DNS servers available in your area can significantly speed up web browsing.

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