Help me find someone to solve my wifi issues who isn't from my provider
August 11, 2019 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I live in an approx 1300 sq. ft. condo. The modem and router are in the master bedroom, which is dead center between the back and front of the condo. No trouble getting on wifi in the back, but it's constantly in and out in the front (living room, TV, etc.). RCN is useless; where do I find someone who come in and tell me how to fix it?

Things that seem to interfere with the wireless: our AC coming on; the microwave when in use; we use the washing machine; sitting behind the breakfast bar; interference from supernatural beings (unlikely, as I don't believe in them, but oftentimes our choice is "absolutely no reason" or "network gremlins," so.).

We already have an extender halfway between the modem and the living room. We have dual-band wifi. The 2.4GHz is Derek; the 5GHz is Maximum Derek. The extender is connected to Maximum Derek and is called Derek S3. Sometimes in the living room, Derek will have a stronger signal than either Maximum Derek or Derek S3--and sometimes Derek won't show up on a wifi scan on the TV. We are baffled.

I don't want to call RCN because they're just the worst, and they will charge us money even if they can't do anything about it, but someone else could (i.e. me buying new stuff). I'm find spending money on someone who is knowledgable about wifi in general and home-layout interference/solutions in particular who is a disinterested party and will explain things to my satisfaction.

Where do I look for someone like this? I'm assuming Best Buy's "Geek Squad" isn't the place to go? How do I find someone who really knows their stuff about these kinds of things? I want to hire someone to look at our setup and either 1) identify the problem and fix it; 2) identify the problem and tell me what *I* have to buy/do to fix it; or 3) identify the problem, tell me that there's no way to fix it, and explain why.
posted by tzikeh to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Get a wifi analysis app for your phone and see which channels are the least saturated and switch to those.
posted by sammyo at 11:20 AM on August 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

I solve my space problems by running ethernet and adding a separate router.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:31 AM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Change the channel on your router. You would be amazed how much that can be a factor.
posted by TheRaven at 11:40 AM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Condos are tricky because there are lots of neighbors sharing the same bandwidth. And lots of metal and glass for wifi signals to bounce off.

Have you tried moving the extender closer to (or into) the living room? It likely has better antennas than your devices.

Also: If you have a Chromecast, try unplugging it.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:46 AM on August 11, 2019

[Folks, the actual question is "who could I pay to solve this" not "please give me suggestions". Please focus on that. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:01 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

What you want is a Network Technician. You should be able to find one in your city by searching for something like "Home Networking Technician", "Home Automation Specialist", "Low Voltage and Networking Installation", and that sort of thing. You're probably looking at $100+/hour with a minimum.

I do not live in your city and I can't give you any good recommendations so you'll have to do your own research unless a mefite local to you chimes in. I'll note that it can be hard to find a good technician that will do home services since the proper networking specialists typically stick to big ticket stuff. The good ones are in a lot of demand and can afford to be choosy. The general IT People that do more PC troubleshooting, A/V setup, etc. may also be able to help (and be cheaper), but make sure they understand your problems and you get the feeling they have an actual plan before you hire them.

Anybody that you hire to do this should be looking at all or some of the following:

- Is the equipment you have configured correctly? What kind of WiFi channel congestion are you dealing with?
- What's in your walls? Is the placement of your equipment ideal?
- Is there anything in your unit that could be interfering with the signal. This could be stuff that broadcasts by design (like a cordless phone) or something that just happens to oscillate at the wrong/right frequency (an A/C Unit).
- What other technical solutions are viable? (A consumer grade mesh network would be the first thing I would try for you. A proper network technician would also be able to run cable through your walls and wire up physical connection points in every room as well, which is what I would do if technology wasn't cutting it.)

To set expectations: It's unlikely that anybody you hire is going to show up with an actual wireless RF spectrum analyzer (these are expensive and only a commercial installer is likely to have them), but at the very least they should be using something to look at what is broadcasting on WiFi. You should also figure out how reproducible your problem is before you hire anybody to come out. If one area is always a problem then it will be easy for them to troubleshoot, but if it is an intermittent issue then you're possibly looking at multiple trips. They might show up, do some configuration and then tell you to let them know how it goes. So figure out ahead of time if you can make it happen reliably. If not, I'd advise troubleshooting on your own rather than throwing money at it because having the technician come and go while trying to fix an intermittent issue is going to be very stressful and frustrating for you.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 12:17 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you're set on hiring someone to figure this out for you, Geek Squad could actually probably do an OK job of solving this. They're really the only nationwide franchise I know of that markets those types of services towards consumers. Otherwise you might try looking for a small "IT consultant" or "network consultant" or a company that does home theater installs, although depending on where you land there you're either going to find someone only marginally cheaper than Geek Squad or someone much more expensive. You might also try posting on Craigslist - when I was younger and hungrier I used to trawl the "computer gigs" section for jobs like this for extra beer money. If you somehow retrieved the younger hungrier me from the past and hired me to fix your wifi, I would tell you to buy this and then charge you around $100 to set it up for you.
posted by jordemort at 12:22 PM on August 11, 2019

Geek Squad is for people who don't know who to call. I'd call a local on-site IT help shop, scroll down until you can get a list of 5 "IT Services & Computer Repair" phone numbers (vs. the inexplicably mixed-in Mobile Phone Repair). Call each of them and ask about WiFi layout and reception problems in an apartment, and if they can't help (or if it's too small a job) can they provide any referrals to independent networking people who almost always do WiFi these days.

If for some reason that doesn't get you some options, call some Telephone Wiring people from the yellow pages or Yelp.
posted by rhizome at 4:15 PM on August 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

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